In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry and Ron get lost on their way to Divination class and get help from a bumbling knight in a painting. After they find the way the knight offers to help them again sometime and Ron says, "Yeah, we'll call you." At least in America the expression "we'll call you" when you don't really want to see someone again comes from telephone culture. It doesn't seem like a phrase that non-muggle born magic folk would use.

Was this a perhaps a mistake akin to an anachronism on the part of Rowling? Or is there perhaps some non-telephone related phrase in England that I'm unfamiliar with? Something else?

  • to call in the sense of to cry or shout predates your meaning here. Ron sounds pretty natural to me. – n611x007 May 23 '16 at 11:23

No. He was almost certainly just reusing the word Sir Cadogan had used about a second before.

'Farewell!' cried the knight, popping his head into a painting of some sinister-looking monks. 'Farewell, my comrades-in-arms! If ever you have need of noble heart and steely sinew, call upon Sir Cadogan!'
'Yeah, we'll call you,' muttered Ron, as the knight disappeared, 'if we ever need someone mental.'
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter Six - Talons and Tea Leaves

Not to mention that the word "call" has a number of definitions when used as a verb, only one of which has anything to do with the telephone, including:

  1. to command or request to come; summon:
    to call a dog; to call a cab; to call a witness.
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    "call upon" =/= "call" though. – Rand al'Thor May 22 '16 at 0:17
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    @Rand Not exactly the same, no, but I'd say I've sufficiently proven that 1. the word "call" has meanings that have nothing to do with a telephone (that Ron, as a native English speaker, would be familiar with) and 2. that it's not out of place for him to choose that word in particular since he had literally just heard it. Perhaps you disagree? – Anthony Grist May 22 '16 at 0:28
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    My interpretation of that scene has always been that Ron meant calling, not calling upon (he did not say "call upon you", he didn't even say "we'll do so", which would be short equivalent). – LAFK says Reinstate Monica May 22 '16 at 7:56
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    @Randal'Thor Can you immagine Ron spaying "Yeah, we'll call upon you"? Seems a bit too formal for my liking. Call is a perfectly acceptable informal form of 'to call upon' or more likely 'to call out to', and is more in line with Ron's character. – Pharap May 22 '16 at 10:34
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    @Rand: You don't need the "upon". People have been calling upon/to each other for centuries before the invention of the telephone. You can drop the proposition now just as you could then. Indeed, that's where the phrase, as it relates to the telephone, comes from! Funny how people start assuming those phrases were invented for the relatively recent technology. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 22 '16 at 11:34

1) Arthur Weasley was fascinated with muggle-world and frequently brought home various items that muggles used, he also frequently dealt with curses heaped upon muggles (like shrinking keys etc.). Heck, Ron knew how to drive Ford Anglia, didn't he?

2) Entry to Ministry of Magic was a phone booth

Just this I think is enough to show, that Ron might've known about phones quite enough to use the phrase.

Since calling upon Sir Cadogan might've actually worked while calling him was far less likely to be successful, Ron's choice of words I'd say reflected his willingness to meet with great knight ever again.

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  • To disliker: I'd appreciate info what was wrong with the answer. – LAFK says Reinstate Monica May 22 '16 at 12:22
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    Not the downvoter (the drive-by downvoter is the scourge of SE, IMO) but I think it's because your answer has speculation and opinion rather than fact. The facts you do provide aren't sufficient evidence for the opinions expressed. Arthur Weasley's Muggle-mania is documented but his kids always regard it as a weird "dad hobby" and are never actually shown taking interest in it. And before OOTP, there's no evidence that Ron had ever seen the visitor entrance to the Ministry. – Jay May 22 '16 at 18:25
  • But arguably, given Weasley's relatively small house, more or less, "dad's hobby" would influence the kids, including Ron. So, I say this answer is quite valid although it doesn't explain Ron's choice of words as good as the other answer. – 絢瀬絵里 May 23 '16 at 8:20
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    Harry had to explain to Ron what a telephone number was, and Ron ended up yelling through it when he phoned the Dursleys, so I'd say he didn't know "about phones quite enough to use the phrase." In fact, I'd say he was demonstrably ignorant of them. – Anthony Grist May 23 '16 at 21:06
  • @AnthonyGrist and here we disagree. I totally agree he wasn't comfortable with using them, but! I would also say this demonstrates he knew about them enough to use the phrase (not because of phone culture, but because of Muggle technology being insufficient to reach Cadogan). At the end of the day though, do select answer you like most. :-) – LAFK says Reinstate Monica May 24 '16 at 2:41

Another, simpler possibility might be equivalent technology - in this case, I think communication by Floo (head in the fire mode, rather than stepping through, as seen in GoF) was also referred to as 'calling'.

Even if it weren't actually called a floo-call or fire-call (I'd have to check to see) it seems like it would be the same kind of communication culture, so one might reasonably expect to hear someone talk about calling or being called, even though the context we usually use (telephones) is not the same context they might be using in universe (Floo).

To me, this is at least as likely a source for the phrase as the other answers... although there's some support for any of them.

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    Nice speculation, but a bit too speculatey for a full/canon answer. – Pharap May 22 '16 at 10:37
  • @Pharap - Fair enough, but I haven't had time to go looking for quotes with the proper term in the books yet... I'm pretty sure it is actually a floo-call, but I should find the quotes to prove it. – Megha May 23 '16 at 3:51

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