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Google Voice Has a Potty Mouth



I’m a big fan of Google Voice and even gave it a Editor’s Choice award when I reviewed it earlier this year. But the service has been cause for some embarrassment. I recently set up Google Voice for my father and he got a very odd text message.

Google Voice generally does a decent job transcribing voice messages and passing them off as a series of text messages. They’re typically accurate enough to get a jist of the message, allowing users to act upon the message without having to listen to it. But my father was taken aback when he received a series of text message alerts from Google Voice, one of which read:

“I hope you having a wonderful weekend. Yeah, I’ll talk to you later dick suck a cellphone number, 707####### Thank you. Bye bye.”

At first glance, it reads like someone is being extremely rude and looking for a fight or something. But the message is actually harmless. My father has a small construction business and works with people of all ethnic backgrounds. The guy who left the message is Hispanic and has a light accent. His accent is light enough for Google to do a pretty good job transcribing most of the message, which was simply a guy telling a contractor (my dad) that he he is indeed interested in discussing a small project that my dad called him about over the weekend. Google was able to transcribe my dad’s name the first time (yes, I’m named after him), but failed miserably when the caller said ‘Yeah, I’ll talk to you later Xavier, my cellphone number is….”

That’s right, in at least some circumstances Google will transcribe my name as “dick suck.”

Call me crazy, but shouldn’t Google maybe, just maybe have a blacklist of words that it’ll transcribe? Or perhaps a list of words that it’ll only transcribe if it’s darn sure that the caller actually said them? Talk about putting words in people’s mouths.

The full message transcription:

Hey Xavier this is still legalized almost 7 o’clock on Monday evening. I’m returning your call for all of my dev Saturday Sunday. Give me a call tomorrow morning. Let’s talk about whatever you have and I hope you having a wonderful weekend. Yeah, I’ll talk to you later dick suck a cellphone number, 707####### Thank you. Bye bye.



  1. Josh

    07/14/2010 at 4:52 am

    It may cause some problems if the name “Dick” and the word “suck” were blacklisted given they could be used individually often. Even if the phrase was blacklisted, it would probably cause more problems with transcription accuracy.

    I love google voice, but the transcription feature is terrible.

  2. Mike

    07/14/2010 at 11:30 am

    I needed a good laugh.

  3. Gary

    07/14/2010 at 12:11 pm

    Thats hilarious! I gave up on Google Voice (was using for my iPhone voicemail) and went back to iPhone voicemail just because the transcription was so horrible. I’ve listened to messages that were in as clear of English as they can be, and the transcription didnt even come close. Its one thing if its off a bit, and you can still make out the message. But as bad as it is, it renders the text and email transcription useless for me when I cant even decrypt it (and I’m pretty good at word games!)…

  4. Feralboy

    07/14/2010 at 3:20 pm

    Too funny! If I ever run into you in a cafe in SF, I promise not to call you by your google name.

  5. Mark

    07/14/2010 at 7:24 pm

    “Seriously, baby, it wasn’t me! It was Google Voice!”

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