phone in
Posted: 13 May 2011 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]
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"to phone in a [performance, for instance]” is to complete the performance but do the bare minimum, without enthusiasm.

Is this a fairly new usage (last 15 years, say)?

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Posted: 13 May 2011 06:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have never noticed this.  In what context have you seen this term?  What sort of performance?  I am tempted to assume that this may refer to “phone” as in “telephone” but then it should be spelled “‘phone” --right?

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Posted: 13 May 2011 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Looks like it goes back to the 1930’s according to Ben Zimmer’s column:

http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/1578/

“The luxury afforded by the telephone of transmitting a message from a distance (rather than having to show up in person) led to all manner of jokes. Among stage actors, a “gag” circulated about an actor with a role so small that he could phone it in. A glimmer of this joke can be found in a February 1938 syndicated newspaper column called “Senator Soaper Says.” (Senator Soaper was a pseudonym for Harry V. Wade of the Detroit News.) The column includes a sarcastic comment about Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which was then a new and controversial play. As our own Shannon Reed recently explained, Wilder explicitly laid out the stage instructions for the play: “No curtain. No scenery.” “Now that a Broadway drama has attained hit proportions with no scenery,” wrote Senator Soaper, “the next step is to have the actors phone it in.”

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Posted: 13 May 2011 08:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I am tempted to assume that this may refer to “phone” as in “telephone” but then it should be spelled “‘phone” --right?

Are you joking?  It’s been decades since I’ve seen anyone bother to use an apostrophe when shortening telephone to phone.

I think the passage quoted by jtab is using the phrase literally, although it arguably anticipates the pejorative metaphorical sense OP asks about.

[ Edited: 13 May 2011 08:41 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 13 May 2011 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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No, I was serious.  I thought it may have come from a source [edit: like a dictionary] that respects [edit: or observes the convention of indicating] the forms such as when indicating a suffix like ”osity” it would rather be ”-osity” --in everyday writing I wouldn’t expect to see it.

[ Edited: 13 May 2011 08:54 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 13 May 2011 10:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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But phone isn’t a suffix, either as a verb or a noun. It has been used as a freestanding word for more than a century; the OED has as many citations for it without an apostrophe as with one as early as the 1890s. And it hasn’t been normal to use the apostrophe for half a century at least.

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Posted: 13 May 2011 11:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Well, I stand corrected.  I have to admit I got trapped somehow early on because I have always thought that “‘phone” was more exact than “phone.” Maybe a time warp?  Nah.  Just something I always thought now turns out to be not so.

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Posted: 14 May 2011 02:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’ve never, ever ... EVER ... seen an apostrophe on phone.

I’ve seen one on cello and that’s bad enough.

Thanks greatly, jtab4994, that’s amazing!

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Posted: 14 May 2011 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Just something I always thought now turns out to be not so.

That’s one of the side effects of hanging out around these parts!

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Posted: 14 May 2011 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’ve never, ever ... EVER ... seen an apostrophe on phone.

I have seen it but rarely. There is one citation in the online OED from 1886: ”California Maverick (San Francisco) 13 Feb. 1/3 To him I related the famous fiend’s new invention—this ‘phone that could talk in foreign languages.”

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