It’s not often I have to hold my legs together to contain myself laughing at some language goof or other. Usually it’s just a know-it-all smile or a forced chuckle. But “The 30 Most Hilarious Autocorrect Struggles Ever” had me weeping with giggles. At the risk of ruining the humor by dissecting it, I’m going to speculate on why.
It’s not the occasionally sexual or scatological results of the autocorrections. (Most of those are not printable in this blog, so you’ll have to click the link.) When you grow up with a brother and then have two sons, you tire of potty humor pretty quickly. And like most of my female friends, I’m an eye-roller when it comes to jokes about sexual organs.
For a while, I thought the humor resided in the effect of what’s known as coprolalia, the involuntary uttering of socially inappropriate words or phrases that we simplistically associate with Tourette syndrome. But I have never found anything amusing about Tourette, though coprolalia itself seems fascinating, suggesting as it does that the most demure among us harbor those verbal taboos in a place that the brain can access under certain conditions. Oddly enough, the Web site listing the hilarious autocorrections had a link to an experiment, “Surrender Your Say,” sponsored by the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, in which you allowed it to tweet “tics”—odd, random statements or expressions—on your behalf for 24 hours. Not being a big tweeter, I didn’t participate, but I did read a number of the tweets. None of them tickled my funny bone in the slightest. Like other neuropsychiatric disorders, Tourette strikes me as an affliction toward which laughter would be not only inappropriate but cruel. So that’s out.
Right now my sense is that something about the writers’ ineffective attempts to chase down and throttle the autocorrect gremlins is what makes “The 30 Most” so hilarious. There’s a madcap aspect to it, especially when you consider that all the autocorrect examples are from text messages. Here we are with these little devices in the palms of our opposable-thumb hands, trying to be efficient in our communications. But between the mismatch of digit and letter keys (on a texting keyboard designed, let us not forget, by human beings who possess normal-sized digits) and the eagerness of the autocorrect program (designed by human beings with access to zillions of algorithms about common typing errors), we find ourselves like the sorcerer’s apprentice, casting the spell and making it worse with each attempt at containment. So that when we read:
Having a hard time sleeping. Trying to find the right relaxation sound to lull me into lala land. I’m thinking genital thunderstorm, what do you think?
Oh god. Genital
… we know that person is trying to retype g-e-n-t-l-e ever more slowly and carefully, only to have the gremlins turn yet another piece of broomstick into a bucket-carrying broom. Another mental image I conjure as I read “The 30 Most” is of Charlie Chaplin and the feeding machine in Modern Times—efficiency run side-splittingly amok.
It’s not the erroneous words themselves, after all, that make these examples so funny. It’s the off-kilter relationship between human and machine that they put, as it were, their fingers on. That’s my humor analysis. And now I’ve spooled your fun. Spouted. Siphoned. Polioed. Wtf.Return to Top