Of all the autocorrect fails in Apple history, one stands out as both particularly common and a little baffling: the f**k-to-duck pipeline. Fortunately, as CBS News reports, your ducking iPhone will soon stop autocorrecting the f-word and its derivatives to their duck-related counterparts.
Apple shared the news at the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week; the update will come with iOS 17, which isn’t scheduled for release until this fall. And it’s not just the duck issue that developers decided to fix. The new and improved version of autocorrect will learn how you text and make suggestions tailored to your language usage. So if you are constantly chatting about ducks, you won’t have to worry about autocorrect turning your message threads from G- to R-rated. If you’re fond of the f-word, however, you can look forward to duck-free conversations. In the meantime, there are ways to change your autocorrect settings so it stops happening now.
But why exactly does it happen in the first place? It seems that so-called “smart” devices—even if they’re not customizing suggestions based on individual language usage—should know that people generally use the f-word in messages more frequently than they text about ducks (or ducking), and the phrase what the duck isn’t actually a phrase at all. Ken Kocienda, inventor of the iPhone’s autocorrect system, shared how the quirk came to be in a 2022 interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern.
“I promise you, on the original iPhone, that if you typed a certain four-letter word that begins with F, if you typed it exactly, the keyboard would leave it alone, so you could have your cusses. But if you missed one of those letters, it wasn’t going to correct to the cuss word,” he explained.
In other words, you could text whatever dirty word you wanted to, but Apple didn’t want autocorrect “to nudge somebody toward saying something awful.” It was just a good way to keep users from accidentally texting something offensive.
You can hear Kocienda talk more about the inner-workings of autocorrect in the video below.