Beck and Call

No doubt we all run into little mistakes every day. It always seems that when I've had a particularly stressful or even a slightly trying day, that some mistakes stand out more than others.

I don't get particularly annoyed by them, but I do wonder why we tend to just accept certain sayings without ever attempting to discover any logic behind them.

For instance, all my life I have heard the phrase "beck and call." Being an avid reader, I have known exactly how to spell the "beck and." However, when I was younger, I did prefer to say beckoned, which was the past tense of beck, which is also correctly worded. But, the popular phrase, used correctly today, is typically beck and call.

While browsing beck and call, I came across a wonderful image aptly portraying the meaning of the phrase, which also happens to be an album cover, for a great group known as Paul Cook & the Chronicles. Click on the cover to hear some of their music. They're good!

 Paul Cook Chronicles

beckon call

This is a fine example of what linguists call “popular etymology.” People don’t understand the origins of a word or expression and make one up based on what seems logical to them. “Beck” is just an old shortened version of “beckon.”

If you are at people’s beck and call it means they can summon you whenever they want: either by gesture (beck) or speech (call).

...And then there's the word beck.


beck1     /bɛk/     noun

1. a nod, wave, or other gesture or signal
2. at someone's beck and call, ready to obey someone's orders instantly; subject to someone's slightest whim

Word Origin: short for becnen to beckon

... And finally, the word beckon, which is actually related to the word beacon.

beck·on (as found on Google)
bekən/   verb
  1. make a gesture with the hand, arm, or head to encourage someone to come nearer or follow.

    "Miranda beckoned to Adam"

    "the guard beckoned to Benny"
    • attract the attention of or summon someone by making a gesture with the hand, arm, or head.

      "he beckoned Christopher over"
    • seem to be appealing or inviting.

      "the going is tough, and soft options beckon"

      "the countryside beckons you"

      (Links go back to Google.)


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