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Irreligious iPhone

There was an article making the rounds lately about “Xennials” – the group in the shoulder space between Gen X and Millennials, who relate with some of the characteristics of each and not at all with others. A tongue-in-cheek Guardian quiz declared me a true Xennial because “you understand modern technology but are not so emotionally needy as to need constant validation from strangers you will never meet.” Another article said Xennials “possess both Gen X cynicism and Millennial optimism.”

You can probably tell that I regard myself as fitting into this group (as much as a nonconformist leaning individual raised in a bizarre subculture ever fits). What it has to do with smartphones is that I’m not “digital native” enough to be good at texting. (I try the two-handed thing, but it seems just as laborious and inaccurate as one-finger hunt and peck.) So I speak to my phone. (Kind of like in the old fashioned days. Except not.)

This dictate function works brilliantly for some people. Despite significant exercise, it does not work well for me. I don’t know if my pronunciation is so unusual, my vocal cadence so idiosyncratic, or perhaps my vocabulary just a bit unexpected.

I don’t fault it for turning “obligatory” into “black attorneys” because I’m never quite sure where to put the stress on that word, and the substitution is at least a real phrase. But it drops words from my sentences, adds others, and then misinterprets what I’m trying to say into the most bizarre, nonsensical coinages rather than into completely normal words I’ve actually used.

After all this time, it’s like it doesn’t even know me! (Such is that state of all-knowing tech these days that I don’t even know whether I’m being sarcastic or serious.)

The most consistent and baffling misinterpretation – which is a bigger problem than you might think if you weren’t aware that I regularly discuss theology via messaging apps with a good friend – is “even Jellicle.”


It seems the iPhone programmers were bigger fans of T.S. Eliot than the apostle Paul. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise.

There have been a lot of other theological words my phone has struggled to render. Another part of this conversation just wouldn’t come out right:
  • Just do it
  • She has zoo it
  • Jazz event

Did you guess?

It makes for levity in serious conversations (or, perhaps more accurately defangs generally negative characterizations by punctuating them with a guffaw), and has possibly given me the title of my book. What it will be about or when I will write it is yet unknown, but, ever so slowly, pieces are starting to come together.

First line: “The river was not a shortcut.”
Title: Even Jellicle Lizum

It’s going to be a great (if initially baffling) read.

Thank you, auto-dictate.


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