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Talking on the phone? That's so old-school Add to ...

An alien visiting the planet might be hard pressed to understand the original idea behind the telephones in our homes and our pockets. You know, as tools for oral communication. To speak to people. Today, they're as likely to be used for any number of other functions instead. Angry Birds. E-mail. Checking the weather.

In a New York Times piece Sunday, writer Pamela Paul explores our increasing disdain for the old-school telephone conversation. Offices are silent. We plan to interact with people via voice-mail. Basically, if you're not the mother of the person you're calling, expect to leave a message. And don't expect a call-back.

Ceramicist and interior designer Jonathan Adler tells Ms. Paul he never uses the antiquated thing. (Well the interview was by phone, but, presumably very orchestrated).

"Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she'll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can't think of anyone else who'd want to talk to me." Then again, he doesn't want to be called, either, she writes. "I've learned not to press 'ignore' on my cellphone because then people know that you're there."

"I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, 'Don't call anyone after 10 p.m.,' " Mr. Adler said. "Now the rule is, 'Don't call anyone. Ever.'"

Ms. Paul says manners experts cheer the development. "Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now," Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, told Ms. Paul. "I've been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people."

Is the telephone going the way of the dodo bird? When was the last time you had a proper "chitty chat" on yours?

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