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Quotations about Phones

As usual, nowadays, instead of knocking at the door, Fate called up on the telephone. ~Rupert Hughes, The Thirteenth Commandment, 1916

We shall one day navigate the air as the sea — rain will be made to pour on the desert, and it will be cultivated and blossom as the rose — bread shall yet be made of stones in the street — the man of a hundred years shall yet be in his prime — men will yet take a little instrument from their waistcoat pocket and communicate with a friend a hundred miles away without wires, as if they spoke face to face. ~James Gillingham (1838–1924), The Seat of the Soul Discovered or the World's Great Problem Solved, with Objections to the Same Answered, second edition, 1870

The bathtub was invented in 1850, and the telephone in 1875. Had you been living in 1850, you could have sat in the bathtub for 25 years without the darn phone ringing. ~Author unknown, magazine quip, c. 1958

The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink. ~Fran Lebowitz, unverified

O misery, misery, mumble and moan!
Someone invented the telephone,
And interrupted a nation's slumbers,
Ringing wrong but similar numbers...
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "Look What You Did, Christopher!"

Even when it is not used with malice aforethought or for the purpose of elevating the breeze in your vicinity it is an exhausting instrument. If you pass a friend in the street you can say, "How do you do?" and let it go at that without being expected to stop and thrash the matter out to the last symptom. But if you have an impulse to swap a fleeting greeting per telephone you can't say "How do you do?" and hang up. The telephone tradition demands that you lean with one elbow on the wall or both on the table and strain every nerve to be bright. Face to face with the other party you would merely be yourself and, however painful that might be, no offence would be taken. But there is something about the telephone for social purposes which causes you to behave in a manner which would brand you as "nuts" in normal circumstances. To add to the pain of social telephonetics, neither party to the ordeal is ever willing to ring off. Both keep on saying, "Yes—oh, yes," "True, true," "That is so," "Quite," while both vainly try to think up some remark that will close the song and dance without leaving a wound that the years will fail to heal. ~Kenneth Alfred Evelyn Alexander (c.1890–1953), "Telepholunacy: Word Without End," in The New Zealand Railways Magazine, 1940

Here's to you!
Cheers to you,
And a mighty
Tender sighs
Business lies
Have come
And gone
Along your
Copper highway.
~Henry Stanley Haskins, "The Telephone," in Life, 1904

...the telephone, which favours lying... ~Jean Cocteau (1889–1963)

Cell phone: a private convenience that has become a public nuisance. ~Richard E. Turner (1937–2011), The Grammar Curmudgeon, a.k.a. "The Mudge," "Cell Phone-itis and Other Technological Diseases," 2004

TELEPHONE, n.  An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance. ~Ambrose Bierce

Once a month it happens.
It almost makes me ill,
Each time I finish paying
Alexander Graham's Bill!
~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984

I got an answering machine for my phone. Now when I'm not home and somebody calls me up they hear a recording of a busy signal. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985,

Unfortunately at this point I was interrupted by that dubiously time-saving device the telephone. ~P. J. O'Rourke

You—thing of
Rubber and
Wheel and
You're only a
You haven't a
Or a
And yet you
You haven't
An ear, and
Yet you
~Henry Stanley Haskins, "The Telephone," in Life, 1904

Actually, why pay for therapy when there are so many numbers to call where they play you calming music and tell you every two minutes how important you are to them. ~Robert Brault, @RobertBrault18, tweet, 2022,

If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting? ~Stephen Levine

Cell phones are the latest invention in rudeness. ~Terri Guillemets, "Shopping for what?," 2005

Anytime I see someone blocking the aisle in the supermarket while talking on a phone, I want to ram that person with my shopping cart. ~Richard E. Turner (1937–2011), The Grammar Curmudgeon, a.k.a. "The Mudge," from "The Curmudgeon Sounds Off: Cell Phone-itis Revisited," 2005

She became sort of a tender joke at the post-office, and on the street as well, for she always read her daily letter on the way home. She would be so absorbed in the petty chronicles of Drury's life that she would stroll into people and bump into trees, or fetch up short against a fence. She sprained her ankle once walking off the walk. And once she marched plump into the parson's horrified bosom. ~Rupert Hughes, "Pain," In a Little Town, 1917  [Well, yes, this is about reading a paper letter. But it applies so perfectly to people on their cell phones nowadays that I just had to place it on the Telephones page. —tg]

Everybody in society these days just walks around with their heads down, staring at their phones. Chiropractors must be making a fortune! ~Keith Wynn, tweet, 2017

When the telephone rings on Saturday or Sunday you are pleased because it probably means something pleasing and you take the call with agility,
But when it rings on any other day it just usually means some additional responsibility,
And if in doubt,
Why the best thing to do is to answer it in a foreign accent or if you are a foreigner answer it in a native accent and say you are out...
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "Every Day Is Monday"

How come wrong numbers are never busy? ~Author unknown

I'd play every day if I could. It's cheaper than a shrink and there are no telephones on my golf cart. ~Brent Musburger

Words from the past: "It's a clever idea, Mr. Bell, but don't wire us, we'll wire you." ~Robert Brault,

Sometimes I long for a lazy camp
Five hundred miles from home,
Where the eagle flies in the clear blue sky
And the grizzly bear does roam,
A snow white peaklike giant stands
In the midst of the tall pine trees,
Away from the constant ring of the phone
For ever calling me...
~J. H. Stallings (b. 1874), "Zanjero"

Confound a telephone, anyway. It is the very demon for conveying similarities of sound that are miracles of divergence from similarity of sense. ~Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889

It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone. ~Mark Twain, unverified, quoted in Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips, 1948, cited as "source undetermined at date of publication"  [I've tracked this down to a claim that it's from a letter from Mark Twain to the editor of New York World, 1890 December 23rd, but I haven't been able yet to verify. —tg]

Occasionally it seems as though the only leisure class in America is composed exclusively of telephone operators. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor

I don't answer the phone. I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end. ~Fred Couples, unverified

As a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you. ~Fran Lebowitz

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