Posted by: episystechpubs | March 31, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Phony Calls

Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day, so if your phone rings and someone asks about your refrigerator, the caller may be setting you up for the following classic joke:

Caller: Is your refrigerator running?
Victim: Yes.
Caller: Then you’d better go out and catch it!

Everyone agrees that this joke is hilarious. But not everyone agrees on what to call this kind of trick: a prank call or a crank call.

The phrase crank call originated between 1924 and 1953 (probably in the 1940s, the decade in which the percentage of American households owning a phone exploded from 35 percent to 60 percent). Prank call didn’t become popular until the late 1960s.

Today, prank call is more popular online (9.8 million Google® search results, compared with 142,000 for crank call), but crank call remains more popular in books (1.4 times as common as prank call).

Although many people use prank call and crank call interchangeably, some draw a subtle distinction between the two terms.

A prank is a mildly mischievous act, according to Merriam-Webster. A crank is an annoyingly eccentric person. So, a prank caller is trying to play a joke, whereas a crank caller is being weird without trying.

Crank in this sense does not refer to the hand cranks found on the sides of very old phones, but to the idea that an eccentric person is crooked or out of line, like the shape of a crank.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

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