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The Indefinite Article.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Etymology of Dial

So I'm in a phone tree and instead of saying "For . . . press 1" it says "For . . . dial 1." This is a slight difference and an interesting anachronistic language. etymonline.com says:
dial 1430, apparently from M.L. dialis "daily," from L. dies "day." The M.L. was probably abstracted from a phrase such as rota dialis "daily wheel," and the earliest sense was "a sundial." It evolved to mean any round plate over which something rotates, including the telephone sense, from 1879, which led to the verb (1923) and to dial tone (1921), "the signal to begin dialing," which term soon will be the sole relic of the rotary phone.


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