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What is meant by hardline?

A commenter named Ed asked,

"I am very concerned as that was definitely our garage that slid into the Batavia. My mom has a hardline phone in the house but probally does not realize it is a cordless requiring power. She is 70 and alone. We have not heard from her since 9:15 this morning." -- CNN

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I would only use the word "hardline" to describe a phone that was not wireless at all, that is a landline with a wired phone. – David Schwartz Sep 1 '11 at 19:54

"Hardline" is a very rare term referring to the fact that the phone is a landline. Most people wouldn't understand it.. It's called a "hardline" phone because the line of the phone is fixed, unlike that of a mobile phone. Hence, the line is "hard", or somehow someone managed to see the connection. "Landline" is a much clearer term.

In context of the text you gave, the speaker is saying that the old lady, uses a cordless phone. But she doesn't know that it is actually a cordless and a landline, which meant that when the garage slid into the Batavia, the line was probably broken and she would have lost contact with the world, as her telephone no longer works.

It seems that "Hardline" was a popular term originally:

enter image description here

But, perhaps Google Ngrams isn't really too reliable, although it does provide some fact.

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I wouldn't even dignify the usage with "very rare term". The "commenter" who wrote that is just some guy on Twitter or whatever, who can't even spell the word "definitely". He's simply getting mixed up with "hard-wired". – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '11 at 20:50
It is used quite a bit of other people though – Thursagen Sep 1 '11 at 20:52
Absolutely - I don't say this guy made up the expression out of thin air. Just that he's applying it in the wrong context, because he's not a very competent speaker/writer. I myself am a bit "hardline" just now, in that I've downvoted the question (though not your answer, where I'm only ever so slightly quibbling over "very rare term"! :) – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '11 at 20:55
That's not what "Ed" meant. His mother's landline is accessed with a cordless phone which must be powered by electricity. If the electricity is off, the phone won't work. It's possible there's a base station with a handset on a wire, that would still work (I think). – mkennedy Sep 3 '11 at 17:22
@Thursagen, "hardline" is a word, but it's rarely (if ever) used to describe phones. It's usually used to describe people or policies, which makes your Ngrams graph completely irrelevant. – Peter Taylor Sep 5 '11 at 13:44

A "hardline" phone is a phone that connects to the telephone grid via a material, physical (thus, "hard") wire (or, "line"). Even if it is a "cordless phone", because the base set connects to the phone grid via a physical wire, it can still be called a "hard-line" phone.

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