Bitching Betty

Airplane pilots pay attention to Bitching Betty

I don’t have a GPS unit in my car, but I do find myself talking back to the little digital chef that pops up on the screen of my microwave.  So I got a kick out of this Family Matters column from the New York Times in which Bruce Feiler examines the relationships people develop with the voice on their car GPS unit.

I’m linking to the article here because Feiler traces the origin of female voices in automated navigation devices back to airplanes in World War II:

…[W]omen’s voices were used in airplane cockpits because they stood out among the male aviators. “It has nothing to do with acoustics or taste,” said Judy Edworthy, a professor of applied psychologist at the University of Plymouth in England who specializes in “alarms, auditory warnings, beeps and buzzers. They used female voices because they were different,” she said, “and the men were more likely to pay attention to them, particularly in combat situations.

Female voices are still used for warnings in many airplane cockpits and have earned the slang term Bitching Betty among pilots. Patricia Hoyt, who recorded the voice-overs used in many planes, recently revealed herself as Betty in a YouTube video in which she recites common phrases like “auto pilot” and “landing gear.”

Here’s that video.