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.
“I 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 around.”
“Alexa, take our photo,” she says, imitating a group of tourists who recently visited the Georgetown establishment where she works.
It’s become a chore for Philbeck to acknowledge the near-constant barrage of remarks.
“When you hear it so often, it’s hard to respond in a way that is actually nice,” she says.
But, 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 Amazon.com.”
Being 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.
According 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 sounded “unique.”
Alexa, 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 Security Administration.
This means, for a sizable population, Amazon’s choice for the name of the voice behind their gadgets, which sold big on the recent Prime Day, has not gone unnoticed.
“One 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.
As 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 instead.
“If they can’t get my attention, ‘Sorensen’ works better,” she says.
She doesn’t let it get to her, though. “Yes, it’s sometimes annoying, but I’ve found other ways to deal with it.”
She’s even ordered an Echo device to use in her own home. That may…