It speaketh, yet it understandeth not

The National Weather Service runs a network of FM radio stations, about a thousand of them, in the general vicinity of 162.475 MHz. Most of them are totally automated, with a computerized voice “reading” the scripts. Some of them sound better than others. One we had here for a while has intonation not unlike Arnold Schwarzegger’s, and “Arnold” is occasionally still pressed into service when the “regular” voice, which wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on NPR, isn’t working correctly. There is one ongoing problem with the “regular” voice, though: it can’t distinguish between “winds,” what the guy does with his wrist watch now and then, and “winds,” which will blow over your rubbish bin at 60 miles per hour. The former word, of course, is unlikely to be part of a weather forecast, but it will show up more often than you’d think.

Which is not to say that automated voices not run by the government are any better. This standard-issue heartwarming story turned up on YouTube with a fake female voice:

The text appears to be identical to what’s here, though the fake female is evidently baffled by the call letters of that Houston television station: she renders “KHOU” as “coo.” And her keeper isn’t the most articulate, either:

I make story videos, everytime and everywhere. Subscribe this channel for new stories :)

Fourteen thousand subscribers in less than a year. Evidently some people are a lot less bothered by this than I am.


  1. fillyjonk »

    6 August 2017 · 2:18 pm

    I was tweeting the other night about the unfortunate mishearing of “Petersburg,” a very small (think wide place in the road) town about an hour west of me. The automated voice almost changed the t into an n sound…..

  2. Mike aka Proof »

    6 August 2017 · 3:52 pm

    There’s a group that puts out videos about the military that uses a computer voice. Yesterday I watched a video on new Israeli turret designs, when the narrator spoke about a 7.62 ‘calorie’ gun. Gotta watch those cals!

  3. fillyjonk »

    6 August 2017 · 4:11 pm

    A 7.62 calorie gun would most definitely be a diet gun.

  4. McG »

    6 August 2017 · 9:17 pm

    High in minerals, too — though not the healthy kind.

  5. Lynn »

    7 August 2017 · 6:39 am

    Sometimes real humans don’t do much better. I suppose this is slightly off-topic but I must take the opportunity again to complain that my otherwise favorite weather guy, Travis Meyer always says “study” when he means “steady” and it drives me nucking futs. I have so far resisted the strong urge to tweet at him the strong suggestion that he learn how to pronounce this word.

  6. Holly H »

    7 August 2017 · 11:50 am

    I have certain mispronunciations that drive me nuts too. Nuclear vs nyu-cu-lar, for example. “Tumeric” instead of “turmeric”. And I was gonna say “Aluminium” vs “Aluminum”. But it looks like the Brits have it right, and we Yankees are behind, on this one:

    When did Aluminium become aluminum?
    Sir Humphry made a bit of a mess of naming this new element, at first spelling it alumium (this was in 1807) then changing it to aluminum, and finally settling on aluminium in 1812.Dec 16, 2000

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