April 20, 2021 | by: Jamie Paterson


When you think about it, if you asked a young child today why we say “hang up the phone,” they might not know the answer.

After all, we don’t “hang up” phones anymore, unless you’re still hanging onto an old-school landline.

Here are some other outdated terms we still use… and their origins.

1. Video recordings being called ‘footage,’ as in the number of feet of film used, from the earlier cinematographic days.

2. Referring to the act of recording video as ‘taping’ is still used, even though we don’t use videotape anymore.

3. ‘Top 40.’ The phrase itself still holds up because it’s a top 40 list of songs, but the reason it was 40 in the first place was because that’s how many records a jukebox could hold. No one uses jukeboxes anymore.

4. Roll your car window down.  We even find ourselves miming the action… even though there’s a whole generation that may never have laid eyes on a window crank.

5. “Stay tuned“. Well, we don’t really need to stay tuned with a TV or phone. That phrase was used back when radio broadcasting was how people got the news.

6. Today the ‘dashboard’ is the area in your car above the steering wheel where your indicators are. … However, ‘dashboard’ had a completely different meaning before cars. In horse-drawn buggies, the dashboard was a board at your feet to stop any dirt the horse kicked up when it ‘dashed.’

7. ‘Upper case’ and ‘lower case’ for letters. Letters had to be individually placed back in the days of the printing press, and there was a special case where you kept these letters. These terms indicated where in the box the letters were kept.

  • Putting regularly paired letters together as pre-made types for the press were called stereotypes.
  • The sound of a stereotype falling into the press was a cliché.

8. ‘Rewind’ as a verb in general. Like, if you’re watching a YouTube video and say ‘rewind’ … there is no winding of any kind going on.

9. In Italy, when they answer the phone they say ‘pronto,‘ which means ‘ready.’  That’s a relic from when you called an operator and asked him to connect you with the specific user, he would then say ‘pronto’ when the connection was ready and the call would start.”

10. How many people nowadays know that when you CC someone on an email, the CC stands for ‘carbon copy’?

11. ‘Plumbing/plumbers’ — pipes used to be made of lead, which used to be named plumbum.  This is also why lead on the periodic table is Pb.

12. ‘Freelance.’ Comes from when knights on horseback were mercenaries — literally ‘a lance that could serve anyone.’

13. Mail comes from the Medieval English word male, referring to a travelling bag or pack. It was spelled in that manner until the 17th century and is distinct from the word male. (Email simply adds the first letter of ‘electronic’ to the already outdated term).


~ Jamie