to call somebody's exchange

Espero Antos

Senior Member
Dear all,

I cannot figure out the exact meaning of a part of the lyrics of Stevie Wonder's song "Part Time Lover" (, that is the following words:

"and then a man called our exchange".

Okay, I guess that this man turns out to be the part-time lover of the "singer"'s wife (so that "the singer" finds out that he's being cheated on just like he's cheating on her wife), but what does "he called our (=the singer's and his part-time lover's, I presume) exchange" mean exactly?

Thanks in advance for your help!

  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I think he meant 'called our number', but wanted a word which sounded closer to 'name' and 'game'.


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    It's an old telephone term applying to the first three digits of a local number in the US (I can't explain the technical details, and they really don't matter in terms of your question). I haven't heard the word in this sense in many years.

    For all practical purposes, what's meant in that lyric is number: a man called our number and wouldn't leave his name. I think the songwriter used "exchange" because of the "a" sound in that word, the same as the "a" sound in "name" at the end of the next line of the song. Remember that poets and songwriters have what we call "poetic license"; they need not follow the rules of grammar and usage, and can use words differently for purposes of emotional effect, rhythm, or rhyme (partial rhyme in this case).

    I agree with your interpretation of the "story" of the song.