Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When you disconnect your phone, you hang up. Does this phrase apply to your cellphone?

share|improve this question
1  
Notice that your two questions are subtly different. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 27 at 10:16
    
possible duplicate of english.stackexchange.com/questions/116610/… –  cobaltduck Feb 27 at 17:06
3  
Yes, just as you still dial a number. –  Tim S. Feb 27 at 18:24
2  
And you still "roll up" a car window –  Martin Neal Feb 27 at 18:38
16  
And when my wife asks if I taped a show, I remind her that there's no 'tape,' it's a recording on a hard drive. She quickly changes the topic to "you are very annoying." –  JoeTaxpayer Feb 28 at 1:08

8 Answers 8

Yes, it does. "Disconnect the call" is also possible (although more technical).

share|improve this answer

Yes, you do. You can disconnect or hang up.

Even though we do not literally hang up the phone anymore, hang up has become idiomatic fro "disconnect the telephone connection".

This is not something new from the age of the mobile phone, even with a lot of "home phones" you have not been "hanging up" in the literal sense for a very long time.

On old telephones, you had to hang the "handset", rather the speaker part, back on a hook on the telephone. That hook would act as a switch to disconnect.

Compare it to to dial a number: we have not been dialling numbers in the literal sense for ages, the expression stems from the days when telephones had a dial that you would have to turn to form the number.

When we started effectively typing the number, we still called it dialling.

share|improve this answer
1  
AHD supports this usage: hang up ... 2. a. To replace (a telephone receiver) on its base or cradle. b. To end a telephone conversation. However, you hang up when you've been using a cellphone, not 'hang up your cellphone'. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 27 at 10:07

Although I'd avoid hanging up a mobile phone, and would rather ring off, the usage is widespread. Most mobile phones have pictograms showing telephone handsets on buttons that you press to start or end a call, justifying, in some way, the metaphorical shift. There's a reference to hanging up in the contxt of mobile telephone calls in Debrett here.

I also prefer to use 'ring' rather than dial, or for example, if my wife's got a friend's number on her mobile that I haven't got on mine, I'd probably say, 'Woukd you connect me to ...' Or 'would you ring ...'.

share|improve this answer
    
Of course, phones also no longer ring a bell. –  Bradd Szonye Feb 27 at 10:35
    
@BraddSzonye my 'ring tone' digitally mimics that acoustic signal, but we're literally splitting soundwaves here :) –  Leon Conrad Feb 27 at 11:54
    
Heh yeah my phone sounds like an old bell ringer too. :) –  Bradd Szonye Feb 27 at 13:53

In Britain I don't remember ever using 'hang-up'as regards the phone. Though I do recall one or two of the old phones still lurking around in the 1950s where you did actually hang-up the receiver.

The term we always used was 'ring-off', though Americans did continue to 'hang-up' even after the arrival of the compact phone with the receiver rest.

So I simply continue to 'ring-off' with my mobile, though I notice that some younger people say 'end the call'.

share|improve this answer
    
"ring off" sounds to me totally ancient, reminiscent of someone turning the handle on an old wall phone with Bakelite mouthpiece. 2.bp.blogspot.com/-wlI4NxZ0U5M/Tue1wPKPy5I/AAAAAAAAEXo/… –  mplungjan Feb 27 at 9:39
    
@mplungjan No, that type of phone is the one which gave us the term 'hang-up', because that is what you did, you literally hung up the receiver on the hook. But although I can remember one or two of those still in use, they had mostly disappeared by the end of WW2 when I arrived on the scene. You then had the bakelite phone with the receiver rest, which didn't involve any hanging up but merely the replacement of the receiver across the top of the phone. And it was then that we 'rang-off'. –  WS2 Feb 27 at 10:06
    
"Ring off" sounds to mplungian totally ancient, reminiscent of someone turning the handle on an old wall phone with Bakelite mouthpiece. It doesn't to me. We are divided by a common language. He perhaps uses a cell (which Sherlock would pick up on, no doubt). –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 27 at 10:08
1  
I distinctly remember seeing people "ring off" by turning the handle (waking up the switch board operator?) BEFORE hanging up. We are not divided. My spell checkers are all on UK spelling and I ordered the British version of Harry Potter from Amazon.co.uk when I read it. I am however not a native speaker and my English may be cross polluted for any number of reasons. –  mplungjan Feb 27 at 10:23
1  
These were not retro chic. Ours were beige, which I think rules out any kind of fashion statement. It should perhaps be noted that I grew up in Sydney. However, I don't think Australia has lagged especially behind the rest of the world in regards to telephony. –  tobyink Feb 27 at 12:34

Yes, one can.

Of course, it is applying a term that no longer has the direct meaning that it once did, but then teamsters no longer control a team of horses, core-dumps no longer have anything to do with ferrite cores, salaries are no longer paid in salt, and most people don't look at the stars when they consider something.

As such, it is one of a great many terms that relate to an historical artefact that is no longer relevant to the modern use.

For that matter, we still call them phones, when most that you can buy today are not actually phones, but rather multi-purpose pocket-sized computers that have a phone application among a great many others.

share|improve this answer
6  
I would say that the term "telephone" is still relevant to today's usage. You still use them to hear "voice from afar". –  tobyink Feb 27 at 10:30
7  
@tobyink. Yes, I'd say of the couple of hours of active use I make of my phone in an average day, I'd probably spend at least 30-40 seconds using it to communicate audibly with people far away, so it's not irrelevant. Of course other people have other use patterns, but for non-telephonic uses to outweigh telephonic is not rare. We would not call these things "telephones" if they'd arrived fully-formed like Athena from Zeus' forehead, just as we wouldn't "hang them up" if there wasn't a history of different use. –  Jon Hanna Feb 27 at 10:40
    
@PeterShor with the later candlestick telephones the earpiece could definitely be said to hang in the switchhook, and this was true of the handset in a very many later designs, including some still current. –  Jon Hanna Feb 27 at 13:00
1  
Just to add my 2 cents, that phone application is usually harder to find than e-mail or internet browser :) –  РСТȢѸФХѾЦЧШЩЪЫЬѢѤЮѦѪѨѬѠѺѮѰѲѴ Feb 28 at 9:22
    
@Łukasz웃Lツ +1, If I want to call someone, I go through my messaging app to find their name and click the call button. Simply because it's an interface I use much more than the "phone". –  Cruncher Feb 28 at 16:40

"ring off" is far older usage than "hang up" because it refers to (as someone said), turning the dynamo crank to inform the human operator to disconnect your circuit. Just plain "hanging up" was more advanced, after automatic switching arrived that could disconnect the circuit when you hung the receiver on the hook. So, the British are much farther behind in their word usage than the US. British still say "toilet", which was a euphemism - the original word means "grooming", as in "eau d'toilet" (literally: toilet water, as all 7 year-olds know.) But in the US we have had a string of successive euphemisms for the toilet, races of people, being handicapped (originally meant a disadvantage placed on a better player in a game) and so on. Maybe there is something to be said for not changing, until it no longer makes sense. New technology could bring new words instead of straining the old ones to incredulity and creating questions like this one.

share|improve this answer
    
Where does 'the loo' enter into this rationale? If it's older I'd prefer to use it. Ever since I went to visit a Tudor House a month ago with people from the Elizabethan age greeting us, I have called it the House of Easement! Old forms are usually proven to be best in the end. –  WS2 Mar 1 at 20:00

From a cellphone industry insider's perspective, the terms used in the ETSI GSM specifications to describe the states relating to an audio connection are "on hook" and "off hook". This simply echoes the concept of hanging but from the equipment's viewpoint.

For an example reference (from a quick search for a public example) see this old ETSI specification, see section 5.2.5 etc.

"5.2.5.1 Lift the hand-set "Off Hook" - Dial tone is presented."

share|improve this answer

Hang up, because "Did you hang up on me?," expressed with righteous indignation, is still a basic verbal weapon of emotionally overwrought adolescence.

Whatever you say, do not use "slammed the receiver down" when referring to ending a call in anger. With a cell phone it could be a very expensive gesture!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.