Tuesday, December 14, 2010
British Word of the Day
telephonist [tɪˈlɛfənɪst]n (Electronics & Computer Science / Telecommunications) Brit a person who operates a telephone switchboard
He put down his pen. 'You work in the hospital?'
'Me? Yes, I'm a telephonist...'
By popular demand (okay, maybe not 'popular' but when our oldest Betty booster asks, we deliver), the word of the day is telephonist.
There's a scene in Auntie Mame where the title character has lost all her money in the stock market crash. As a result she looks for a job and, bar none, the one that fascinated me the most as a young girl was that of switchboard operator. (I like the idea of fitting all those plugs snugly into their slots...yes, really.) I present the pertinent bit:
Auntie Mame: Widdicome, Gutterman, Applewhite, Bibberman and Black. You want to talk to Mr. Gutterman? One moment, sir. I'll connect you. Widdicome, Gutterman, Applewhite, Bibberman and Black. Oh, yes Mr. Bibberman. You'd like to talk with Mr. Applewhite? Oh, yes, sir, he's in. I'll connect you. Widdicome, Gutterman, Applewhite, Bib-bib-bib-blib-bibman and Black? Oh yes, long distance, how are you? Oh. Mr Widdecome? I have your San Francisco call for you. Yes, Mr. Bibberman? Oh. Did I connect you to Mr. Gutterman instead of Mr. Applewhite? I'm sorry Mr. Bibbicome, Bibbibibbib.
[She pulls the jack out of the plug and shakes it]
Auntie Mame: Oh Mr. Applewhite, what are you doing in that hole with Mr. Gutterman? Yes Mr. Widdicome? Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I'll try to reconnect you again with San Francisco. Let me see, Mr. Bibibib is in there talking to Mr. Bubbawhite. Where on earth is Mr. Applewhite? Oh, there you are Mr. Applewhite!
[She starts to cross cords and desperately plug jacks into holes]
Auntie Mame: Mr. Widdicome, there's no such place as San Francisco. Please!
[She lifts up her console and is horrified to see that it's glowing]
Auntie Mame: Mr. Bibibib? Mr. Widdicome?
As a word I love it but can't imagine Jim Croce singing 'Telephonist' instead of 'Operator'.