Writing for Business

Mar 10 2010   1:42PM GMT

Beck and call or beckon call?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Top Security Specialists offers the best in personal service and puts our R&D at your ___________.
a. beck and call
b. beckon call

Answer: a

This is another homophone error — something that people hear (but don’t see in print) and make an assumption about based on the sound. Homophone errors are sometimes called eggcorns.

Phrases.org covers “beck and call”:

‘Call’ is used here with its usual meaning. ‘Beck’ is more interesting. The word, although current in English since the 14th century, isn’t one that is found outside the phrase ‘beck and call’ these days. It is merely a shortened form of ‘beckon’, which we do still know well and understand to mean ‘to signal silently, by a nod or motion of the hand or finger, indicating a request or command’.

If the term ‘beck and call’ had originated prior to the 14th century we we would presumably now say ‘beckon and call’.

The Eggcorn Database reports on sightings of beckon call in the wild and further reports that this phrase is also sometimes seen as “beckoned call” and “beacon call.”

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2  Comments on this Post

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  • suzieQzandPs
    First, the correct term is 'beckon call' or "beckoned call'. It dates back to the 30s and 40s and is a term to imply that one person is available and responds promptly to beckoning or call of another person. The term "beck and call" is completely incorrect due to a mishearing the correct term spoken.  Secondly, the word 'beck' is also not an abbreviation since an abbreviation (abbrev.) has a period after it. 
    10 pointsBadges:
  • TheRealRaven
    @suzieQzandPs: Some supporting references would be useful since a quick research indeed shows that "beckon call" is not deemed correct. Also, Cambridge, Oxford and Merriam_Webster on-line dictionaries all indicate the an abbreviation is merely a "shortened form of word or phrase" with no stated requirement for a period.
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