— Since Amazon introduced the Alexa-enabled Echo
device in 2014, the jokes have become so omnipresent
that Alexa Philbeck, 29, briefly considered changing, or
at least obscuring, her name.
work in the service industry, so my name is printed on
receipts that people see all the time" says
Philbeck, a Seattle bartender. "I get comments
constantly and people trying to make jokes or order me
take our photo," she says, imitating a group of
tourists who recently visited the establishment where
become a chore for Philbeck to acknowledge the
near-constant barrage of remarks.
you hear it so often, it’s hard to respond in a way
that is actually nice," she says.
over time, Philbeck, who proudly describes herself as
"stubborn," got over it. "It’s a part
of my life. I’ve accepted it," says Philbeck.
"I’m not going to change my name because of
named "Alexa" in a landscape dotted with an
estimated 11 million plus Echo devices can be funny, and
just as often, frustrating. As Alexa’s reach expands,
the name seems to be on everyone’s lips. This year it’s
forecast that 35.6 million Americans will use a
stand-alone, voice-activated assistant device at least
once a month, up 130 percent from 2016 — and Amazon’s
Echo dominates that market.
to Business Insider, when choosing a name for their
virtual assistant, Amazon engineers liked the soft
vowels and distinct "x" of "Alexa."
Something about that particular combination of letters
however, is far from an uncommon name. Since 1998, Alexa
has consistently ranked among the top 100 female baby
names in the United States, according to the Social
means, for a sizable population, Amazon’s choice for
the name of the voice behind their gadgets, which sold
big during Amazon’s recent Prime Day sales event, has
not gone unnoticed.
of the kids I’ve been baby-sitting forever — they
love talking to the Echo. ‘Alexa, Alexa, Alexa, Alexa,’
and I’m like ‘What?’ They’re like, ‘Not you,’"
Alexa Sorensen says.
a nanny working in a home with an Echo system, Sorensen
says confusion like this is commonplace. So commonplace,
in fact, that the 21-year-old from Seattle sometimes
doesn’t hear her charges when they refer to her as
"Alexa," leading the kids to use her surname
they can’t get my attention, Sorensen works
better," she says.
doesn’t let it get to her, though. "Yes, it’s
sometimes annoying, but I’ve found other ways to deal
even ordered an Echo device to use in her own home. That
may seem paradoxical, but Sorensen says, "I just
use a lot of the Amazon products, and it just seemed
reports Seattle’s Alexa Nguyen, sharing a name with
Amazon’s "Alexa" is simply a source of humor
and bizarre anecdotes.
when Nguyen, 20, was on Tinder, she recalls a match
using the gadget’s specific syntax to flirt with her.
"He would just say, like, ‘Alexa, turn on the
lights. Alexa, turn on the speakers. Alexa, will you go
on a date with me?’ And I was like ‘No,’" she
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also says her boyfriend owns an Echo and decided to
change its name to avoid an awkward outcome. "Alexa"
is just one of the device’s four programmable
"wake words" (the others are "Echo,"
"Amazon," and "Computer"). So, if a
user wants to turn on her lights, she can just shout,
"Alexa, turn on the lights."
reasoning (for the name change) was, like, what if we
break up and I have to keep calling it Alexa,"
Nguyen says. Her sister, on the other hand, left the
Echo’s settings untouched. "She’s like, ‘I
like to shout commands at it like I’m talking to you
or yelling at you,’" she says.
laughs all of this off. "It’s just the name of a
piece of tech. I just think it’s funny that it is my
name," she says.
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terms of surreal encounters, Alexa Wakefield, of
Seattle, has Nguyen beat.
the early days of the Echo, Wakefield, 36, stumbled
across a video posted by a woman she follows on
Instagram. "She wanted to program her Echo to turn
on her personal pleasure device … I was like ‘Whoa,’"
video made her think more about the Echo’s naming.
"It was getting a little bit stranger that people
were using my name to sort of give commands to this
small, electronic device," Wakefield says.
though she’s never been on the receiving end of any
commands or jokes, Wakefield remembers her first
reaction to Alexa being, "How are they (Amazon)
sort of allowed to use somebody’s name, like a more
common name, as something like a robotic command,"
she says, "It seems like a little bit of a
she adds, "It’s placing your name in a
days, Wakefield says she’s learned to "look on
the bright side." "It’s sort of a feeling of
pride," she says, "Like a person named Alexa
is very helpful!"
has also helped popularize a name people once struggled
to get right. "If I introduced myself, people
assumed my name was Melissa or Alyssa," she says,
"Now when I introduce myself … I’ll say, ‘My
name’s Alexa,’ and then sometimes I’ll say, €˜Like
the Amazon Echo.’"
Wakefield still can’t help but wonder, "Why
couldn’t they have just called it Echo?"