D., my hard-of-hearing friend, is very grateful for the service offered by many TV channels that provides sub-titles on live programmes, and says you have to admire the dexterity and speed of whoever is transcribing the spoken words. We have occasionally wondered whether these sub-titles are computer-generated, but have concluded that it’s unlikely because sometimes what is said is not written down verbatim but summarised. Or perhaps the job is shared between a human and a robot. Anyway, now and then there are some puzzling and perplexing transcriptions, which add a little levity to sometimes dull proceedings.
The other day, during a local news broadcast, the sub-titles revealed that “one of the greatest dangers threatening cattle is television”. D. has a vivid imagination and a strong sense of the ridiculous. Gary Larson-type images flashed through her mind. We all know that television is blamed for the rise in violence among juveniles and how bad it is for children to sit for hours watching “the box”.
Must we now brace ourselves for a herd of rioting bullocks? Were cows going to mutate into the bovine equivalent of the Incredible Hulk as a result of farmers supplying them with their own TV sets? We know that most farmers use computers, and Swiss farmers have long played radio music (mostly Swiss folk and yodelling) in their byres, but we hadn’t been aware that technology was so advanced that modern cattle sheds come equipped with televisions. Or perhaps it wasn’t the sex and violence that was a danger, but radio waves emanating from the sets? Would that affect the quality of beef and milk?
Or were TV-paparazzi now targeting our cowsheds? We’ve all seen those nature programmes with hidden cameras trained on birds in their nests and bunnies in their burrows: Was Big Brother coming to the byre? And did that threaten to cause mental disturbances among these very sensitive creatures?
D. waited for further elucidations of this dreadful menace. Then at last a corrigendum flashed onto the screen: “Cattle are threatened by tuberculosis.” Such a simple error: TV = television, TB = tuberculosis. Not really a laughing matter!