Grandma\’s Tales

November 8, 2006

Grammar 12 – What are robo calls?

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 5:30 pm

It just had to happen. It is too much (understandably so) for any human being to call numbers one by one to ask the same question (Have you tried our product XYZ?) or deliver the same message (We give you a better deal on your car!), specially when the answer is predictable. The politest you can expect is, “This is not a good time to call!” The banging sound that follows is a bonus.

So during the US elections held 7 November, call centres simply automated their calls for the candidates. And they have been named “robo calls”. Robo calls are automated, telemarketing phone calls. Robo, of course, is short for robot, a long-standing word for automation or mechanisation.

But the American mind which resists curbs on imagination, wasn’t going to keep the phrase in this pristine condition. “Robo calls” spawned a complete lexicon of robo infected words. A few examples:

I don’t recall any robo-caller owner complaining about Freedom of Speech. [Dean Ridgway]

“Last time I got robocalled, the discussion went something like: ‘Would you like blah blah blah insurance information blah blah blah sent to you no fee no obligation blah blah blah…?‘“ by Ben Zimmer

Add “robo-calling is an offence“, to this list, and you know what I mean.

Imagine what these calls can do to your energy (hey, the phone rings!), time and peace of mind. You pick up the phone to hear Arnold Schwatzenegger (Governor of California) telling you what he’d do if you voted him in. The first time you swoon. A lot of CA women admitted they were bowled over. But the same voice speaks the same words all day, every day, through the week, and even a die-hard fan is going to think hard on her voting options. I’m not sure what men would do.

Well, the complaints came in thick and fast. Indianapolis Star reported that the Indiana Republican Party “fired a calling company. Not because the firm’s calls were necessarily harassing (really?), but because they were automated — a violation of Indiana state law.” The calls were made in support of candidates.

How do people who get the calls feel? A dear friend Suzanne Beecher, who lives in Florida and runs this wonderful online book club wrote in her column:

“Fed up and tired of my phone ringing constantly, a few weeks ago I started making a list. Every time another recorded message (robo call) told me why I should vote for Don or Mary or Bill, that’s when Don, Mary and Bill were added to my “I’m-not-going-to-vote-for-you” list… I’m glad I voted, but I’d be even happier if I could get the unlisted phone numbers of Don, Mary and Bill.

“Hi, this is Suzanne. Did I get you out of the tub? I sure hope so!”

Now I’m thinking, may be they should have recorded the robo calls on behalf of the rival candidates.



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3 Comments »

  1. […] Robo calls…you remember hearing that phrase in the recently concluded American mid-term elections, right? Grandmastales has an explanation of what a robo call is and it makes for an interesting read.  […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Blogging About India, NRIs, Bollywood and Ice Cricket — November 16, 2006 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  2. […] Robo calls…you remember hearing that phrase in the recently concluded American mid-term elections, right? Grandmastales has an explanation of what a robo call is and it makes for an interesting read.  […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Round-Up: India « Kamla Bhatt — November 16, 2006 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Kamla Bhatt,
    Thanks for dropping by. And thanks the reference and the compliment.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — November 17, 2006 @ 9:12 pm | Reply


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