Monday, June 17, 2019

Apostrophes in the news

The lyrics site Genius has caught Google swiping its stuff. Daring Fireball quotes from a Wall Street Journal article (behind the paywall):

Starting around 2016, Genius said, the company made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.

When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”
At Daring Fireball, John Gruber mentions Encyclopedia Brown. To my mind, the Genius stratagem is worthy of Alvin Fernald.

Here’s a short video showing Genius’s apostrophes at work.

comments: 4

Stefan said...

I'm interested to learn more about this, because I'm puzzled by the fact that Genius seems also to "borrow" from others. See the lyrics for Bessie Smith's "Kitchen Man," for instance. There are several mistakes, including the names of both main characters. But I'm pretty sure I've seen these errors at other sites. Same with many other songs. And in some cases, I am again pretty sure that the lyrics were posted before Genius existed. I've always figured that they too were plagiarizing other, earlier attempts to decipher lyrics.

Michael Leddy said...

I guess the Genius reply would be “No comment.” I just searched for the mistaken “I love his cabbage gravy, his hash” (which should read “I love his cabbage, crave his hash”) and found the mistaken line again and again. Wikipedia’s article about Genius shows some sketchiness in the company’s history. If they’re watermarking lyrics they’ve taken from elsewhere, that’s real nerve.

Odd, to me: Google has the lyrics wrong but at least identifies Andy Razaf as lyricist and gives a copyright identification. Genius has neither Razaf nor a copyright.

Stefan said...

It is odd, but I've noticed the same thing. When I google lyrics and the results come without a link (not sure how to explain, but what I mean is that I see the song lyrics as the first result, without having to click a link, which is what I think you mean too), they are almost always correct. They do better than any actual lyric site with song information too. The lyric sites often attribute songs to whomever last recorded them, or so it seems. Weird.

Michael Leddy said...

I think the sad thing is that what really matters to these people is clicks and revenue. Getting things right, not so much. Imagine trying to alert Genius or Google to an error in transcription.