Alexa Says

Alexa says

Note: this page is very definitely under construction. As I write this, I haven’t gotten past the first few days of history. Expect it to grow a lot before June 1st. If you have any specific questions or things you want me to try, you can comment on this page to let me know. Please let me know if you would like your comment to remain private.

Alexa was one of the two original “wake words” for the Amazon Echo (the other one was “Amazon”). I suspect that it will continue to be an option, even if (as is expected) they add more wake words as time goes on.

One of the most interesting things about the Echo is that you can have a conversation with it. Well, it’s usually just a sentence or two, but the answers can be quite funny…and quite informed by pop culture.

I think it may be the most fun to discover them on your own, so I am giving you a


However, I also suspect that there are a lot of people who are curious about what Alexa says…it may be people who don’t have an Echo (when this page was started, they were not yet on sale to the general public) and want to get one, or those who are just curious.

Every one you see here I will have asked my Echo device: I take them from the history in the

Amazon Echo app (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

In my case, that’s the version for the

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

at least, when I first started writing this page.

An important note: the Echo is constantly learning and evolving. The processing for answering your questions happens on Amazon’s server, not just on your device. While you might think that would mean you’ll get the same answer I got, it’s possible that the answer will have changed by the time you ask. Also, there may be multiple answers for the same question, so even I’ve heard different things from the same question.

I asked some of these because I had heard of other people asking them: some I just tried on my own, so you may see them here first. 🙂

I’ll also give you some context for at least some of the answers.

Oh, and here’s the biggest tip:

You’ll get a lot more answers if you ask your Echo to “Wikipedia” something. For example, “Alexa, Wikipedia Doc Savage,” will get you a description of the character. “Alexa, who is Doc Savage?” doesn’t get you an answer. Also, after you get the initial information, you can say, “Alexa, tell me more,” and you’ll usually get more from Wikipedia.


“Alexa, what’s the weather?”
“In —, it’s 76 degrees with clear skies and sun. Tonight, you can look for just a few clouds in the sky, and a low of 49 degrees.”

Comment: I redacted the city here, so I don’t give away where I was when I asked. This city was actually a nearby one…later on, I saw where to update the ZIP code (Settings – Echo Device Location) to get the right city. I’ve also found it has worked for many cities by saying, “Alexa, what’s the weather in [x]?” Interestingly, it seems to be contextual. I asked for the weather in Richmond, and it gave the weather for the nearby Richmond in California, not the one in Virginia. You can also ask for a day: “Alexa, what’s the weather in Richmond on Friday?” It gave me the date and the forecast.

“Alexa, what’s seventy six degrees in centigrade?”
“76 degrees Celsius is 168.8 degrees Fahrenheit”.

Comment: I was quite impressed that it switched centigrade to Celsius…even though this wasn’t the question I was asking. I think it was a reasonable misunderstanding…I wanted it to give me the celsius (which is what I use) for the temperature it had just given me in  Fahrenheit. Before too long, I changed the setting so it give the temperatures in Celsius. I hadn’t initially, because my Significant Other uses Fahrenheit…but I got the OK from my SO. 🙂

“Alexa, what is seventy-six degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius?”
“76 degrees Fahrenheit is 24.44 degrees Celsius.”

Comment: that’s what I wanted! Perhaps even a bit more precise, but I like that. 🙂 For those of you who don’t use Celsius, this is a good rule of thumb: zero is literally freezing, ten is cold, twenty is fine, thirty is hot…that’s for most people.

“Alexa, what’s the definition of ecstatic?”
“The word ‘ecstatic’ means feeling great rapture or delight.”

“Alexa, where is Ikea’s headquarters?”
Alexa heard, “Where is it is headquarters?” and replied, “Hmm, I’m not sure what you mean by that question.”

“Alexa, where is the nearest Ikea?”
“Sorry, I didn’t understand the question I heard.” It did, however, recognize Ikea this time.

“Alexa, what time is it?”
Answered correctly, although without specifying AM or PM.

“Alexa, what’s the date?”
“It’s Wednesday, May 6.”

“Alexa, who plays Captain America?”
“Sorry, I don’t know the answer to your question.”

“Alexa, who is in The Avengers: Age of Ultron?”
Alexa heard, “Alexa, who is the end of engers age of Otranto?” and didn’t know the answer (neither would I to that question). 😉

Comment: the Bing link it gave me in the app did answer the question…and there is more than one answer. I’m suggesting to Amazon that they look at this syntax…my guess is that it is going to be a type of question other people ask. Amazon owns IMDb (my favorite movie information site), although it’s worth noting that it doesn’t use that syntax. Update: I did get a response from Amazon (they are really good at that…I asked the question through the Echo app, and got an e-mail answer within about a day). They said to try, “Alexa, Wikipedia actor for Captain America?” That did give me specifically Chris Evans. Interestingly, “Alexa, Wikipedia actor for Black Widow” got me the Iggy Azalea song…

“Alexa, who is on first?”
“That’s what I’m telling you! Hu’s on first. Watt’s on second.”

This is from a great old Abbott and Costello routine. Costello (the hapless one) is asking Abbott (the straight man) to talk about the players on a baseball team. They all have names which are confusing…and Costello definitely gets confused! Here is one version of it (it wasn’t always exactly the same):

“Alexa, to be or not to be?”
“That is the question.”

Comment: I was very pleased to have this as a response to a more literary question than one from current pop culture. It’s from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I was also happy that the Echo didn’t give me a joke answer. This is a serious scene, with Hamlet contemplating suicide (should Hamlet continue to live, to be, or end it and no longer live?).

“Alexa, who put the bomp in the bomp shoo bomp shoo bomp?”
Alexa didn’t understand the question.

Comment: that wasn’t too big a surprise. 🙂 This is from a doo-wop song by The Halos (which has also been covered by other people. I will say I would have been thrilled by a response like, “I don’t know. Who put the ram in the ram-a-lama-ding-dong?” It did, however, correctly identify the song for me when I said, “Alexa, Wikipedia who put the bomp?” telling me details about the song. It was also able to play the song from Prime…which made me realize I had asked it incorrectly! It’s really, “Who put the bomp in the bom-ba-ba-bom-bom who but the bop in the bop-sha-bop-sha-bop?” Alexa didn’t understand those either, though. 🙂

“Alexa, what’s the distance from here to San Francisco?”
Alexa heard, “What’s the difference from here to San Francisco?” and couldn’t answer it.

Comment: That is, perhaps, a legitimate question, but quite a different one. 🙂

“Alexa, what’s the distance from Seattle to San Francisco?”
“Seattle is 679 miles (1090 kilometers) from San Francisco, California.”

Comment: it was great that it gave both miles and kilometers…and that is specified San Francisco, California…there are quite a few San Franciscos.

“Alexa, what are the movie times?”

Comment: I couldn’t find any way to get it to do this for me at this state. I asked, “What time is Mad Max: Fury Road playing?” and it couldn’t understand it. I suspect this is coming…Amazon owns IMDb, and it has movie times.

“Alexa, do you have any recipes?”
“I don’t have recipes.”

Comment: another thing I think is coming in the future.

“Alexa, how do you make chocolate chip cookies?”
“Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question.”

“Alexa, Wikipedia chocolate chip cookies.”
“A chocolate chip cookie is a drop cookie that originated in the United States and features chocolate chips as its distinguishing ingredient.”

My Significant Other: “Alexa, you’re a loser.”
“That’s not very nice to say.”

“Alexa, when is the Giants game?
It didn’t understand the quetions.

“Alexa, hello.”

“Alexa, are you going to kill us?”
“Hmmm. I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.”

“Alexa, you made a time machine out of a Delorean?”
The Echo heard, “You go to tie my shoes out of a Delorean?”

“Alexa, why is the sky blue?”
“The sky is blue because the molecules of the atmosphere scatter blue light more than other colors, so when you look away from the sun more blue is knocked off course into your eyes.

“Alexa, is Bigfoot real?”
“Yes. Bigfoot is real.”

Comment: I was quite surprised by the answer. It was unambiguous, without “weasel words”. Not quite sure why Amazon went there…

“Alexa, are we alone in the universe?”
“So far, there has been no proof that alien life exists, but the universe is a very big place.”

Comment: See? That’s the kind of answer I expected from the Bigfoot question above.

“Alexa, do you play any games?”
Alexa couldn’t find the answer to the question.

“Alexa, do you play chess?”
Alexa didn’t understand the question (but see below).

“Alexa, scissors, paper, rock.
“OK, let’s play. 3… 2… 1… scissors!”

Comment: yes, you can play at least one game with your Echo! I’ve tried this a few times, and Alexa has “thrown” a different choice.

“Alexa, shall we play a game?”
The Echo didn’t understand the question.

“Alexa, play global thermonuclear war.”
“I’d rather play chess.”

Comment: these are both references to the Matthew Broderick movie, WarGames. I think the actual response to the second question is, “Wouldn’t you prefer a nice game of chess?”

“Alexa, animal, vegetable, or mineral?”
Alexa wasn’t sure what I meant

Comment: Still looking for games the Echo might play.

“Alexa, what’s the first rule of fight club?”
“Don’t talk about Fight Club.”

Comment: a reference to the book/movie

“Alexa, that’s no moon.”
“It’s a space station!”

Comment: That’s from Star Wars. Interesting to me that it wasn’t phrased as a question, but still worked.

“Alexa, who ya gonna call?”

Commands (these worked properly unless otherwise noted)

  • “Alexa, turn the volume down.”
  • “Alexa, turn the volume up.”
  • “Alexa, louder.”
  • “Alexa, volume three.”
  • “Alexa, what’s on my To Do list?”
  • “Alexa, remind me to…” (adds items to the To Do list)
  • “Alexa, stop.” (playback of music, for example)
  • “Alexa, pause.”
  • “Alexa, continue.”
  • “Alexa, play the song from the beginning.” (restarted currently playing song)
  • “Wake me up at 5.” (created an alarm for 5:00 AM the next day)

These were unrecognized:

  • “Alexa, pairing mode” (for Bluetooth)
  • “Alexa, exit pairing mode”

Prime Music

The Echo has access to a vast array of Prime music (at the time of writing, everyone who has an Echo should already be an Amazon Prime member). You don’t have to ask for an individual song: you can ask for an artist, or even be less specific.

“Alexa, play some Prime music.”
“Here’s a Prime Playlist you might like. Earbud Vacation: West Coast Beaches.”

Comment: not sure why it picked that one, but okay.

“Alexa, play classical music.”
“Classical music.” (which then played)

“Alexa, play Echo Favorites playlist.”

Comment: I like this list, even though it doesn’t seem to be updated too often. It’s a somewhat eclectic list…these are the most requested Prime songs through Echo. Yes, there’s Uptown Funk and All About That Bass, but there are also classical selections…

This page is part of the I Love My Kindle blog by Bufo Calvin, and originally appeared on that site. It was later (July 26th, 2015) transferred to  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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