Transcription and dictation software Siri on the iPhone 4S – lost in translation?

12/10/2011 | Hayley

Siri, the critically acclaimed transcription and dictation software which has been integrated with Apple’s newest iPhone – the iPhone 4S – has encountered criticism even before its October 14th UK release.

Translation overlooked

Although it is thought to be the saving grace of Apple’s latest product release announcement last week, many Japanese and Georgian observers are baffled that the smartphone giant never thought to translate the word Siri before the iPhone 4S went into production.

If they had really done their research, they would know that – rather embarrassingly – Siri sounds alot like “shiri”, which in Japanese means “buttocks”. The Wall Street Journal even pointed out that at one point, Google Japan was suggesting “尻”, the Kanji character for “shiri”, when users were actually searching for news and updates about Siri.

Even more embarrassingly for Apple, “siri” in the Georgian language is a more vulgar way of referring to one’s penis, meaning iPhone 4S owners there might find that asking their phone to give them directions to the nearest public toilet is not the only thing to be self-conscious about.

Siri acquisition

Of course, Apple didn’t come up with the name, and Siri is merely the artificial intelligence (AI) technology that the geniuses in Cupertino have incorporated into the heart of the latest iPhone. After performing extremely well on the App Store last year, Siri was bought for a substantial amount of money in a high profile acquisition which was the first of its kind. Until then, no doubt many Japanese and Georgian users didn’t even notice the translation slip.

Even if Apple had considered changing the name, as many in the industry thought they would, to “Assistant” or something similar, it would not necessarily make Siri’s transcription and dictation processes any different. iPhone 4S users are not actually required to say the word Siri out loud before dictating a command to it, they simply press and hold the home button instead. So Japanese and Georgian users can rest assured that they won’t cause offence when the phone actually goes on sale there.

Image credit: cinz

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