Printable Version
Pronunciation: bêt-dai-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To unintentionally dial a number on your cellphone when you are not operating the cellphone; to pocket-dial.

Notes: OK, OK! I take it enough of you have heard this word to accept it. I've now heard it from several friends, so I guess I'll have to go along. It is sticking because of the naughty word butt in it; pocketdial goes in one ear and out the other. This word has all the lexical accoutrements of English verbs: buttdialing serves as both adjective and action noun, while buttdialer does the duty of a personal noun. (My spellchecker doesn't like this at all.)

In Play: Buttdialing occurs when something in your purse or pocket pokes a speed dial number: "I bought a cellphone, but I only get calls that are buttdialed." Buttdialing can be dangerous to your health: "Marian Kine heard all the details of her boyfriend's date with Gloria Sass when he buttdialed her apartment landline."

Word History: No one knows who came up with this word first, though I'm sure many will take the, well, credit for it. I first heard it in 2012. It is a compound comprising butt and dial. The first of these is not a reduction of buttock, for it predates the latter; rather, buttock was a diminutive of butt. Where butt came from no one knows. Dial is a reduction of Latin rota dialis "daily wheel", which evolved to refer to any round plate over which another plate rotates. It arrived in English originally meaning "sundial". This word was attached to the first telephone dials, because they were round, rotated, and had to do with numbers. Dialis goes back to a PIE word meaning "shine", that also gave us deity and jovial. "Jovial?" you rightly ask. Yes, it comes from Jove, the Roman god of sun, sunny days, and happiness.

Dr. Goodword,

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