Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I went to a pizza place today, and as I walked out with my eggplant parm sandwich, I noticed a sticker on the door that read "Please Call Again." And it got me thinking about how older generations used to say "call" when they meant "appear at a place," which makes no sense. Like the way they'd say "you have a gentleman caller" or whatever. I thought, That's so weird--it's not like they're just calling on the phone, they actually showed up! So much more than a call.

But then I realized who the asshole was--me. Because why the hell should communicating with someone via audio only be referred to as a "call" anyway? Soon I realized that the phrase "telephone call" just means the telephone version of a call. (A call meaning a pop-in.)

So there's a case of my generation thinking they know what stuff means, without realizing that we were already one step behind.

It's kind of like the name "YouTube." Do you think any teenagers have any idea why the word "tube" would be used to indicate "something you watch"? We're already two steps removed from it. Televisions used to be made from cathode ray tubes, which is why we called TV "the tube" and/or "the boob tube." Little Justin or Emma (remember when that was your grandma's name?) might be aware of those terms, but even if they are, they probably don't know why they're used--Why would a flat screen be called a "tube"? So the odds of them connecting "tube" to "a television-like web site made by YOU!" are slimmer than their stupid jeans.

And forget about them knowing what the "bay" that "ebay" comes from is. Or what a hub for "stubs" is, now that nobody rips tickets anymore. Or where "pedia" comes from. Or what a physical book full of faces is. And on and on. I kind of like how the phrases live on anyway.

Another in-between case is "Netflix." Any fool can figure out the flix part means flicks, or movies. But does anyone under 50 know why movies are called flicks?
This is all true. Though it has been going on forever. Which makes me wonder whether there are more of these recently because of the language invented to describe technology that evolved over the last century, which is in turn becoming obsolete.

And I don't have a clue what the "Bay" in eBay is for, and I'm guessing "flicks" are from the picture flickering. On the other hand, I remember literal facebooks, and I think I've actually got one with the word "Facebook" on the cover from the year before website started. So that's sort of cool.
I am stumped on bay, too. Isn't a bay a storage area?

Re call: I also thought of guys coming down sidewalks and streets ringing a bell for people to come out and buy stuff or donate scrap metal. Believe or not, but there is a guy in a beatup van who drives slowly around where we live and rings his bell, offering to sharpen knives. ?!?!? In 2011!!!!! Amazing! No idea if he gets any business, but those guys must have had some sort of schedule, so you'd be ready around 11 AM or 2 PM or whatever. (He doesn't come by weekly as far as I know, maybe monthly? I should run out next time and ask him a few questions. Like, "Do you know it's not 1930?")

Every day or two, I will hear or say a phrase and wonder what its origin is. I never write them down, which is stupid. And I am sure there are many books of these things. Last night, I wondered where the term "shell out" (as in the big bucks, for a TV) came from?
Okay, one webpage says you take money out of your pocket in the same way you shell a nut from a peanut or a pea from a pod.

Hmmmm, I don't know. But it has been in use like this since about 1800.

Another one: why is hair called locks?
In reponse to ebay--I guess we now have another case of me thinking I knew something.

In my memory: In the late 90s, after a few years of being on ebay, I wondered why it was called that. I THOUGHT I looked it up and found that an "auction bay" was like, either the thing the auctioneer stands behind or just a term to describe where auction items, uh, are? Hence, electronic (auction) bay.

This would be false. I have now looked it up again and I see it's because the company that started ebay was Echo Bay so they shortened it.

So, I guess no one's dumb for not knowing what ebay means. I'm dumb for having thought I knew, for over ten years.

The shell out thing: but if you take a penny out of your pocket, you're still "shelling" but we wouldn't call that "shelling out" for something.

Will have to look into locks. That knife sharpener thing is hilarious.
Mom here.

Your nephew Joe was eliminated from a spelling bee with the word aborigine. I told him if he'd known the root word, original--aborigines persumably the orginal peoples of Australia--he'd have gotten it. The best part though was when your sister emailed me to tell me he spelled "abberriginy" wrong. She must have though the root word was aberation (should that have 2 Bs?).

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