How Siri Became a Southern Belle

She couldn’t speak a lick of Southern, but an intervention made her all better.

Valerie Fraser Luesse
Woman on phone
H. Armstrong Roberts/Stringer/Getty Images

I was late coming to the iPhone party. Several years ago, my husband and I were taking a drive when my old phone, a Droid, passed away. Suddenly, it started barking, "Droid! Droid! Droid!" over and over again. We couldn't figure out how to make it stop, so we pulled over and put it in the trunk till it finally talked itself to death.

The minute we got home, I splurged on an iPhone with Siri, the talking iPhone assistant who, I was told, could take dictation and free me from typing text messages. (In order for me to type swiftly on that flat surface, I would need an iPhone the size of my turkey platter.)

My first dictated message went something like this: "Well, I finally got an iPhone!"

Siri heard: "Whale, I finally got an iPhone."

Later I tried: "Just wanted to see how y'all are."

Siri heard: "Just wanted to see how are you out there."

Bless her heart, she couldn’t even get the text address right.

Siri asked: "To whom shall I send it?"

I replied: "Jerry White."

[Awkward silence]

[More awkward silence]

Finally, Siri said: "I do not understand Ferierai."

At the time, I was a frequent blogger, so I posted an open letter to the good people at Apple, whose work I have long admired:

Dear Apple,

Before your next upgrade to the iPhone, please help Siri get her Southern on. Send her to an SEC game, a crawfish boil, and maybe a cotillion. Feed that girl some catfish and fried green tomatoes, for heaven's sake. In all honesty, we think she would be happier with a Southern name like Lillian or Annabelle or maybe something double like Celia June. And tell her it’s a little rude to rush right in there and ask why we’re pestering her. She should start by asking about the family and inquiring as to our health—maybe swap a couple of recipes. It’s not just our own convenience we’re concerned about. It’s Siri’s well-being. Don’t you want the Charleston Junior League to think she was raised right? She’ll never pass for a Kappa without a little more polish.

Sincerely,
A Misunderstood Customer in Alabama

Now here I am, two upgrades later, and I am amazed at the progress Siri has made. Sure, it’s possible that her newfound Southern-ese is just a byproduct of more advanced technology. On the other hand, maybe she spent a semester at Ole Miss. (I wonder if she went out for cheerleader?)

The important thing is that she can understand “y’all” now. And the all-important “Mama.” Granted, our girl still struggles a bit with “fixin’ to.” And she occasionally gets completely stumped by the Southern word for “my mother and her close extended family,” also known as “Mama ’n ’em.” (Baby steps.) But over all, Siri is dangerously close to being ready to hold her own at a Rush party. (She’s not quite ready for the homecoming court, but it’s just a matter of time before she achieves pageant hair.)