I really enjoyed David Carroll’s recent column about typos and misspelled words. It was timely for me, since I recently began scribbling notes while watching TV with the added enhancement of closed caption. My hearing loss had finally sent me to that option two or three years ago. I was impressed with this wonderful solution to my television problem. In my case it was, in the beginning, most helpful in understanding dialogue in Hallmark movies where the background music is so loud, it drowns out the conversations. Eventually I found closed caption to be helpful in newscasts and other programs as well. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was far from perfect in programs that were broadcast live, especially newscasts. In efforts to keep the words at a pace to fit the action, there are, by necessity, some words and phrases that don’t quite turn out to be written exactly as spoken. In fact, many bring on laughter. Sometimes I find myself laughing when the news itself should be bringing on tears. In one newscast a week or so ago, there was a reference to the dangers of riots and unrest, but it came up on the screen as “riots and undressed.” (Images from Jan. 6 popped into mind … the mob storming the Capitol in their birthday suits, scrambling to find their jackets and pants, dropping their weapons, running for home!) More times than not, Gov. Kemp becomes Gov. Camp, and poor Mr. Raffensperger … perhaps he should adopt a nickname. Beth Galvin is a health reporter with an Atlanta TV station, but she is horrifyingly identified as Death Galvin occasionally, and sometimes she is Breath Galvin. While proper names just lend themselves to such, place names (especially those connected with Native American locations) keep us on our toes. Dick Ula is, of course, Dacula, The Cab County is DeKalb, and owners of a Bucket restaurant (home to various lists) translates to Buckhead. Miracle of miracles, Cobb County is Calm County. (We should live so long!) There was a plane crash recently in Whole (Hall) County.

Traffic reports challenge our best geographic grasp of the area. An accident on Alfredo Highway brings on mental glimpses of a row of Italian restaurants somewhere in the Atlanta area. It doesn’t help that police in pursuit of lawbreakers can no longer taste (chase) them. We can only guess at the location of Wait Green Road. (It’s surely Wade Green Road, but to motorists who despise traffic lights, it may signify long waits for red lights to turn to green.)

While maps on weather reports often show locations, spelled correctly, the dialogue in closed caption is another story. We are warned about windshield factors (wind chill) and while wind gusts are in the forecast, “wind isn’t dusty for everyone.” (Perhaps it’s raining, to settle the dust.)

And only in closed caption can we learn that “boaters” went to the polls, and did they ever! And imagine this … “source of female” actually referred to a source of email. A word of caution, pandemic-wise, as a surge in cases shows up as “surgeon cases.” Be careful which vaccine you choose, since it seems Madonna (Moderna) has a connection, somehow. One Tiger Woods report informed those of us who could not hear that Tiger’s accident “could have caused (cost) him his life.”

When I saw “crow shay” (crochet), I realized how very difficult it must be to transcribe the spoken word immediately, especially when it involves words that have come to us from a foreign language. Hooked on Phonics seems useless in these cases, and that is why we must watch the images and the captions together. After all, in the good old days, the spoken word on radio had no images aside from the descriptions given by the reporter. We had to depend on our imagination until we could see a newspaper or magazine, or go to the movies where newsreels preceded entertainment.

In these troubling times, we watch for words of comfort, headlines of hope, news from the medical community and from the government. In spite of the distraction of a caption to one news item, I chuckled. It informs us that in the halls of Congress is a “covert relief bill.” So, COVID, take warning. The relief bill is in hiding, whatever that means. Perhaps when it sees the light of day, there will be relief. In the meantime, we take humor wherever we can find it. I, for one, am thankful for those folks who make Closed Caption an option. John the Revelator said, “He who hath an ear, let him hear,” and for the rest of us, we’ll continue to take those captions with a grain of salt, and trust the Tribune to give us precise headlines and reports.

Juanita Hughes is a retired head of the Woodstock Public Library and a local historian.

Recommended for you