10 Stupid Dragon Tricks
Nuance created NaturallySpeaking to handle dictation in contemporary English (or French or Italian or German or Spanish, if you have one of those versions). The idea was to make it easier for you to write letters or memos or detective novels or reports or newspaper articles. The vocabulary and word-frequency statistics are set up for this kind of contemporary writing.
NaturallySpeaking wasn’t designed to understand Shakespeare or the Declaration of Independence, and it makes lots of mistakes. Some of them are downright hilarious.
You need to take two simple precautions to make sure that you don’t screw up the NaturallySpeaking training. (You don’t want NaturallySpeaking to expect you to talk like Shakespeare, do you?) Here are the things you shouldn’t do:
Don’t correct any mistakes that NaturallySpeaking makes while you’re playing. If it interprets “forsooth” as “fort’s tooth,” leave it alone. Who knows? You might really want to say “fort’s tooth” someday.
Don’t save your speech files when you are done. If you don’t save your speech files, it’s as if the whole session never happened. You’re like the stage hypnotist who says, “When you wake up, you won’t remember any of this.”
NaturallySpeaking is forced to interpret whatever you say as words in its active vocabulary. If you aren’t saying words at all, it just has to do the best it can. Turning “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!” into “Be where the jab are walk, my son!” has to be seen as a heroic effort on the software’s part. Ditto for turning “Callooh! Callay!” into “Colder! <colon> a!”
The original text of Jabberwocky was written by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There in 1872. Here are some other odd word choices and even odder interpretations that result when you dictate Jabberwocky into NaturallySpeaking:
Here are some other odd word choices and even odder interpretations that result when you dictate Jabberwocky into NaturallySpeaking:
What was read:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
What was heard:
Twist drilling, and a slightly to those did Dyer and Kimball in the law: all names he were the Borg wrote us, and a moment as out crowd.
What was read:
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
What was heard:
Be where the jam are walk, my son! The John is that bite, the clause that catch!
Dictating The Gettysburg Address
Picture Lincoln on the train to Gettysburg, dictating the following into his portable recorder:
“Or score and seven years ago homeowners brought forth on this continent emu nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that old men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a Greek Civil War, testing weather that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated Campbell into work.
“We are met on a Greek battlefield of that war. . . .
NaturallySpeaking did rather badly when Romeo’s speech under the balcony was dictated, starting with, “What light through yonder window breaks?” But most of the mistakes are due to simple archaisms: “yonder window” becomes “the under Window,” and “vestal livery” turns into “us delivery.”
“What light through the under Window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the son. Arise, fair son, and kills the in the us Moon, who is already sick and pale with grief, that now her mate art far more fair that she; the not her mate, said she is envy of; her us delivery is but sick and green and non-but fools to where it; casting off.”
But it did even worse with Juliet’s reply. The biggest problem here is that in the alpha-bravo-charlie way of saying the alphabet, “romeo” is the letter R. Stranger still, “Capulet” is interpreted as “Cap period.” Because there is no capital period, NaturallySpeaking produces an ordinary period instead.
“O. r, r! Wherefore art that r? Deny the high father and refused I name; or, if now will cannot, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a.”
The bard’s poetry fared no better. Dictating, “Full fathom five thy father lies” resulted in “Full phantom 555 their lives.”
How about some ancient wisdom, Dragon-style? This is sooo close.
“A lie travels round the world while truth is putting her boots on.”
The Dragon heard:
“A light travels round the world while truth is putting her puts on.”
Well, actually this one isn’t so bad:
“There once was a man from Peru, Who dreamed he was eating his shoe. He woke up in the night With a terrible fright To find it was perfectly true.”
NaturallySpeaking almost got it:
“Their once was a man from Peru, Who treat he was eating his should. He woke up in the night With a terrible frightened To find it was perfectly true.”
Dictating “Mairzy Doats”
This one more-or-less speaks for itself (and please don’t get mad at me if this little ditty starts playing over and over in your mind after you read it!):
“Mayors he doubts, And does he doubts, And little land see tiny. Get lead 92, would you? Get lead 92, we can you?”
Turning NaturallySpeaking into an oracle
You turn NaturallySpeaking into an oracle by abusing the Vocabulary Editor. The idea is to be able to ask NaturallySpeaking a question, and have it provide the answer. For example, you want to ask, “What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?” and have NaturallySpeaking answer “42” (or whatever you think the answer is).
The trick is to enter the answer as the written form in the Vocabulary Editor, and enter the question as the spoken form. So, for this example, do this:
Choose Tools→Vocabulary Editor.
The Vocabulary Editor eventually makes the scene.
In the Search For box, type 42 and then click Add.
The Add Word or Phrase dialog appears.
In the Spoken Form (If Different) box, type What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?
Click Add and then click Close.
Singing doesn’t sound like speech at all. The tones jump around, and the pace is all wrong, too — at least from NaturallySpeaking’s point of view. It wants to insert extra words or syllables to account for those extended vowels, especially at the end of lines. There’s also no room in the song for you to insert punctuation, capitalization, or line breaks, so what you wind up with looks pretty weird.
Following is how NaturallySpeaking interpreted the first verse of Bicycle Built for Two:
“A. easy day easy to video around CERT true hot and the half crazy all for the love of you move it won’t be a stylish narrated shy can do for the carriage but you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle build afford to”
Dictating in foreign languages
Following is what happens when you dictate (don’t sing) the French verse of The Beatles song Michelle:
“Michelle, mob they’ll Solely Mall key home trade BN owned song, Trade BN owned song.”
Using Playback to say silly or embarrassing things
Certain things just sound hilarious when they are said by an artificial voice. Anything passionate or whimsical takes on a Kafka-esque absurdity when proclaimed in Playback’s prosody-free manner.
The SyFy Channel has taken advantage of this phenomenon with its artificial announcer. After reading off the evening’s schedule, the SyFy announcer has said things like, “I am living la vida loca.”