I read an article today about how Barbra Streisand called Apple CEO Tim Cook and asked him to correct Siri’s pronunciation of her last name. “It’s pronounced with a soft S,” she explained in the interview, “like sand on a beach.” And, because she’s Barbra Streisand, Tim Cook said, “Sure!” and the update is supposed to happen on September 30.
Of course, I wanted to hear Siri say “Streisand”, so I could hear how she was pronouncing it.
Let me preface this: I’m not a Siri user. My husband, he’s asking Siri to find him things all the time, but not me. Siri and I just don’t get each other. I ask her what time it is in Portland, Oregon, and I get the weather in Portland, Maine, if I’m lucky. Today was no exception.
I said, “Siri, look up Barbra Streisand.”
After a moment, a ton of Barbra Streisand information came up on the screen. She said, “Here you go.”
While this was probably the first time I’d actually received what I’d asked Siri for, my secret hopes to hear her mangled pronunciation of the superstar’s name was dashed. So I tried again.
“Siri, who sang ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’?”
She responded by giving me episodes of the television show Happy Days to purchase on iTunes.
My husband grabbed the iPad out of my hand then and asked, “Siri, who sang ‘The Way We Were’?”
“Marvin Hamlisch,” she responded. Hamlisch (which she pronounced “Hamlis-ch,” but it’s not likely anyone will be bringing that to Tim’s attention) wrote the song but obviously did not sing it. So, being persistent, my husband said again, “Siri, who SANG ‘The Way We Were’?”
After a thoughtful moment, Siri responded, “Barbra Strei-ZAND ,” and gave me the option to purchase an album, single, or ringtone featuring the song.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for one, sometimes I get tired of talking about business. And for another thing, going through this little exercise got me to thinking about several business-related points:
- Whether you’re talking to Siri or a human, it’s often how you ask the question that gets you the correct answer.
- Barbra Streisand picked up the phone and called Tim Cook to get the problem solved, which is proof that all the texting and emailing I ask Siri to do is probably not the most effective way to communicate, and Siri knows that, which is why she always does it wrong for me.
- ‘The Way We Were’ is probably the lousiest choice for a ringtone ever.
Perhaps that last one wasn’t so business-related, but it bears mentioning.
At any rate, I plan to mark my calendar for September 30 so that I can check up on Siri and see if she pronounces Barbra’s name like “sand on a beach.” I’ll have learned to ask the question the right way, and perhaps she’ll respond correctly on the first try. If not, maybe I’ll pick up the phone and give Tim a call.
Next Post: Wednesday, September 14