cell-phone » self-phone

Classification: English – resyllabification

Spotted in the wild:

  • You didn’t really understand my question as it was a short message from my self-phone where i can’t write with the full sentences. (Filmtracks.com comment, Mar. 14, 2002)
  • I got a call on my self-phone early this morning, waking me up. (Fiber Raven Soiree, Aug. 27, 2004)
  • Now, somebody is constantly calling on my self phone. (Right Ways, Mar. 12th, 2006)
  • He was chatting on his self phone (probably with a House colleauge or staffer) while impressively continuing to drive very carefully. (The Wind Beneath the Right Wing, Mar. 17, 2006)
  • If you have been arrested, find a moment when policemen don’t pay attention to you and hide your self-phone to boot or to sock, having turned off ringing tones beforehand. (gipfelsoli-l, May 14, 2006)

Analyzed or reported by:

Jeanette Winterson writes:

An Italian friend of mine, who learnt her English in America, calls her mobile her “self-phone”. Presumably she has heard it called a cell phone, but never seen the words written down — and it is a phone you use yourself . . .

An unsurprising reanalysis, since “cell-phone” and “self-phone” would both be pronounced as /sɛlfoʊn/ in rapid conversation.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2006/05/20 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by pat schwieterman , 2006/05/20 at 5:02 am

    A truly excellent eggcorn. However, Ken Lakritz beat Jeanette Winterson to it by some months: he posted this in Contribute — right here on this website! — back on March 14th, 2006. I’m surprised that the earlier post was overlooked.

  2. 2

    Commentary by Ben Zimmer , 2006/05/20 at 6:20 am

    Thanks, Pat — I missed that in the forum. I’ve given Ken due credit.

  3. 3

    Commentary by J Michael Mollohan , 2006/08/18 at 7:31 pm

    I like this usgae better than the correct one. A lot of self-phone users are pretty darn sell fish.

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