You might think that working as a transcriptionist is risk-free. After all, sitting and listening to an audio file or a speaker through a pair of headphones as you type away hardly comes with the same dangers as leaping from a balloon 24 miles above the Earth and breaking the sound barrier on the way down, as Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner did last week.

However, transcription certainly does come with its dangers, as one stenographer learnt this week.

Lost in transcription

The Dalai Lama is a man internationally-renowned for his commitment to peace. The exiled leader of Tibet is known for his inspirational words, such as: “Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful – a meaningful friend or a meaningful day.”

One thing the Dalai Lama is certainly not known for is swearing, but that’s what he appeared to do during a speech to Brown University students on Rhode Island this week.

Behind the spiritual leader was a large screen for people who didn’t have a clear view of the stage to watch him on. Across the bottom of the screen were subtitles being produced live by a stenographer typing as the Dalai Lama spoke. According to the Associated Press, at the end of his speech the Dalai Lama asked the audience to share his words with others, if they agreed with them. If they didn’t he advised them to “forget it”.

Unfortunately, this got transcribed as “f**k it” and displayed in large letters on the screen behind him.

It just goes to show how demanding transcribing can be. If you get it wrong, you could be casting the person you are transcribing in a very bad way.

Transcription emergency

No-one expects the Dalai Lama to drop the F-bomb in his speeches, and no one expects a doctor to describe a patient’s genitals as “circus sized”, but that’s exactly what can happen when a mistake is made in the transcription.

Just check out these bloopers that have appeared on the hospital charts of patients:

Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.

What makes these errors so funny is that they are incredibly rare. It’s not often we hear of transcriptions including glaring mistakes – and the people who produce them should be applauded for this.

However, you won’t go making the mistake of assuming being a transcriptionist is cushty and risk-free again, will you?

Image credit: *christopher*