Did Don Ameche’s Name Used to be Slang for “Telephone”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Don Ameche’s name used to be slang for “telephone.”

Don Ameche was a popular film star in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

He’s most known today, though, for his career resurgence late in his life, when he starred in the two Cocoon films…

and as one of the two villainous brothers in the Eddie Murphy hit, Trading Places…

Ameche died in 1993, leaving behind a legacy of many fine acting performances (this is not even mentioning his success on the radio, as well).

However, one thing folks probably DON’T remember about Ameche was that it was, for a time, a slang term!

You see, in 1938, Ameche starred in a film which told the story of the life of Alexander Graham Bell that was titled, appropriately enough, The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (Henry Fonda played his assistant, the “Watson” part of “Watson, come here, I need you” fame).

The telephone was certainly not a new invention by 1938, but it was also not as prevalent as it soon became, so a major motion picture about the phone was quite notable in people’s minds, so Ameche’s last name soon became synonymous with the telephone, to the point where it became a slang term FOR telephone during the late 30s and most of the 40s.

Nowadays, though, it, like Ameche in general, has faded from the popular consciousness.

The legend is…


Thanks to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English for the confirmation that this was, indeed, a slang term used during the 1940s.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

6 Responses to “Did Don Ameche’s Name Used to be Slang for “Telephone”?”

  1. Jeff Mclachlan on March 15th, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    In the movie BALL OF FIRE with Barbara Stanwyk and Gary Cooper, Stanwyk mentions calling someone on “The Ameche” as an example of current slang for an encyclopedia Cooper is writing on the subject.

  2. […] Stray Thoughts: So much slang! Silver repeatedly asks for the “Alexander Graham” to call a doctor for Serafina (although everyone knows the cool kids are calling it an Ameche). […]

  3. I just watched this movie last night….The Story of Alexander Graham Bell… It was amazing to see where it “started” and now as we hold our phones in our hand…. really was worth watching.

  4. Delightful and surprising! This should be on reddit’s Today I Learned 🙂

  5. Well, you know, you could post it there. 😉

  6. My dad used this term when I was growing up in the 80’s/90’s, so I guess its usage lasted past the 40’s in some circles.

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