Why Do Americans Say 'Cellular Phone' Instead Of 'Mobile Phone'?

If I asked you about your phone, would you call it a cell phone or a mobile phone? Does it really matter what you say or is one term more appropriate than the other?

The world cellular, as it describes phone technology, was used by engineers Douglas H. Ring and W. Rae Young at Bell Labs. They diagrammed a network of wireless towers into what they called a cellular layout. Cellular was the chosen term because each tower and its coverage map looked like a biological cell. Eventually, phones that operated on this type of wireless network were called cellular phones.

The term mobile phone predates its cellular counterpart. The first mobile phone call was placed in 1946 over Bell System's Mobile telephone service, a closed radiotelephone system. And the first commercial mobile phones were installed cars in the 1970s.

Eventually, the two names, mobile phone and cellular phone, became synonymous, especially in the US. But some people disagree with that usage. They consider the term "cellular phone" to be a misnomer because the phone is not cellular, the network is. The phone is a mobile phone and it operates on a cellular network. So what do you think, is this just splitting hairs or do we need to be more careful about what we call our phones? [The Atlantic]


Comments

    As a general rule of thumb, there are 2 ways of saying and spelling things, the right way and the American way.
    This is another example, and American says mobile funny too! We say it more like mow byle and they say mow bull, so cellular is easier for them!

    Very well worded Matt. I agree. Now excuse me whilst I go out for a fag, (smoke for our U.S. friends)

      Now if only we could get someone to tell us why they call solder "sodder"! I mean, there's an L there! It's not that hard, surely. Colder, holder, folder, SOLDER!!!

        And why do they call Aluminium, "Aluminum". That gets on my nerves all the time!

          ...and why they call herbs, erbs.

            Actually, that one is correct. Historically the H is typically silent in most words.

              Yeah right. "'ang on a minute 'arry, I'll just get the 'elicopter into the 'angar seeing as we're 'ardly in a 'urry. 'ere, 'ow about 'elping me with the 'atch 'olders." Hmmmm... maybe in a different country perhaps?

                hah, sounds like your typical aussie bloke eh?

                  Actually, no. None that I have ever spoken to. Plenty of Poms, of course. But not us.

          This should help explain things Ogre - http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/aluminium.htm

          Summary - Sir Humphry Davy couldn't make his mind up how to spell it and the Americans picked up an earlier version.

          Don't get me started on sulfur though!

          That one's easy - The dude who originally discovered said element named it Aluminum, however, to put it in keeping with all the other metals in common with it, the name was changed to Aluminium...

          It was, at one point, given the name aluminum before being altered to aluminium (to bring it in line with the naming of other elements). Because it wasn't standardised, the American Chemical Society decided to maintain consistency in its publications, and that basically cemented the original name of 'aluminum' into the American dictionary... and no, it's not just an American thing either so I would argue that they're technically not wrong for that one.

    Yes, you are just splitting hairs.

    The phone participates in the cell nature of the network by being able to talk to multiple base stations at any given time and by working with them to be talking to the best one.

    Besides that, it's kind of obvious that "cellular phone" means "a phone that runs on a cellular network".

    I just have one thing to say about this. New killer. Know what I am talking about?

    I was going to say prettying what Patrick said.

    But in a way cellular is more specific. Because mobile phone justeans a phone that can be moved around which could include regular cordless phones.

    In many European counties they call them "hand phones", after translation that is. Everyone has their own names for things.

    Americans do go a bit beyond sometimes though, there's their word "airplane" that's pretty mystifying. "Aeroplane" pre-dates it by a long way (even before powered flight), it was even the name that used as standard in America too, then suddenly the word "airplane" started to replace it, quite late in the game relatively.

      They're also called 'handphones' in English in Southeast Asia, in direct translation from the Mandarin noun for mobile phone.

    I always thought they may have been called cell phones cause they ran off battery cells? Either way everyone knows what you're talking about so it shouldn't really matter.

    America, Butchering the english Langage since 1773.

    Walkabout phone???

    Austria call them handys

      Ever got a handy in Austria...?

    We are slowly taking these words on our selves. The term 'straight away' referring to a race track's main straight really annoys me. As a boy drivers came out of the bend and were neck and neck down the sraight. I have several friend that use the term cell phone and many of my childrens friends have a US/Australian accent and it's 'LIKE', pissin me off

    Don't like get me started on like.

    We know what Americans mean when they say "cell phone", and they know what we mean when we say "mobile phone". In the end, that's all that really matters.

    I sense this post is over exaggerating what Americans say, we do not say "cellular phone". Honestly it is of "cell phone" or less, like "cell" for a slang term. Yet this posts depicts all American, where I have encountered "mobile" or "mobile number"

    I just call it a phone. I think in a few years time no one will specify using 'mobile' or 'cellular'. I mean, I don't know anyone who owns a home phone any more, or maybe I'm just showing my age or lack there of.

    I dePends on where you are inAmerica in how they say things. Here in SF all my friends say "mow bull" and I don't think I've heard anyone say cellular.

    However, aluminium does have 2 spellings - yes I was pedantic enough because our software deployments are named after the elements!

    As a 'Yank', I find the sentiment from Australian pronunciation sticklers often misplaced. Firstly, there is a difference between a colloquialism and pronunciation. They are two completely different matters.

    Aussie pronunciations are just as strange to my ears, and lack of consistency in words like Potato (Poe-Tay-Poe, long a) and Tomato (Toe-Mah-Toe, short a) drives me crazy. Across all regions of the US, words have completely different pronunciations. Nuclear can be New-Cle-Air, New-Killer or Nuke-Clear depending on the geographical area. However, this also holds true across regions of Australia where the word Pool is pronounced differently.

    Australians also use Bathers or the Dunny, both examples of colloquialisms or slang not typically found in the British English language. Then, there are words like Chook instead of Chicken. In the same manner, Cell Phone is a colloquialism for certain areas of the United States. However, there are also plenty of items which still have retained their 'Australian' versus American names here: Tomato Sauce versus Ketchup. Heinz and Kraft, both American companies, brand their ketchup as tomato sauce here.

    In short, get over it.

      "Get over it", very mature. I do agree though that the Aussies are exactly the same as the Yanks. They have their own version of English and their own dictionary being the Macquarrie Dictionary (It's Autralianised, errr, or is that with a z.) This is all about national identity, and quite frankly a stupid debate.

      As a software developer, I've personally experienced some irrational spelling requirements in Australia that appear to be based on opinion rather than fact.

      At the end of the day, there is only one true English, and that's the Queens English. The others are just pretenders trying to differentiate themselves.

      I'm no pom by the way.

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