What a cock-up: phone software gives Scots Tory a bad name

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A SCOTS council is trying to fix its Microsoft switchboard software after it rudely renamed a Tory member.

Keith Cockburn, the Conservative councillor for Tweedale West in the Scottish Borders, has spent the past 39 years correctly pronouncing his name as “Co-burn”.

But the English female voice used by the computer-controlled “members’ line” at Scottish Borders Council has rechristened him “Cock. Burn”.

The council bought the switchboard software from Microsoft to cut down on the need for human operators.

Callers are asked to give the name of the councillor they are trying to get in touch with.

Councillor Cockburn has admitted that his name sometimes causes hilarity
Councillor Cockburn has admitted that his name sometimes causes hilarity

 

The system is clever enough to recognise the approved “Co-burn” pronunciation but insists on adding an unfortunate “ck” to the first syllable when reading back the name.

Anyone trying to get hold of the unfortunate councillor is met with an automated Scottish male voice that says: “Welcome to Scottish Border Council’s members’ line. Please tell me which councillor you wish to speak to… Please speak now.”

When the name Keith Cockburn is spoken by the caller the automated voice changes to a computerised American woman’s voice which asks: “Is this the name? Cock. Burn. Keith. Councillor?”

After the caller states “yes” she says for a second time: “Please leave a message for Cock. Burn. Keith. Councillor. After the tone please record your message.”

Hilarity

Councillor Cockburn ruefully admitted: “The spelling of my name sometimes causes hilarity.

“I’ve had this name since I was a lad. You do get a variety of pronunciations. You just learn to live with it.

“As long as its not too extreme there’s not not very much I can do about it.

“I’m not going to change my name now,” he added.

The councillor’s Conservative party colleagues appeared to be enjoying the situation yesterday.

Councillor Cockburn has said that he will not change his name
Councillor Cockburn has said that he will not change his name

 

A Scottish Conservative spokesman joked: “It’s just as well this US firm doesn’t offer video graphics as part of the service.”

But Scottish Borders Council were not amused.

A spokesman sighed heavily before explaining: “The phone system is through Microsoft Lync (corr). The members’ line is an off shoot of that system monitored by our staff.”

“We are aware of this issue and are looking into it.”

A spokeswoman for Microsoft said: “That’s not something we would comment on.”

The surname Cockburn originated in the Scottish borders region, appearing around the 13th Century.

The family crest features three red cockerels on a white background. The family motto is: “He rouses us with song”.

Other organisations, products and places the Microsoft software might mangke include the drink Cockburn’s Port, Cockburn Street in Edinburgh, Cockburnspath – a village near Berwick-upon-Tweed, and The Cockburn Association, Edinburgh’s 140-year-old conservation charity.

Renowned Scottish Cockburns include Admiral Sir George Cockburn, the 10th Baronet Cockburn of Langton and Sir Alexander Cockburn, a former Lord Chief Justice.

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