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September 17, 2003

Closed captioning dyslexia

From: Toronto Star, Canada - Sep 17, 2003

A strange world opens to the hearing impaired

A U.S. golf course names a lake after Osama bin Laden


Watching the tube used to be a real snooze-fest for me, a hearing impaired 40-something.

The dialogue was mumbo-jumbo. But now that my captioner translates the action, a new world has opened for me. "Watch out for slippery sex on the way to work," warned the morning anchor. Or did they mean a slippery "section"?

During an Oprah episode, I read about a young man facing hardship saving up enough "twigs" for medical school. I think they meant "tuition" but imagined the fellow fixing to be a tree surgeon. Maybe he should branch out into a different field.

Sometimes my captioner invents new words. I read: "The Queen of England has made it clear that she won't be `abdomen indicating.'" Does this mean she will no longer be pointing to her stomach?

I learned another new word while watching international curling. When Canuck championship curler Dave Nedohin threw an amazing rock, I saw the announcer exclaim, "Uncle-believable!" I think that could mean, "Believe it, or else I will make you say `Uncle'."

During the Canadian ladies' curling championship, I read: "Wow, she really `Hans Blixed' that one." Did they mean "blitzed" or did she really clear the place of weapons of mass destruction?

Sports coverage is prime caption cruising. During the Masters PGA golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., the captioner made a double bogey. Landmarks at the Augusta National golf course are named after famous folks: There is Hogan Bridge named after Ben Hogan, and Eisenhower Tree and Ike's Pond named after the former American president. But when the sportscaster rang out with, "The ball has just gone in `Bin Laden' Lake!" I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. What a slice. Oh, the ball has just gone in behind the lake. How sports monikers mutate! During the recent Stanley Cup playoffs, the New Jersey Devils became the New Jersey Pliers. Go figure. The Mighty Ducks became the Mighty Lucks, a fitting misnomer.

The Vancouver Canucks morphed into the Vancouver Caucus. And my captioner reported that NHL coach Scotty Bowman led the "Has-Beens" (not the Habs) five times to Stanley Cup victories during the 1970s.

Stadiums aren't immune either. The X-Cel Center in Minneapolis turned into "The X-Criminal Center." A rehab rink for ex-cons?

I nodded off during the Western Conference NHL finals. Could I have caught what the captioner called "West NHL virus"? And then I heard that the newly arrived West Nile virus is not that deadly. Bites from "Ms. Kyoto" rarely result in sickness, the captioner keyed.

Closed captioning mangles monikers of famous folk.

President George W. Bush has been called George Push. Prince William has been dubbed Pill Yam. And Colon Powell's other alias is Coal Yip Powell.

The U.S. vice-president is not Cheney but "Chain toy." Alberta's premier has been renamed Raffle Klein. (Are they selling tickets?) Tony Blair would be ticked at his tags: Prime Minister Blah and Phony Blair. Paul McCartney is an ex-Beetle. My captioner has definite 'tude.

Some folks are just odd, it seems.

Possibly more eccentric than Mackenzie King, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said he would interpret the state of marriage, not as he sees fit but as "he sees feet." Hey, stay out of the bedrooms of the nation. And before a press conference, Chrétien disappeared into the cloak room to hang up his "coyote." Why can't he have a cat or dog like every other world leader?

The captioner is unschooled in protocol. Last May, President Bush hosted the third "Whitehorse" formal state dinner for the Philippine president, Gloria Arroyo. The president impressed the bigwigs with fancy fixin's in the wilds of the Canadian Yukon? What did they rustle up — ptarmigan stew and Arctic char? Uncle-believable!

My captioner needs a math refresher course. During recent sweltering temperatures, it reported that we reached 32,006 degrees. That's hotter than Paris. Here's a rags-to-riches story: Wannabe California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earned a measly $20 in 2002, and then $30-million in 2003.

And when a senior citizen was caught with a meth lab in his Edmonton basement, he was described as 7,653 years old. Should we call him Meth-uselah?

Here's an interesting fire fact: When a water bomber drops its payload, less than 0 per cent of the moisture reaches the forest fire. Why bother?

My captioner doesn't get that I'm only hearing impaired, not all-'round impaired. In a doughnut store commercial, a man goes bounding after his girlfriend in pursuit of an iced java on a sweltering day. The man takes a header in a slippery hallway. I'm given the scoop — (Sound of tumbling man). Hello? I can see the dude flying through the air. I'm deaf, not blind!

I confess I goof, too. The captioner revealed my ignorance on Iraq. I read that Saddam Hussein's information officer, "Comical Ali," was apprehended. Ha! It's "Chemical Ali." Get it right! Then I realized there were two Alis in the deck of cards: Comical and Chemical. My captioner left me red-faced. Or read-faced?

The question remains. Is my captioner a real person or a computer? Either way, we have a love-hate relationship. My captioner keeps me connected to the world, provided I keep cracking the code.

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