This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The difference between calling and phoning in old-time Phoenix

I collect old photos of Phoenix, including ads, and I get a big kick out of how things change. Buildings change, streets change, and the way we use the language changes. A good example is the difference between what is meant by "calling" and "phoning" when telephones were new.

Nowadays, of course, to call means to pick up the phone and, well, call someone. I've lived a long life and I've never heard the word used any other way. But when telephones were new, there was a difference between "call" and "phone" - call meant to visit in person, phone mean to, uh, call on a phone. Confusing!

Of course, it's like any new technology. I've seen it all of my life. The young people take it for granted, and the old-timers are usually hesitant to adopt to it. Phoenix has been around since 1870, so it originally had no electricity, and no telephones. If you wanted to talk to someone, dag-nab it (as the old-timers would say), you had to call on them. If you were a society person, you carried your calling card, and left it if the person you called on wasn't at home.

1912 ad that includes the phrase "Call or Phone"

So you'd see ads that say "call or phone", which to our modern eyes looks ridiculous. They meant you could call in person, or you could use that new-fangled device, the telephone.

Thank you for time-traveling with me!

Image at the top of this post: Telephone linemen in Phoenix in 1919. I don't have an exact address for this alley, but the guy on the left up on the pole is named Charles.

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