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I don't know about English-speaking countries, but where I'm from there's this act whereby you dial a number then immediately hang up, for the sole purpose of letting whoever you're trying to reach know and call you back, especially when you're running out of money and can't make a full call, because they, not you, will be the one to get charged. What's the verb for that act?

Just _____ me(?) in case you can't afford a phone charge.

I feel like I could almost use this:

Just dial my number in case you can't afford a phone charge.

although I'm not positive the meaning would be clear to a native speaker.

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    Not the same, but you can do a reverse charge call (called calling collect in the US & Canada). In this case, the charge is pushed to the call receiver, and there's no reason to hang up.
    – jimm101
    Aug 30, 2022 at 13:31
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    @DanBron It may not be a thing now, but it certainly used to be a thing. You'd call collect and say the operator would say "A call is coming from 'Mitch Isatthetrainstation'. WIll you accept the charges?" and the receiver would say "No", but then come pick me up at the train station. But I still can't think of how they used to say this in one or two words, without describing the whole operation.
    – Mitch
    Aug 30, 2022 at 13:43
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    "Dial me and hang up".
    – Lambie
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:31
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    You have a mistake in your title. A person would dial or call a number, let it ring and then hang up. It is the other person who picks up a call, not the caller.
    – Lambie
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:38
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    @AndrewLeach There is one monosyllabic verb, and one disyllabic variant, but neither is translatable. This is such a common thing that there is verb dedicated to it. The verb started out meaning something to the effect to of "to chew; to gnaw", and somehow it evolved with a modern telephonic meaning. I'm not an etymologist so I can't really explain how or why it acquired this meaning. Aug 30, 2022 at 16:10

12 Answers 12

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Given that much of the English speaking world has had unlimited calling plans, partially unlimited calling plans (e.g. the "Fave Five"), or at least very cheap "minutes" for quite some time, I suspect that most people wouldn't know a term for this — I certainly didn't. However, I was able to find some older terms in an article (Sweethearting, part 2, from 2005):

I received reports of pranking being used all over the world. It’s called one-belling (or pranking) in England, people send “toques” (roughly “touches”) or “sting” each other in Spain, Italians “fare uno squillo” (which Google translates as “to make one blast”), and in Finland it’s called “bombing”.

Update: In South Africa, they call it a “Scotch call”.

One Bell

To telephone someone and let the phone ring once before hanging up. Usually done when the onebeller is low on credit.
"I haven't got much credit, so I'll one bell you when I get there and you can call me back, yeah?"
Urban Dictionary, 2009

Scotch call

Partridge defines "scotch call; scotch ring; scotchie (noun)" as South African. "Scotch call" in quotes is used in this patent by a South African man. Unfortunately, it doesn't have great connotations:

A “Scotch call” implies Scots are stingy, referring to hanging up before the other person has answered the phone
ECAJ Antisemitism Report

Pranking

As for "pranking" I found a post on the Everything2 forums:

In Australian youth slang, to prank someone means to dial their mobile phone, then hang up before they pick up.

It does not necessarily mean doing so in a malevolent way; rather it is a way to avoid exorbitant mobile charges when a person picks up; since phone companies do not charge if the receiver does not answer.

It is used as a verb, e.g., "I'll prank you when I get to your place and you can come down."

From a Facebook comment on a post mentioning supposedly untranslatable words like "Prozvonit (Czech): To call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money."

'prank' is used this way: "I've got no credit, so I'll prank you when I've got that information."

Also backed up by Duckspindle in the comments here on ELU:

I first came across the term 'pranking' in about 2000. My teenage daughter said she would prank me when she arrived safely. When I asked what she meant, she said that she would let the phone ring then hang up, 'like people do with prank calls'. It was a common method of passing a pre-arranged message when each call was charged for - let the phone ring three times and hang up. The recipient would then do the same. If either party didn't hear the three rings, a voice call was in order. I'm not aware of any name for the practice before 'pranking', and these days there is little need for it.

Flash [Call]

Through Wiktionary I also found to flash:

(transitive) To telephone a person, only allowing the phone to ring once, in order to request a call back.
Susan flashed Jessica, and then Jessica called her back, because Susan didn't have enough credit on her phone to make the call.

(Not to be confused with Wiktionary's definition #5 for flash, which is lewd but also transitive.)

Less ambiguously, flash call:

When we had cell phones it was called “beeping.” Now in the era of smartphones another word serves better. It’s “flashing” or “making a flash call.” I think we even did it with land lines as well back in the day. Children away from home would flash call their parents. Though we didn’t recognise it as a thing then.

To make a flash call is to send a message to someone for free simply by calling them up on your phone. Then you (the caller) hang up before the other person gets round to answering the call. As long as the party you are phoning doesn’t pick up the call then you have at least gained their attention without having to pay for a call. That’s a flash call.

Africa calling: How to say a lot with a little

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    I first came across the term 'pranking' in about 2000. My teenage daughter said she would prank me when she arrived safely. When I asked what she meant, she said that she would let the phone ring then hang up, 'like people do with prank calls'. It was a common method of passing a pre-arranged message when each call was charged for - let the phone ring three times and hang up. The recipient would then do the same. If either party didn't hear the three rings, a voice call was in order. I'm not aware of any name for the practice before 'pranking', and these days there is little need for it. Aug 30, 2022 at 20:00
  • Flash call is what I used to use when I grew up in the extremely primitive 90s and 2000s
    – Au101
    Aug 30, 2022 at 20:59
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    Since the OP is looking for a term that they can use today, it's worth mentioning that using "flash" as a transitive verb is a bad idea. Most people would think of something quite different if they heard that "Susan flashed Jessica"!
    – DLosc
    Aug 30, 2022 at 21:18
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    I advise against using "Scotch call". I do not know the etymology, but I suspect it is using the offensive stereotype of Scottish people as mean and not wanting to pay for the call. Aug 31, 2022 at 18:25
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    @AdamChalcraft I'm inclined to agree, though the people I knew who did this with landlines in the 80s and 90s were indeed Scottish - coincidentally. I don't recall a compact term, but it was a way of confirming safe arrival without the cost of a long distance call
    – Chris H
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:30
17

In India, this is usually called a "missed call". Interestingly, that seems to be term used for the Wikipedia article for this concept:

A missed call is a telephone call that is deliberately terminated by the caller before being answered by its intended recipient, in order to communicate a pre-agreed message. It is a form of one-bit messaging.

Missed calls are common in emerging markets where mobile phones with limited outgoing calls are widely used; as the call is not actually completed and connected, it does not carry a cost to the caller, hence they can conserve their remaining prepaid credit. Specific patterns of consecutive missed calls have been developed in some countries to denote specific messages. Missed calls are also referred to in some parts of Africa as beeping, flashing in Nigeria, a flashcall in Pakistan, miskol in the Philippines and ring-cut in Sri Lanka.

Missed calls are especially prominent in India.

Some Indian banks like Axis Bank and SBI have missed-call based services for checking account balances.

Sometimes it's called just a "miss call" - you'd see people send a message saying the equivalent of "I'll give you a miss call", like in the 2021 movie titled "Miss Call", or this political party recruitment campaign which had a phone number that people could use to "register by giving a miss call".

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    +1 I can vouch for this from my experience as an Indian. We just say 'give me a missed call, and I'll come down to see you', etc.
    – NVZ
    Aug 31, 2022 at 13:45
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    This is a useful addition to Laurel's answer, but, to avoid confusing future visitors to this page, it should be made explicit that in the rest of the English-speaking world, missed call refers to any call that hasn't been answered, for whatever reason. Incidentally, if in Indian English missed call has this very specific meaning, what term would be used for the calls that go unanswered for other reasons?
    – jsw29
    Aug 31, 2022 at 16:41
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    Yeah, I would say "I'll 'missed call' you"... it's clunky, but no one word version has caught on. Aug 31, 2022 at 18:58
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    Last time I was in India (My first visit to New Delhi) the driver told me to "miss call" him when I was ready to be picked up. Aug 31, 2022 at 21:17
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    @ReginaldLloyd in the UK I've come across this with mobiles as a way of sharing phone numbers that reduces overall typing, while checking correct entry. A tells B their own number, B missed calls A; they now have each other's numbers
    – Chris H
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:32
13

When I was younger (UK-based): give me two rings

Whilst not a single verb, back in the day, this was a common request when a paid call was not called for - e.g. "give me two rings to let me know you got back ok". The expectation being that you'd dial the number, let it ring twice, then hang up without connecting the call.

Another use of "two rings" was as a pre-arranged request to be called back. Once the '1471' service was introduced (to find the number that had just called you), and/or newer phones started to have caller ID available, this could include when you wouldn't know in advance the number of the phone you would be calling from (e.g. payphones or similar), or cases where several different people might be expecting a call back.

Probably not in common usage any more, considering how phones have changed (besides anything else, counting the rings doesn't make sense when most phones play melodies now!), but likely recognised at least by those who used the term back in the day.

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  • Common phrase (or similar “let it ring once”) in the States, also. Aug 31, 2022 at 21:26
  • Even before 1471 two rings at an expected time were used like this. I have a vague recollection of a more complicated system too - one ring, hang up, redial immediately allowing some small number of rings
    – Chris H
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:35
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    We must have been rich, coz we always used three rings… As you say, I mainly recall it being used to let e.g. grandparents know that we'd reached home safely. (I suspect that, even 30 years ago, the rings you heard over the phone line didn't necessarily correspond with those the recipient would have heard, so maybe 3 gives more of a safety margin?)
    – gidds
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:46
  • @gidds in analogue phone systems, the rings did correspond very well between caller and receiver. It's a while since I tested with a modern phone
    – Chris H
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:53
  • @ChrisH 1. I tweaked the paragraph mentioning '1471' to get the better emphasis. 2. I recall even quite some time ago being a bit surprised when a calling and called phone analogue were in earshot of each other that the rings did NOT directly correspond, at least on my local telephone exchange. It would alternate between ringing the phone and playing a "phone ringing" noise to the caller. Leaving it at least two sets of rings would thus ensure it actually had a chance to sound at the other end.
    – Steve
    Sep 2, 2022 at 11:57
11

Although the word is not restricted to phone calls, one possibility is ping

Merriam Webster
ping
to send a usually brief message (such as a text message) or notification to (a person, a person's phone, etc.)
… provides an opportunity to check the time or see who pinged you while you were coming down the mountain …

The ringing of the phone is thus a notification without verbal exchange and fits within the M-W definition.

Similarly, we have “other kind of message” in:

Cambridge
ping
to send an email, text, or other kind of message, especially to someone's mobile phone

Hence, we may say ”Just ping me so I know to call you back”

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    No, pinging is texting or messaging, not for dialing a phone number. No, we would say: Just call me and hang up before I pick up.
    – Lambie
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:33
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    @Lambie You might well think so (as did I at first) but have you considered the dictionary definitions I offer? I did. And so it is that "other kind of message" and "notification" go beyond a text, a message or a simple phone call. Computers "ping" each other without text or message. My broadband speed checker "pings" a distant computer to measure speed. We have to move with the times.
    – Anton
    Aug 30, 2022 at 17:52
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    Native english-speaker here. If someone said they were going to "ping" me when they got home, I wouldn't assume they'd specifically call and hang up like this, but I would recognise this was what they meant after the fact. Generally it just means "I'll send you some sort of indication that I'm home safe". With the expectation that there's no conversation attached, just a "I'm home safe", " :) " text-chat or something. Aug 31, 2022 at 7:38
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    @Lambie the point was to refute the idea that one can refute a usage claim by citing other usages. Words don't work that way. They aren't loyal. They sneak around and live independent lives. Aug 31, 2022 at 21:30
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    @Lambie knowing no other way is not evidence of there being no other way. Sep 1, 2022 at 0:30
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It's probably not a popular answer. I think it deserves to be its own answer:

No. There is no phrase that you could use(at least in the USA).

The best you could say is "I rang once and hung up. Call me back so I don't have to pay my minute rate." If you said "I pinged you." It would leave too much room for interpretation and not be considered good communication unless you had previously stated your intent. Most would see a ring/hangup as an accidental dial.

I remember that ringing and hanging up was very briefly a "thing" in the late 90's when minute rates were sometimes tied to the caller but not the receiver. This was when cellphones were just coming out and this business model didn't seem to last more than a couple years. So no, Americans never made a phrase for it.

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    I agree with the gist of your answer, but I was taught this technique for payphones by my parents if us kids went at saw a movie (early 2000s before cell phones). They'd expect a phone call around 2 hours after show time and wouldn't answer. If we hung up after 3 rings, they'd come grab us from the theater and we'd get our quarters back from the payphone. Since they taught it to us, it was probably something they did growing up with payphones too. Aug 31, 2022 at 13:14
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    Robin is right. There were also "collect" calls that one could decline without either party paying money. You would get a call from a collect call operator who would state "You have a call from Robin Clower, would you like to accept". Payphones were classic examples of charging the caller instead of the receiver.
    – saintmeh
    Aug 31, 2022 at 19:48
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    +1 since (with all due respect to the many thoughtful answers given thus far) the OP will never find an expression with this meaning that even a tenth of North Americans can understand. Frankly, even spelling it out as "Call me and then immediately hang up" will probably have 70% of us wondering "Why on Earth would I do that?"
    – COTO
    Sep 1, 2022 at 8:49
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A Drop Call.

In London, UK we'd refer to this as a "drop call", usually in the context of confirming/sharing a telephone number.

However, I would do this as a teenager on Pay As You Go credit to call my parents to prompt them to call back to use their contracted minutes.

e.g.

"Drop call me when you're ready to get picked up and I'll call you back to arrange where to meet."

Referenced on https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=drop%20call

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    That seems to postdate my time in London (up to the mid 90s) so may have become common when mobile phones did.
    – Chris H
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:55
  • @ChrisH Yeah, it was late 90s-early 00s and it was almost exclusively about mobile phone calls.
    – StuperUser
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:57
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    A few rich friends had them by '97, but even they would use tricks to reduce the cost of calling
    – Chris H
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:01
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    Same, it was when I was moving onto college from secondary school and the kids started inheriting their parents' nokias. Don't blame them for saving money, at 10p per text. That's a Freddo!
    – StuperUser
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:03
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A term used locally in South Africa is "miss(ed) call", referring to the notification you will receive, typically on a mobile phone:

Missed call received from $contact info or number$

This is used as a noun:

"Give me a missed call when you arrive, then I'll call you back."

or less commonly as a verb:

"Miss call me when you arrive, then I'll call you back"

Source: I live in SA

Side note: prepaid call plans are common here. In order to initiate a call to generate a missed call, there needs to be credit on the call plan. If you are completely out of credit, the only option is to send a "Please call me": a free text message which is sent when you use a certain USSD code.

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  • +1 I can vouch for this from my experience as an Indian. We just say 'give me a missed call, and I'll come down to see you', etc. Also answered by muru.
    – NVZ
    Aug 31, 2022 at 13:46
4

Earlier generations in England referred to this as a "Scotch call". This is an impolite reference to saving money.

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    This is great for historical record, but, to be clear, would be inappropriate to use nowadays.
    – Mitch
    Aug 30, 2022 at 20:24
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    @Mitch I never heard it in England but it sounds a reasonable regional suggestion. Certainly it is offensive now.
    – Anton
    Aug 30, 2022 at 20:38
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica The offense lies in using 'Scotch' as a synonym for cheap/stingy/miserly (thereby perpetuating a negative stereotype)... If the phrase were something like "miser's call" then that would not be deemed offensive.
    – DotCounter
    Aug 31, 2022 at 17:01
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    @LetEpsilonBeLessThanZero So it's impolite to the Scots. Aug 31, 2022 at 17:13
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    @ReginaldLloyd I thought people from Scotland bristle at the label 'Scotch' (for the people). Is that not the case in general, or were you just telling us your own personal feelings about the terms directed at yourself?
    – Mitch
    Aug 31, 2022 at 20:31
0

Not a word but more of a phrase.

My friends and I call it "phone bombing" eg. "Just phone bomb me when you get home".

I'm in Australia and pranking works too. I just asked my son and he said "oh a spam call"

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    Is this used by anyone other than you and your friends? Sep 1, 2022 at 6:52
0

Page describes the general action of asynchronously requesting that another person initiate a synchronous discussion with them. In other words, doing something that communicates the message "please call me back" is a page. It doesn't necessarily mean this is accomplished by making a phone call and then hanging up, but if both parties understand the meaning of that action, it would be considered a page / paging someone.

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  • This word is certainly used for a similar action with phones but is very much distinct since this is for a request to speak and the OP is looking for something where no one speaks at all.
    – Mitch
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:31
0

Here in the UK it's common to hear people say "Just missed-call me" - It's a bit awkward and doesn't count as one word if that's important, but people know exactly what you mean.

It's commonly used when you want to give someone your phone number. They tell you their number, you missed-call them, then after your "missed call" has come up on their phone they can select your number from it to "Add as a new contact".

This usage has been around for years. Here is a discussion from 2013: https://forum.thefreedictionary.com/postst46104_Give-me-a-missed-call.aspx

I have read online that in the US people sometimes say "Just buzz me" - which counts as a single word verb, but to me "buzz me" would mean "call/phone me" like we'd say "ring me" and wouldn't in any way say that the call is not to be answered.

I have never heard "buzz" used to specifically mean a missed call. Likewise, if someone said "ping me" - that could count as a text or a call, it just means to make contact. It doesn't specifically mean a missed call.

0

Beep

Before phones, we used to have "pagers" or "beepers". In particular, hospital personnel used to have those. Some beepers could receive short text or voice messages, but some beepers just produced a "beep" sound when they were called, with no message other than the one beep.

Using a phone just to send one ring is emulating a beeper. You can use the transitive word "beep" for this meaning.

This definition is listed in WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2022:

beep (v.t.)

to announce, warn, summon, etc., by beeping:

The doctor was beeped to call the hospital.

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