Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How Recent is the Expression "Where Are You?"

We heard an interesting fact the other day. It suggested that other than in reference to one's immediate vicinity, nobody would have ever used the expression "Where are you?" prior to the invention of mobile communications such as radio transmission, mobile phones, or the internet.

The logic behind this is that if you were to write somebody a letter you would require an address. If you had somebody's address, would you need to ask them where they were? I think not. Before mobile telephones, you would usually call a fixed line, meaning that you also already knew where somebody was.

Did this device really spawn the phrase "Where are you?"
This supposed fact is probably not true, as communications prior to mobile phones did not guarantee that the sender of the message would know where somebody was, for example. Imagine sending a message to a soldier on the front lines, you would probably ask where they were after asking if they were alive and safe.

Another similar and more probable suggestion is that before answering machines were invented, nobody had uttered "Sorry, I'm not here right now".

While we do not believe that throughout all of human existence these expressions were never uttered, we do believe that their usage was significantly lower prior to the advent of mobile communication.

We did a quick search for the earliest recorded instance of "Where are you?" and found an example in the biblical book of Genesis, albeit a translation. I guess you'd be hard-pressed to find an earlier example, at least if you believe the Old Testament.

Can anyone actually prove this "fact" for us? Share your thoughts, proofs, or just ideas, in the comments below.