In the beginning of 2015, the Amazon Echo joined our family. The digital assistant for this smart home device is named Alexa. The same name as my daughter. So, of course, we changed the “wake word” (the word to activate the digital assistant) to ‘Echo’ on our device to avoid confusion. Later we got an Echo Show and changed its “wake word” to ‘Amazon.’ (Recently, Amazon also offered the word ‘computer’ as a possible “wake word,” but at this point you must choose one of their pre-selected wake words.)
In the three years since we got our Echo, more and more other families have gotten their own Amazon Echoes, and they have not needed to change the digital assistant’s name from Alexa. This means the kids in these families think it is funny to try to give my daughter commands as if she is their personal assistant.
“Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes,” one kid recently kept repeating to her.
“Alexa, what is the weather like today,” another kid quipped.
And she isn’t the only one finding this frustrating. Thousands of other people named Alexa are in the same boat. I really wish Amazon had thought through the name more before deciding upon it.
It has been reported that the name was inspired by the ancient Egyptian Library of Alexandria. Supposedly, the word’s hard ‘X’ consonant was easy for the speech recognition algorithms to identify.
That is all well and good for them, but if they had taken a few minutes and checked the lists of popular girl names they would have seen that Alexa has been no lower than #87 in the 14 previous years before their release of their device.
In the year, my daughter was born, the name was #50 of the most popular girls’ names. Alexis was #15 (which is what my husband originally suggested naming her.) In 2015, 6049 people named their daughter Alexa. (It was #32 on the most popular list that year.)
All those poor Alexas will be getting teased by people who think they are being witty. An occasional joke may be okay, but most people don’t know when to let it go. Just ask anyone named Siri, Alexa or Cortana.
A few months ago, Lexie was very upset about being teased at school. Knowing that no matter what she says this will probably be an issue for years to come, we wanted to help her find a way to deal with it. Here are some of the options we gave her:
- Ignore the comments. If she shows no reaction, the fun will not be there and hopefully the commenter will stop. This can include walking away with her head held high.
- Come up with a one-liner to shoot back at the person such as “How original,” said drolly. Or “Is that the best you can come up with?”
- Pretend you can’t hear them and transform it into a joke.
- Look bored with the teasing. Cross her arms and tap her feet as if she doesn’t have time for this.
The main thing is that she needs to not get upset or cry about it as that will only encourage the person to continue.
It wasn’t long after we talked to her about these options that she came home. But this time instead of being upset by the teasing, she was proud to say she hadn’t gotten upset. She had simply asked the kid to stop. And this time that alone worked. But I know this won’t be the last time and certainly that other kids will be more relentless in their teasing. All we can do is continue to support her and hope Amazon soon offers consumers the option to change the device’s name to anything they want instead of defaulting to Alexa.