From here and elsewhere…

Posted in Language by Deputy city editor on June 11, 2007

“I lost it via my bloody Blackberry” is a brilliant gem of a phrase – thank you so much Susan Douglas for sharing this with me. It is adduced to explain the loss of vital communications or data ostensibly due to a fault in the eponymous hand-held communications device. Or possibly by the failure of the operator to have read and understand the operating instructions. This is currently very much a first-world problem.

The brilliant abaporu blog of this parish reports the phenomenon of communicating through “missed calls” – dialing and hanging-up right away before the correspondent picks up.

This is free, since there is no actual call, and it leaves a trace in the form of a ‘missed call message’. Depending on the context, it can mean anything from “call me back” to “I’m thinking of you” or “pick me up at the train station.” In Africa’s English-speaking countries, this is usually called “beeping” or “flashing”, a practical verb: “I’ll beep you when I get there”, or “he keeps flashing me.”

French kids are using the verb “biper” in the same way, says abaporu:

“Je l’ai bipé, il m’a raplé.” They also use “faire sonner” as in “il m’a fait sonner une fois dans la galerie marchande“, or simply “sonner”: “Il m’a sonné today pour le revoir, ça me fait ultra plaisir”.

I note that this form of minimal communication can also be observed on Facebook where users may “poke” one another.

Greeta’s Grandma’s Tales is great fun and she is another great teacher- blogger. (I notice blogging teachers are another phenomenon.) Discussing what it takes to become fluent in a new language, she suggests: “Getting pickled in the language.” Now there’s another lovely phrase.




3 Responses

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  1. Geeta Padmanabhan said, on June 12, 2007 at 3:33 am

    Wow, thanks Jonathan. I strted my blog in response to requests from my students who said my limited-hour lectures weren’t enough for them to get a grip on the English language. Now I find that bad habits – linguistic or otherwise – are difficult to set right!
    BTW, A small request, Jonathan. Will you please try and increase the font size here?

  2. Jonathan Miller said, on June 12, 2007 at 7:36 am

    I greatly sympathise with those whose eyes grow dim – I gather you can increase the type size on your browser but you may have to ask one of your students. I will see if there is anything I can do at this end.
    “You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
    “And your hair has become very white;
    And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
    Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

  3. François Bar said, on June 12, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    “Poking” is the way facebook calls it. Not clear whether they came up with the word, or whether they co-opted something their customers were saying… I wonder if users actually think of it that way, of if they have different names for it.

    (Geeta: if you’re using Firefox or Explorer, -+ will increase the font size. We old people have to help each other…)

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