How Google’s Autotype Contradicts Orwell’s Advice
In a Lingua Franca post headed “Elimination of the Fittest” five years ago I poured scorn on Orwell’s insistence that you should “never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Silly, I said. There must always be some phrases that are currently the most popular. Banning them ipso facto would pointlessly whittle away the language, phrase by phrase, forever.
I didn’t propose going to the opposite extreme and championing clichés, of course. Yet as Gmail filled in that phrase for me, I realized that it was automating exactly what Orwell recommended against. The program lies in wait for the beginning of a letter sequence that it is used to seeing in Gmail messages, and fills in the rest for your approval, constantly tempting you toward familiar phrases.