Siri and the Cell Phone Fetish

by Translation Guy on December 3, 2011

We hold our hand-held devices close to our heart. Everywhere you go, half the people you see do not see you, completely enthralled as they are by their smartphones, with eyes for nothing but their object of desire, their soul mate, whispering in the ear piece, caressing the touch screen, digital lovers transported to their own private pixilated Idaho as they stroll sightlessly among the traffic. And I’m not talking about that significant other at the other end of the line, but the object of desire they hold in their hand. We are the love slaves of those little soul mates we clutch so tightly against our ears.

What  reader among us hasn’t shared the embarrassment of catching a dinner companion furtively fingering  their digital assistant under the tablecloth? It’s quite shocking what goes on between people and their phones in public. And in private? Well,  just look at where former Congressman Weiner and his little hand-held friend. His fetish was the instrument of his fall. Not the dirty pics to strangers part, which was incidental to his experience of all those special moments between him and his phone. So think ol’ timey fetish, an object for ritual, possessed by the soul of a deity or the soul of the bearer. Weiner possesses and is possessed by his phone, excited by the reflection of his briefs on the small screen, in a safe zone (so he thought) where his excitement was the only consequence, at least until his STD-free fantasies finally spilled over into his real world. Until then, it was just the two of them, or the one of them, depending on the degree of agency we assign to his fetish, all gone to pot when distant ladies grew tired of images of his plucked (?) pecs.

Before the advent of the smartphone, fetish objects were commonly made of stone. Like cell phones, Zuni fetishes were nodes of great spiritual power. (This turquois bear by Emery Eriacho from Turquois Village.)

While I find it creepy and rude when others have eyes (or worse) only for their cell, the relationship between me is not at all like that, even though we feel very close.  I can’t begin to describe the feeling of panic when she is out of my reach and beyond ringing distance.. But I do have to admit that my thing with my phone is just not the same,  ever since I made eye contact with that cute 4S in the Apple Store the other day.

But old man ATT is against it, and according to the fine print in my contract, getting a 4S now requires I saw off my right arm after spending 127 hours stuck under a boulder in a Utah slot canyon. So that’s out, since I can’t get the time off.

Siri is something special, that new app that talks back. I’ve got a professional interest, of course, since I have the feeling that apps of that ilk are going to have a big-time impact on the real-time translation user experience. But my fascination with Siri is not strictly business.

Really the dramatic impact PDAs are making on the translation business is just a sideshow to the three-ring under the Big Top at the Social Transformation Circus. We’ve got the human act in one ring, the parade of machines in the other, and in the third, the cyborg ringmasters who have everyone else jumping through hoops. Confused? Consider it a cliffhanger, all to be told in my next post, although I’ll give you a hint: The world is going to hell in a hand basket. So what else is new?

Stay tuned to your smartphone for the next Translation Guy notification to find out.

Which actually is a good idea. You can subscribe to this blog here (look to your right), and not miss even one edition of this virtual translation roller coaster ride! Do it now before you forget.

Now, where was I?  Right. More next week. In the meantime, since our mission is to entertain and inform, a quick video review of PDA terminology.



  1. Wilber says:

    A masterpiece, Ken – pure, complex and utterly superb.

    Ominous too. Hell in a handbasket? I’m often tempted to think so. But random blessings intrude on the mood (please pardon the rhyme – couldn’t stop it in time) and bring relief.

    Whether that will translate into translators’ true salvation is something else. Anxiously waiting for your next installment.

    We’ve dawdled and dithered about upgrading our dinosaur phones (neither one even has a qwerty). The kids and grandkids all have smartphones or better, and here we sit! But at least we have indoor plumbing.

    My cellphone is an old RAZR, with recalcitrant number buttons and patched with scotch tape. But like you, I hate to be away from it, even take it on the court when playing Wallyball (sic; rules on request) with the gang.

    Be well.

    • Ken says:

      Even the handbasket to hell has a silver lining, Wilber. Like aluminium foil on a trussed turkey.

      The Razr sounds like the perfect steam-punk accessory for “Wallyball.”

  2. Rick Briggs says:

    I forgot about Weiner! What an appropriate name (in more than one way). I laughed out loud too. You’re pretty funny Translation Guy.

  3. Mona Boyes says:

    I watched that video 4 times in a row. I have never seen that show before. Very funny. I think I will look them up on Youtube. Thanks Translation Guy. I think this one was some of your best work.

  4. Neal Barry says:

    Whatever happened to having a foot fetish, or a hairy back fetish? A cell phone fetish? What is the world coming to?

  5. Sasha says:

    Wow, this one was really fun to read. I bet you had a lot of fun writing it, too. I look forward to the next one.

  6. Talk about panic and not being able to live without one of these things. I travel 30 miles to work everyday and I didn’t realize I had forgotten my phone until I was pulling in the parking lot. Needless to say I turned right around and went home to get it. I couldn’t bear to not have my phone for the day. I am addicted? Yes.

  7. Louisa says:

    I like my phone, but the word fetish never came to mind. I think you are right .

  8. I currently don’t have an Apple, but if they could make one look like that turquoise bear I’ll be first in line. It won’t even need to talk to me.

  9. Diana Becker says:

    I’m amazed how many people are looking at those things all the time. I Walking through the mall every other kiosk seems to sell a phone, too. I have one, but I just use it when I need it. Some people are really into them.

  10. Julian Parks says:

    It’s amazing what phones can do now, but if my kids start bugging me for one I’ll need a second job to pay the monthly fees. I know I won’t be sharing mine!

  11. Kate says:

    Is this how the machines start to take over? Didn’t we learn anything from the Terminator movies? Don’t make thinking phones that talk – they’re only going to take over! Yes, I know. They are pretty cool.

  12. dcgrove says:

    I need a phone like that when I travel. Instant translation would be great when I had to give the taxi driver directions or ordering something at a restaurant in another language. I have struggled many times with things like that.

  13. That video was great. I rarely laugh out loud, but I let a few go watching it. Those Brits can be quite funny.

  14. My colleague has his iphone on his belt and he carries his ipad with him. He’s addicted like it’s some kind of drug and I think he’d go through serious withdrawl if he had to go a day without.

  15. I have resisted as long as possible and I still don’t have a fancy phone. It’s a pay as you go that only, get this, works as a phone! No camera, no internet, not texting. I make an effort to not get to attached to it, but I do admit, when I see my friends playing with their fancy toys I wish I had one.

  16. I would rather forget my lunch, my briefcase, or my keys than my iPhone. It may sound weird, but I think it is my best friend and I panic when It’s not with me.

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