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Old 02-14-2020, 07:25 PM
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Two trivial etiquette questions on cell phones and the phrase "I'll call you back later"


So here are the situations.

Because of my visual impairment, I am forced to use an iPhone despite my seething hatred of Apple. One nifty feature of that largely odious device is Do Not Disturb. When that is activated, only callers on a certain list get through; any other is sent immediately to voicemail, and all other notifications are silenced. I have things set up so that one of my four sisters always gets through, along with my stepdaughter, my work wife, my new girlfriend (whom I will call CLARA because that is not her name), and the para transit company that saves me from having to spend $200 on Lyft every week.  Another blind person I know feels that Do Not Disturb is rude and should not be employed at all. This position seems ridiculous to me, but I am willing to entertain arguments otherwise.

Onto issue #2. Clara and I are at that point in the relationship where we talk for at least 30 minutes before bed every night we are not physically together. Because we both have small children at home, it is not uncommon for these conversations to be interrupted. If I am the one having to press pause, I try to say "I'll call you back later" only if I can reasonably foresee making a return call before I go to bed; otherwise I say "I will call you tomorrow." Clara, by contrast, had been in the habit of saying "I'll call you back later" when she was already intending on only calling back the next morning. I say "had been" because I complained about the ambiguity of her phrasing, and Clara agreed to say "I'll call you tomorrow" if she truly does not expect to be able to call back until the next a.m., but nonetheless contends that "I'll call you back later" does not necessarily mean the same day.

We are not fighting about this. It's really trivial, and she has not been going out with me nearly long enough to be frustrated with my trifling ways. Nonetheless we have wagered a dinner on who can garner more support for their position. The loser will also have to stand on the roof and bellow out that his or her native state is the worst of the 50.

 So who's right?
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:24 PM
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Make it a poll.
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:38 PM
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If I say, "I will call you back later," I will in fact do that. Apparently I'm in the minority among just about everybody I know and it makes me nuts.

If you say you're going to call me later, I will make an effort to be available, leave the ringer on, etc. If you say you're going to call me tomorrow, so be it; I won't wait up.

I had a guy friend who called me from time to time, but the ONE time I could be sure he would NOT call me was if he said he was going to. What the hell was up with that? I think that at the time he said it, he did intend to call me "later" <whenever that turned out to be>, but as the time approached when that vague later began to solidify, he just reallyreallyreally didn't want to, so he didn't. I'd rather someone not make any statements about calling later at all and just surprise me.

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I try to say "I'll call you back later" only if I can reasonably foresee making a return call before I go to bed; otherwise I say "I will call you tomorrow." Clara, by contrast, had been in the habit of saying "I'll call you back later" when she was already intending on only calling back the next morning.
This would not be a dealbreaker for me... but can you get used to it over time or not? If not, I'd make a deal such that neither of you makes a statement about "calling later" and just leave it. The unspoken assumption will be that either of you may or may not call, either tonight or tomorrow.

I'll be interested to know how y'all work this out.

Last edited by ThelmaLou; 02-14-2020 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
So here are the situations.

Because of my visual impairment, I am forced to use an iPhone despite my seething hatred of Apple. One nifty feature of that largely odious device is Do Not Disturb. When that is activated, only callers on a certain list get through; any other is sent immediately to voicemail, and all other notifications are silenced.
Androids (or at least my Pixel) can do that too. Ignore this, of course, if there are other reasons for your use of iPhones.


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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
Onto issue #2. Clara and I are at that point in the relationship where we talk for at least 30 minutes before bed every night we are not physically together. Because we both have small children at home, it is not uncommon for these conversations to be interrupted. If I am the one having to press pause, I try to say "I'll call you back later" only if I can reasonably foresee making a return call before I go to bed; otherwise I say "I will call you tomorrow." Clara, by contrast, had been in the habit of saying "I'll call you back later" when she was already intending on only calling back the next morning. I say "had been" because I complained about the ambiguity of her phrasing, and Clara agreed to say "I'll call you tomorrow" if she truly does not expect to be able to call back until the next a.m., but nonetheless contends that "I'll call you back later" does not necessarily mean the same day.

We are not fighting about this. It's really trivial, and she has not been going out with me nearly long enough to be frustrated with my trifling ways. Nonetheless we have wagered a dinner on who can garner more support for their position. The loser will also have to stand on the roof and bellow out that his or her native state is the worst of the 50.

So who's right?
Clara is, with some qualifications. "I'll call you back later" can be context-sensitive. Sometimes it really should mean "I'll call you back at the earliest possible opportunity." But in the context of a routine good-night, how was your day, see you tomorrow call, there's a lot of latitude. I wouldn't give it a second thought. At least not in this context.
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:57 PM
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I'll be interested to know how y'all work this out.
We have already worked it out. The only thing at issue is whether I have to stand on the roof of my building yelling "Tennessee is the worst state!" or she has to scream "Alaska is the worst state!"
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:03 PM
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Androids (or at least my Pixel) can do that too. Ignore this, of course, if there are other reasons for your use of iPhones.

The accessibility features on the iPhone are better than those on other smart phones. Otherwise I would not put up with Apple crap.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:28 PM
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I'm not thinking this is a Apple problem. It's a phone etiquette problem.
I don't like any phone talking. It's not easy for me to take phone calls at home.(Boonies, no landlines) I also have a speaking aloud issue (it's just part of my stoopid issues, I do work on it). I NEVER say I'll call you back. If someone tells me that, I try to fish a time frame out of them.
It's not always something that can be bracketed in a certain time frame. I know this.
Mentally I say to myself: I'm not waiting on a call. And I don't. So be it.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:54 PM
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I'm not thinking this is a Apple problem. It's a phone etiquette problem.
I don't like any phone talking. It's not easy for me to take phone calls at home.(Boonies, no landlines) I also have a speaking aloud issue (it's just part of my stoopid issues, I do work on it). I NEVER say I'll call you back. If someone tells me that, I try to fish a time frame out of them.
It's not always something that can be bracketed in a certain time frame. I know this.
Mentally I say to myself: I'm not waiting on a call. And I don't. So be it.
You realize I'm talking about an almost daily call made voluntarily with my girlfriend, right? And the only reason it is not COMPLETELY daily is that we don't have it if we are together at bedtime.

The reason we don't make a specific appointment to talk the next day is that the next day's call is implied at this point. The only time we would do that would be if she were unavailable to talk the next night because she had a show or something. But even then, I would probably already know.

As for the Apple thing, that was an entirely separate issue. Also, she is one of the people who may call at will, even at two in the morning.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:52 PM
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FWIW, here are my votes:

One, Do Not Disturb is not rude. You're not required to be continuously available to everybody in the world at every moment. And you're allowed to be selective about who you're available to at specific moments. If you invited one person over to visit, or six, or sixteen, that wouldn't mean the whole town's entitled to show up. Why should the phone be different?

Two: "I'll call you back" to me, unless the context is really explicitly otherwise, means "I'll call you back shortly". I wouldn't take it to mean that the person wasn't going to call back till the next day. I'd be waiting for the call, and distracted by so waiting; as well as prevented from tackling anything I didn't want to stop in the middle because of a phone call.

However, specifically on 2 in the context given, the issue is far less exactly what "I'll call you back" means than "how do these people deal with miscommunications?" It reads to me that the way the two of you are dealing with this one is a) by realizing it's happening and discussing it and b) by making a joke out of it. I suspect that you're doing just fine.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:44 PM
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Issue 1:
Your other blind friend is a idiot who doesn't at all understand what the "Do not disturb" feature is. Maybe mention that next time he complains that he was awakened at 3:30 in the morning by a wrong number or spam call or text.

Issue 2:
You're correct, she's wrong. Saying "I'll talk to you later" is short for saying "I'll talk to you later tonight". Which also implies that you should wait around for her to call you back.
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Old 02-15-2020, 02:52 AM
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Two trivial etiquette questions on cell phones and the phrase "I'll call you back later"


One Your friend is so clearly wrong I automatically suspected that this was a red herring, but that’s just me.

Two My wife always laughs at how literal I can be. “Later” to me means later that night.

Last edited by TokyoBayer; 02-15-2020 at 02:53 AM.
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Old 02-15-2020, 03:43 AM
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'Later' is quite explicitly not setting a timetable.

That's why it's 'later', not 'tonight', 'in an hour', 'before heading to bed' or whatever other specific (if broad) range.
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Old 02-15-2020, 05:54 AM
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Do Not Disturb is a fantastic feature.

In a conversation, you're allowed to converse:

"Oh, hey, kids need me. I'll call you later"
"Ok, but I'm going to bed at 10 so if it's later than that I'll just talk to you tomorrow."
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Old 02-15-2020, 07:40 AM
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I hardly ever talk on my iPhone, preferring text communication. That said, I have a friend who ends any conversation with "Later, gator". It works.
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Old 02-15-2020, 07:51 AM
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The etiquette point concerning Do Not Disturb is that it is impolite to call a person when they're in a situation where they do not wish to be disturbed. Now, sometimes it is quite apparent that a person would not wish to be disturbed, for instance, at 2 AM. Other times, however, it is quite possible that a casual acquaintance might reasonably not realize that you do not wish to be disturbed at that moment, and so accidentally be impolite by calling you at such a time. The Do Not Disturb feature on a phone prevents this, and so prevents people from being accidentally impolite. This is unambiguously a good thing.

Of course, there are some occasions where, despite desiring not to be disturbed, it is appropriate to disturb you anyway. One's closest intimates are likely to know what situations those are, as well as at what times you might non-obviously wish not to be disturbed. And so it is proper for such persons to be able to use their own judgement on when to disturb you. Thus, the Do Not Disturb feature wisely lets you set certain contacts to be exempt from the feature. This, also, is a good thing.
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Old 02-15-2020, 08:07 AM
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I'll call you later means when that person get around to it. If when they get around to it is after polite hours then is pushes to the next day. When they get around to it could include going to bed to make sure they get a reasonable nights sleep. As long as she called you with in a couple of day later is acceptable unless she's just laying around watching tv and eating bonbons in which case she doesn't want to talk to you which is indicative of a different problem not with the meaning on later.

The do not disturb thing is weird. For example my parents turn off their phone when they don't want to be disturbed then complain I never call. I don't know when their phone is on so I generally wait for them to call me, which tends to be while I'm at work, and then call them back when I get around to it. Ducking all calls from society seems like there is a mental issue in play but its not rude and more then smashing your phone to live on a mountain top.
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Old 02-15-2020, 08:19 AM
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I hardly ever talk on my iPhone, preferring text communication. That said, I have a friend who ends any conversation with "Later, gator". It works.
On account of my marble- like eyeballs, texting is fairly laborious for me. Dictation on the iPhone sucks eggs; The device quite frequently adds phonemes or words I never voiced, or subtracts them. I mean things like changing DID to DID'NT or IS NOT to IS. Those are only some of the mildest examples; it is not uncommon for a dictated message to not merely reverse the meaning of what I am trying to communicate but to be utterly incomprehensible. I am skilled enough to use voiceover to correct those mistakes; I have during this post. But that is very slow. Only because I am riding the bus right now do I have the leisure. Also, I cannot keep up with the texting speed of a normal person,. Knowing this, Clara tends to only send me a text saying "got time to talk?" and if I say yes, initiating a voice call.
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:10 AM
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On account of my marble- like eyeballs,
And I have marble-like ears.

For some reason, my iPhone does voice-to-text very well. The other night I was discussing this with a group of friends. I said, "Hey, Siri, send a text to gf with a lame excuse". My gf's phone chimed as she recieved a text from me reading, "with a lame excuse".
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:13 AM
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You're lucky! Clara sounds like she's flexible, and willing to bend to your preferred ways of doing things. So I hope you're compromising and changing some things for her.

I LOVE Do Not Disturb, and I think I've had the ringer turned on maybe twice since I got the phone. And I hate voice calls. If I'm busy (like reading a comic book in a coffee joint), my phone will vibrate... "Cool, someone sent me a text. I'll take a peek at the phone in a minute, then reply when I've got time."

But if I get a voice call (which is almost always my elderly mother), then the phone buzzes and buzzes and now I've lost my train of thought I might as well answer it oh, no, it's mom what if it's her heart again and I run for the exit so I'm not THAT guy who talks on a phone in a restaurant and damn it's cold out hope it's not a long call but oh, crap, mom just called for something to do and surely I remember Genevieve Jablonski who I've never met well she thinks she has gout do I know anyone who's had gout or even what it is exactly no mom but I could google it for you, can I call you back when I'm not freezing well she supPOSEs if I'm SOOO busy...
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:20 AM
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Just because you own a phone does not mean you have to be available to anyone 24/7. DND or just not answering amount to the same thing.

On your second point, I agree with Clara. "I'll call you back later" could mean anything from 30 minutes to a couple days.
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:27 AM
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You're lucky! Clara sounds like she's flexible, and willing to bend to your preferred ways of doing things. So I hope you're compromising and changing some things for her.
I listened to an entire album of somebody named Kendrick Lamar with her without mocking rap music.
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:32 AM
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Just because you own a phone does not mean you have to be available to anyone 24/7. DND or just not answering amount to the same thing.

On your second point, I agree with Clara. "I'll call you back later" could mean anything from 30 minutes to a couple days.
Actually I must be available to the persons named in the OP 24/7 for various. Except the GF, but I WANT her to be able to contact me at any time.
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:46 AM
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(1) Do Not Disturb is not rude. When this feature was explained to me I started dancing. Excellent! I do not have to let everyone in, just the few that might need quick access.

(2) thorny locust is correct and I agree: "I'll call you back" means "I'll call you back shortly, certainly today". The only deviation I might allow would be if the time is after 11 p.m. At that point there isn't a "shortly" period left.

Like a few previous posters, I hate having to be available at some nebulous time in the future waiting for the call back. Sure, I can ignore it, but it's still irritating.
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Old 02-15-2020, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Kamino Neko View Post
'Later' is quite explicitly not setting a timetable.

That's why it's 'later', not 'tonight', 'in an hour', 'before heading to bed' or whatever other specific (if broad) range.
In general this is true, but in the specific situation described in the OP I'm siding with Skald.

One meaning of "later" is "later in the day" or "later in the night," as in "10:30 pm is later than 9:30 pm." "8:00 the next morning" would in one sense be later still, but in another sense it would be much earlier. Because of the ambiguity, I would never say "later" when I meant "tomorrow."

It's context dependent: If I were watching a newscast, and the anchor said "More on that later," I would expect to hear more later within that newscast, not on some later day's news.

Last edited by Thudlow Boink; 02-15-2020 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 02-15-2020, 03:46 PM
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If I say "I'll call you back", I mean I'll call back right now, or a soon as I finish this one thing.

If I say "I'll call you back later", I mean I'll call back after I've finished everything else, unless I forget.

If some member of my family says "I'll call you back later", I'll feel hopeful, but ultimately sad and disappointed.

Generalizing, I think that 'later' means the same day, but without any commitment. I'd be pleased, happy and satisfied if it meant the same week, let alone the next day.

Also, I think that "later" can be a valid indication of a continuing relationship, as long as the context and the shared language makes it clear what is intended. In context, I'd accept that as meaning "6 months, when I get back", or "love ya dude"
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Old 02-15-2020, 04:04 PM
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Of course it’s not rude to use do not disturb. In fact, it’s sometimes rude not to use it.
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Old 02-15-2020, 08:25 PM
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@Digs
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But if I get a voice call (which is almost always my elderly mother), then the phone buzzes and buzzes
Are you aware that on your iPhone (and presumably android) you can also assign customized vibrate tones as well as customized rings tones to anyone in your contact list? Or you can have only one or the other - you don't need both. You can also change the default for anybody not on your list.

I only use Do not Disturb from 10pm to 7am, and I have individual ring tones & vibrations for each family member or friend and a different one for strangers. I know without even looking up from my comic book who it is and then decide whether to pick up or read their text or wait until the end of that section or chapter. My daughter is a drama queen, that can usually wait. My son only texts or calls if it's important, so I look right away.

@Skald the Rhymer
Your dislike (hatred?) of Apple / Siri brought to mind a podcast I listened to recently about how quickly people become indifferent to technology. 10 years ago it was inconceivable that you hold a device in your hand that would have the ability for you to speak in normal english and it could understand you and (for the most part) correctly translate that into actions. "Read me the last text I received from Clara" "Remind me to call Clara when I get home" "Reply to Clara's text" plus plus plus all the myriad of other things you can do with Siri or Alexa etc.

And all you can do is bitch about it.
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Old 02-15-2020, 08:44 PM
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@Digs


Are you aware that on your iPhone (and presumably android) you can also assign customized vibrate tones as well as customized rings tones to anyone in your contact list? Or you can have only one or the other - you don't need both. You can also change the default for anybody not on your list.

I only use Do not Disturb from 10pm to 7am, and I have individual ring tones & vibrations for each family member or friend and a different one for strangers. I know without even looking up from my comic book who it is and then decide whether to pick up or read their text or wait until the end of that section or chapter. My daughter is a drama queen, that can usually wait. My son only texts or calls if it's important, so I look right away.

@Skald the Rhymer
Your dislike (hatred?) of Apple / Siri brought to mind a podcast I listened to recently about how quickly people become indifferent to technology. 10 years ago it was inconceivable that you hold a device in your hand that would have the ability for you to speak in normal english and it could understand you and (for the most part) correctly translate that into actions. "Read me the last text I received from Clara" "Remind me to call Clara when I get home" "Reply to Clara's text" plus plus plus all the myriad of other things you can do with Siri or Alexa etc.

And all you can do is bitch about it.

I Bich about the iPhone because it frequently works very badly FOR ME. Apple has the tendency to introduce new features for their coolness factor without worrying about the utility of features already existing. My iPhones have actually decreased in usefulness Since I got my first one back in 2016, when my eyes went to hell. That 6s was running iOS 10.3. Every time I have upgraded the iOS, something Apple constantly nags one to do, there have been multiple problems with VoiceOver, The only reason I bought the damn phone. At least two important features have NEVER worked right on any of my phones.

Is Apple superior in terms of accessibility to its smart phone competitors? Yes. But that doesn't mean I'm ever going to like using it. Why on earth would I care about the better picture quality of the phone's camera, something I have simply no use for, when dictation — something I need to use all the time — fucks up every single time I use it?
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  #29  
Old 02-15-2020, 09:41 PM
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Issue 2:
You're correct, she's wrong. Saying "I'll talk to you later" is short for saying "I'll talk to you later tonight". Which also implies that you should wait around for her to call you back.
Hard disagree. In my experience when someone says "I'll talk to you later" there's about a 15% chance I'm going to hear from them again that same day. It mostly means goodbye.
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Old 02-16-2020, 08:12 AM
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@ elfkin
Agree and hard disagree right back at you. Agree in that if a friend of mine says that I don’t expect a call back soon.

But if you read the context of the OP’s question, they are interrupted in the middle of a conversation and he is told that. In that context, she then is implying that she’ll call you back later “tonight” to continue the conversation you were just having, once she’s dealt with cause of the interruption.

This isn’t a “good-bye I’m done talking” end of a call situation like it is when my friends and I say it.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:02 AM
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@ elfkin
Agree and hard disagree right back at you. Agree in that if a friend of mine says that I don’t expect a call back soon.

But if you read the context of the OP’s question, they are interrupted in the middle of a conversation and he is told that. In that context, she then is implying that she’ll call you back later “tonight” to continue the conversation you were just having, once she’s dealt with cause of the interruption.

This isn’t a “good-bye I’m done talking” end of a call situation like it is when my friends and I say it.
Just to be helpful, I take the exact opposite view. If the conversation has to be terminated by one party because an interruption, "I'll call you back" would suggest a call back as soon as the interruption has been dealt with. "I'll call you back later" means "at some indeterminate point in the future", which could well not be tonight.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:19 AM
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There a problem with "I'll get in touch maybe Wednesday or Thursday?" Ask Clara to be clear, or tell her you're going to bed or whatever.

RE: 'Do not disturb' - My Mother is in a skilled nursing facility at this time. I block everything but phone between 8pm and 5am. Phone is also my alarm clock, so it's on my nightstand and I don't want it to beep at me. The phone I must leave on. People know that if you call me past 8pm, there better be a VERY good reason to do so.

Maybe I don't really understand the problem here. Just communicate.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:45 AM
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" I'll call you back later" means I intend to call you back the same day. I may not in fact be able to, but that's my intention. In the context of a conversation like the one described , both " I'll call you back" and "I'll call you back later" imply to me that the call-back will happen as soon as the interruption is dealt with.

I do want to mention that in a similar situation to the one described ( my husband was away, I was home with the kids and we usually talked for half-an hour or so between when the kids went to bed and when I did) an interruption of some sort after 10-15 minutes typically meant the conversation was terminated early , without any "I'll call you back" so I'm not sure what I would expect if my husband said " I'll call you back later" under those circumstances.

Last edited by doreen; 02-16-2020 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:24 AM
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In the landline age “later” meant within a few hours.

In the mobile phone age “later” is indefinite.
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Old 02-16-2020, 02:01 PM
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Do Not Disturb is not rude. In fact, the etiquette these days seems to be that you text someone to see if they are available to take a call. (Granted, that might not apply if the person is blind.) So clearly it's acceptable to not accept calls.

But I don't agree that "I'll call you later" means "I'll call you later tonight." If I meant the latter, I'd say it. It's just one extra word. "Later" by itself just means some vague but not too distant time in the future. How long that is depends on the situation, but I think her idea that it includes early the next day is acceptable.

That said, I think you're perfectly entitled to say it doesn't mean that to you, and to ask her to be more clear. So, while I think she's right, you're not exactly wrong, either.

Edit: "I'll call you back" means something different still. I agree that it implies that you will call back as soon as you can. But I argue adding "later" removes that expectation.

Last edited by BigT; 02-16-2020 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 02-16-2020, 02:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
Do Not Disturb is not rude. In fact, the etiquette these days seems to be that you text someone to see if they are available to take a call. (Granted, that might not apply if the person is blind.) So clearly it's acceptable to not accept calls
Blind people can receive text messages if we are using a smartphone. What becomes problematic is using certain abbreviations. For example, many people use WYD as you suggest, to see if the other person is available to talk. My phone reads that as homophonous with WIDE, creating confusion. Also, texting etiquette has changed in the last few years so that periods are not used at the end of the sentence in many cases. For a blind person using voiceover, this changes the intonation of the sentence and can create misunderstanding. and of course stickers and emojis are often pointless.
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Old 02-16-2020, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Just to be helpful, I take the exact opposite view.
Uhmmm... Not really sure what you mean here. We're saying the exact same thing as far as I can tell.

In this case, as in much of communication, context is everything. The posters suggesting Skald has the issue here are not grasping the context or choosing to ignore it. Their phone call was interrupted in mid-conversation, that context changes everything about her statement.

Team Skald is correct here.
  #38  
Old 02-16-2020, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GMANCANADA View Post
Their phone call was interrupted in mid-conversation, that context changes everything about her statement.
If the sentence under question was 'I'll call you back', then your argument would work. But it's not.

The word 'later' only exists to remove the idea of a time period. It is not filler. It is actually a semantically important word.

You do not use it if you do not mean it.
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