Voice Recognition Elevator is a hilarious three-and-a-half minutes of YouTube (from Burnistoun, a BBC show set in a fictional Scottish town). Language Log, where I found it, will tell you that it’s unfair (“the expected word error rate these days for isolated number-words, whatever the accent, is a few tenths of a percent”); I am happy to admit that I don’t give a damn about fairness where humor is concerned. And I do love Scottish English.

Update (Feb. 2023). The original YouTube link is dead; here’s one that works for now.


  1. marie-lucie says

    The wave of the future? you have to read the comments too.

  2. I moved from the US to Australia a few years ago. Not long after I arrived, I called for a cab, only to get a voice recognition program. I told it my address, but what it thought I said had nothing to do with what I did say. The number, the street, and the suburb weren’t even close. So I put on my broadest Australian accent and gave it another try. Got it the first time. Good thing only the computer heard it.

  3. I’m beginning to like Scottish English too; who can dislike the language that gave us “tartle,” a word for hesitating when you’re introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name?
    A language benevolent to the unyoung.

  4. Sorry to digress at this early stage, but this is a U-tube emergency: Check this performance of the Liszt Mephisto Waltz out, music lovers. Then check the Brahms 2nd & the Schumann Fantasy. As one of the comments says, it’s jaw-dropping. The pianist is the 23 year-old Georgian, Khatia Buniatishvili. She hasn’t recorded anything yet.

  5. This source may be over two hundred years old now but if it’s still any guide it suggests that you can use tartle to cover many sorts of hesitation.

  6. I don’t know why it didn’t take the link I just referenced. Rather than type it in again, it was to John Jamieson’s 1808 An etymological dictionary of the Scottish language which you can easily find in Google books.

  7. rootlesscosmo says

    the 23 year-old Georgian, Khatia Buniatishvili.
    Damn! Thanks, AJP.
    (I found a news item that said she’s signed a contract with Sony who will release an all-Liszt disc, including the B minor sonata, at some point. On my wish list.)

  8. Thanks, Rootless. Me too.

  9. Thanks AJP, that is absolutely riveting. If some Cassandra were to yell “Fire!” in the crowded theater where she were playing the Liszt waltz, I doubt she could attract any attention.

  10. Possibly of interest here: Two Lines is soliciting translations for its new edition. I am thinking of submitting a chapter of The art of resurrection if I can finish revising the bit I am translating now in two weeks’ time.

  11. Thanks, AJP, for that link to Khatia Buniatishvili! Talk about swept away!

  12. Trond Engen says

    This thread has reached the ideal number of comments and should be closed.
    Oh, damn.

  13. I’m glad you guys liked it. There’s a short BBC Radio 3 interview with Khatia Buniatishvili here, as well as her pwrformance of Beethoven’s Appassionata, but I like the Liszt pieces the best because she transforms them into something much more exciting to hear. By comparison, play other Youtube versions of the same pieces & it’s clear.

  14. That’s all very well, AJP, but what has it to do with goats?

  15. A good point. I’ll play them the Liszt when they come inside for Goats’ Christmas.

  16. Khatia Buniatishvili has had a good career since AJP discovered her.

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