Thanks, predictive text. Talk later.

ok thanks talk later’s Ruth Hodge discusses the strange beast that is predictive text: 

I was busy last night texting whilst driving (my mind into the brick wall opposite me as I frantically typed away into my Mac, vomiting up evidence law notes for my upcoming exam with as little sense as the entire course had been to me…oh I digress…)

Anyway, I was texting my friend, and he said something to me – you know, just your run-of-the-mill “hey Ruth do you think you could shave a picture of Johnny Knoxville into my back hair for me?” type request I get from all my friends (it actually was the best review of Her I’ve ever read – less than 140 characters: “Dude falls in love with Siri. Arcade Fire plays a bit.”). Immediately, thanks to iOS8, predictive text popped up above my keyboard with the following possible responses that I could lazily tap on to reply:

Ok — Thanks — Talk later?

I thought firstly, how funny it would be if these were the only possible ways to respond to anything. Like that game you would play on the school bus where you could only respond/end sentences given to you with three phrases, one being “in my pants”.

Then I thought how these responses actually are just a summation of my mind does in any encounter with the opposite sex/the universe in general. For example:

Bartender just doing his job, pouring me a vodka-raspberry: “Do you want a straw for your drink?”! Me looking admiringly at his arms:

“Ok — Thanks — Talk Later?”

It’s as if they are not three separate responses, but a verbal regurgitation all at once, reflecting the fact that I am overwhelmed by the fact that such a tall man with such gorgeous shapely arms is asking me a question specifically as to how I’d like to wrap my lips around the beverage of my choice, and that he is in no way making a stab at the fact that I ordered a chick drink and should therefore sip out of a shortened straw because I am a chick:


It could be used also, for example, in situations of complete overwhelm and confusion (except for in circumstances in Europe, as we all know that you can be just whelmed in Europe).

Coles Self-Service Checkout: “Would you like a copy of your receipt?”

Mum asking me what part of the chicken I want at Sunday Roast: “Thigh or Breast?”

Relatives asking for help with their technology: “I want to get my email on here….”
Me (interrupting them half way through their sentence): “OKAY THANKS TALK LATER?”

Even for more life-changing moments:

Priest marrying me off: “Do you, Ruth, take Bill Murray to be your lawfully wedded husband (blah blah all that stuff about loving and cherishing etc)?”

Jokes aside, it made me realise something (here you go guys, something poignant for you to think about as you double tap your home button, exit this app and switch to re-check your Instagram notification feed). The fact that phones now do this – they predict what could be said in conversation – is kinda disappointing in a way. It is as if less thought is put into what we say to people. It is as if convenience takes over compassion or commitment to really mulling over what we say to people. Conversation is fleeting enough with text messages preferred to phone calls. And though I do believe the written word has its value, I feel like a lack of complete control over the words we say is something we should be avoiding if possible. Phone your friends. Email them. Extend conversation rather than shortening it. Turn predictive text off (or leave it on – sometimes it’s “proposed responses” are funnier than what you’d say anyway. But that’s technology just showing off).

Ironically, my friend and I spent the rest of the evening foregoing proper conversation and stringing sentences purely through predictive text selection. Turns out I will become a call girl who uses head and shoulders and invites people to her room to eat pie. Predictive text? More like predictive fortune telling. Move over tarot cards and tea leaves…

ruth hodge


Words by Ruth Hodge.