A recent One Big Happy, in which Ruthie and Joe’s mother is puzzled by a new development in her kids’ speech:

To get to yeller ID ‘identifying number of the person yelling’, you need some basis to go on: certainly caller ID from the phone world (a phone number identifying a caller), maybe also user ID (a login name identifying the sender) from  the computer world.

The call in caller in caller ID is metaphorical: you don’t actually call out to someone else. But it would be easy to take the verb to be literal, and therefore analogically extendable to another manner-of-speaking verb, yell.

Of course, all this is silly. Caller IDs and user IDs function in situations where the recipient has no physical evidence, from sight or sound, about the identity of the sender; this is what the ID provides. But Ruthie and Joe provide plenty of information, visual and/or auditory, about their identity while they are yelling.

Caller ID and user ID are useful conventions. But they are conventions, and everybody, children included (maybe children especially), seems to be inclined to follow conventions even when their motivations are weak or entirely absent. Caller ID makes sense before you pick up the phone; its function is to provide information in an otherwise information-bleak context. But once you pick up the phone, things are much more like Ruthie and Joe’s above, with a variety of cues to the speaker, even if they just say, “It’s me”.

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