A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

doing things with words: mobile phone culture

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 27, 2007

Several years ago I remember being amused and impressed by the appearance of a new mobile phone shop at the top of Damascus’ Tiliyani neighborhood.

Its name to me epitomized the mobile phone culture emerging in the region (and everywhere else with high, per-minute calling rates): Missed Call.

The missed call is an intentionally placed call that rings once or twice – long enough to appear on the recipient’s mobile phone screen – and then stops. Its purpose is not to be answered but to communicate something more specific:

I’m here (in front of your building, at the restaurant, etc.).

Where are you? (for parents contacting their night owl children, friends wondering why another is late, etc.)

I’m thinking of you


More recently, I have noticed another evolution in mobile phone culture: the transformation of “missed call” into chat language.

Chat language – for MSN, for text messages, and sometimes for emails – is something I don’t always get.

For example, the correct, centuries-old abbreviation for “your” is “yr”. Nerdy academic that I am, this is what I use. Everyone else in the chat world, of course, uses “ur”.

But I love the chat word for missed call: miscal. Its an adorable shortening of the proper term, and the fact that a chat abbreviation has been created attests to the centrality of the missed call in mobile phone communication here.


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