essays

Tel-Spell Madness

cell phone keypadAre you as sick of phone numbers that spell things as I am?

I’m talking about 1-800-MY APPLE, 1-800-CALL ATT, 1-800-THE CARD, 1-800-COLLECT, 1-800-CONTACTS, 1-800-GO FEDEX, 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-MATTRESS, 1-800-METLIFE, 1-800-PICK-UPS, and 1-800-WESTERN.

What about 1-800-HAIRLOSS? 1-800-CANTPEE? 800-SEESRED? 800-GEEZERS?

Call 1-800-U-R-IDIOT because you have to spend extra time looking at the phone buttons in order to dial the number.

If you’re old enough, you remember when there were place names in front of the numbers, such as MUrray Hill 5-9975 (the number for the Ricardos on I Love Lucy). Likewise, PEnnsylvania 6-5000 and BEechwood 4-5789 made popular incell phone keypad songs, or BUtterfield, LUdlow and hundreds of others. As more and more people got phones, there were not enough numbers to go around, and that’s when AT&T went to all number calling.

Now we’ve come full circle and advertisers hit us with letters that spell out what they want us to do or what they want us to buy. You can even go to DialABC to find out if your number spells out anything, or to convert words to numbers.

At least some advertisers put the all number translation in parenthesis after the letters so you don’t have to waste time doing it yourself. This is also useful to hippie manforeign callers who are frequently baffled by a series of letters that means absolutely nothing to them when their phones have only numbers printed on the dial buttons.

I’m putting my money on voice dialing. Every phone will have it some day soon and then none of us will need to look at numbers or letters. If we see a number on our computer or TV screens, you’ll probably be able to click it with your mouse or laser pointer and it will dial up the call for you. It won’t be long before we forget our own phone numbers (that’s already happening to lots of cell phone users).

Maybe phone letters will have a useful function after all. They might play a role in helping us remember our own numbers. Telephomnemonics is the term coined for using letters to remember phone numbers. Now you just have to ask the phone company for 800-IFORGET (800-436-7438).

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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