Just Dial GArgoyle6-555-1234

I was tapping out another tedious SMS on my cell phone when I had a sudden retro brain-surge.

When I was a very little kid, my parents would recite phone numbers beginning with a word. Our phone number, for instance, was rendered “KE1-6752.” The KE stood for KEnmore, the “exchange” assigned to our unpleasant little corner of east Cleveland.

From old newspapers and whatnot, I know Washington, D.C. had DUpont, KAlorama, and CApitol, among others.

This geo-mnemonic was used because it was thought that seven numbers were too much to recall. The word at the beginning was a way to ground the number in a familiar local reality rather than leave it hanging like a string of digits in darkest space.

Fast forward [another dated metaphor] 40 years and my head is damn poppin’ full of strings of inane digits–passwords, credit card numbers, PINs, nine-digit ZIP codes, those death-march Microsoft product keys, and of course phone numbers, which are now (just like us!) outfitted with 10 digits.

Thanks to texting, we are all increasingly familiar with the relationship between cell phone keypad numbers and letters.

So I’m wondering if it’s time to reinstate the word-based mnemonic system for phone numbers. As a way to aid memory, and add a whiff of carbon-based life, to our increasingly digitized experience.

Let’s take 240, the first three digits of my cell number. Depending on what the owner fancies, it could be rendered several ways. The owner could say, “Just give me a buzz at CInnabon0-426-5555.”

Or “Leave a message at AGnostic0-426-5555.”

If someone you meet at a bar writes “AIrhead0-426-5555″ on a cocktail napkin, throw it away quickly.

BIsexual0?” Depends on your preferences.

You could, if you wish, do both three-digit sets this way. Have your business cards printed up with “AImless0-GArgoyle6-5555.” Or not. Maybe “CIrcumspect0-GEneralist6-5555″ would be better.

Anyhow, I think it’s a cool idea, a small way to rehumanize 21st century life. If you have any great ideas, feel free to share them as a comment below.

Or just give me a buzz at BIlious0-HAck6-5555. I’ll be there a long time.

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2 Comments on “Just Dial GArgoyle6-555-1234”

  1. T Scott Says:

    I still remember the home phone number my parents taught me when I was small — ROckwell 62863. And I haven’t used that in over forty years.

  2. jonathan Says:

    Sure this works for phones and touchscreen pdas (they have keys mapped like phones, but try typing a number which was spelled out on a pda device. Now you have to remember how numbers used to be mapped to keys on a ten-key phone.


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