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I saw the idiom, “Call it a career” in the article of New York times (May 12) announcing Barbara Waters’ planned retirement in 2014: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/business/media/barbara-walters-to-announce-2014-retirement-on-the-view.html?hp&_r=0

“On the program she invented, on the network where she worked for the past 37 years, on the medium where she broke barriers and rules for more than 50 years, Barbara Walters will announce on Monday morning, definitively and with no regrets, that she is calling it a career.

“It’s time,” Ms. Walters said, previewing the announcement she will make to the national television audience watching her daily program, “The View.”

As I was unfamiliar with the phrase, “Call it a career,” I looked for instances of the usage in Google to find a few examples:

1.Gerald Sensabaugh has decided to retire and is signing a one-day contract so that he can call it a career while a member of the Cowboys. -profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/

2.. After 16 NFL seasons, five Pro Bowl selections, a Super Bowl title and 47 career interceptions, Ronde Barber has decided to call it a career. -www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/.../2144715

Now questions:

Are only celebrities and successful people entitled to vocalize “call it a career” when they retire?

Is it out-of-place and ridiculed for an average people like me to say “I ( he /she) ‘called it a career last year (or 15 years ago).” in the same cotext with "call it a day"?

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I think it's perfectly fine (and wish I could say it!). It's just a twist on the ordinary "I'm going to call it a day" when you pack your briefcase (or, these days, close your laptop) at 5 pm. –  StoneyB May 13 '13 at 3:48
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Context is everything. I think "I called it a career 8 years ago" might sound a bit presumptuous (or playful) if I was, say, talking to my parents; however, "I think it's time to call it a career" would be perfectly fine around co-workers, if I'm voicing the thought that I might be retiring in a month or so. –  J.R. May 13 '13 at 10:03
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I know that when I decide to call it something, it won't be "a career". I'll be happy to say "I"m going to call it a life". I never wanted a career. Working-class folks don't have those things. Only celebrities, military personnel, civil service employees, corporate executives, the ordained clergy, tenured teachers, honest journalists, and successful artists have those. You have to be able to retire on a pension other than Social Security. –  user21497 May 13 '13 at 14:34

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It could be used to describe anyone, but the reason you see it applied to famous people is that your sources are news stories, which are more often written about famous people.

You're right to compare it to the phrase "call it a day" – it's a play on that phrase. As such, it draws a comparison between an especially long or hard day's work and the work of a lifetime, suggesting that the career was particularly long or notable. It's a casual phrase that's most often used between friends or coworkers, so its usage here implies familiarity, and respect or fondness for the subject. It also suggests that because the speaker can casually compare a lifetime to a day, they are mature, wise, and maybe even a bit jaded or world-weary.

One final note: as you might "call it a day" when tired or frustrated, "call it a career" – if used in a negative context – could imply that the career had been unsatisfactory. However, this usage is not as common.

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