Auto correct is giving me Stockholm Syndrome

Shoulda said floods. FLOODS.

Shoulda said floods. FLOODS.


Auto correct is giving me Stockholm Syndrome. It bullies my language into submission but just manages to be helpful often enough to stop me hating it entirely.

If you’re not familiar with the term, Stockholm Syndrome is:

a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.

Now I’m not suggesting that being linguistically chastised by Auto Correct can honestly be compared to the terrible situations faced by actual hostages; and I am not implying that Auto Correct has any malicious intent. (Although anyone who’s tried typing ‘dimples’ and ended up with ‘nipples’ might wonder. Especially if the text was sent to your mother-in-law).

I use many devices to write: my phone, my tablet, my computer and (rarely) my actual hands. (These days my poor fingers are so used to typing that when I hold a pen I scribble like an centenarian with profound neurological difficulties). Texts, emails, documents and the kind of poetry I write after waaaay too much hazelnut liqueur.

My love-hate relationship with Auto Correct is similar to that I shared with that dreadful animated anthropomorphised paperclip Microsoft used to have in Word. (Although to be fair, that was more hate-hate). Remember it? It had eyebrows. Eyebrows and a sickeningly jaunty manner.

They called it Clippy.

Fucking Clippy.

Everybody hated Clippy.

Clippy was a fascist, patronising, know-it-all little bastard who danced in the corner of your screen waggling his comedy eyebrows in a chummily sinister way persuading you to be his friend.

Clippy exuded all the friendliness of Stage 4 melanoma.

Clippy would assume he knew better than you what you wanted to write.

You’d be writing a diary entry – “Life is unbearable. I can’t go on any more” – and fucking Clippy would dance onto your screen like The Syntax Nazi saying “It appears you’re writing a suicide note. Do you want help with that?”* And then you really would want to end it all. Or at least end Clippy, the smug dancing little twat.

Clippy was not your friend. He was a malign hallucination, like the kind of thing you’d see after ingesting a very bad mushroom.

Clippy was the product of the kind of mind that thinks emoticons can honestly express complex human emotion.

Anyway, like Clippy, Auto Correct assumes it knows what you want to say. I can absolutely confirm that I will never ever want to type “this no head client has really fudging piped me off.” Ever.

Over time Auto Correct learns the quirks of your vocabulary so that eventually, eventually it manages to let you type what you actually want to type without much protest. It’s this kind of niceness that makes it just about tolerable. You can also teach it some of your favourite terms. My friend Steve has taught his iPhone to understand the term ‘wank-nut’ which I think is an incredible feat of technology.

As I’m typing right now, my Auto Correct is trying to make me say: “I idiot like Auto Correct.” I want to say I DON’T, ffs! I DON’T! I DON’T LIKE AUTO CORRECT!

And yet Auto Correct sometimes saves me from the shame of poor grammar in messages typed on the go, too hastily. For me, I find my own spelling errors and dodgy sentence construction unbearable. It’s honestly the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night; in fact, sending a less-than-perfect message to someone rates among my deepest regrets. (That, and the perm).

I’m a language nerd (include punctuation and an unhealthy love of cats in that and you can imagine the kind of old age I can look forward to). So Auto Correct and I will always have a dysfunctional relationship.

But now we’re having counselling and we’re talking more so, you know, things might improve between us.

I ducking hope so, anyway.


Want to read the fascinating story of how Auto Correct was invented? Click here.

Still bored? Check out more Auto Correct fails here.

* Not really. But almost.

“I’m sorry I have a cold.”

A hotpot of Northern reads

“POTUS is a liar, son. But don’t let that worry you.”

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Emma Clarke

Emma is an award-winning voiceover, broadcaster and writer. Want to find out more about Emma?
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