You phoned it in (phone, phoning)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by moodywop, Apr 21, 2006.

  1. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    I know that as an idiom this means that you completed a task in a rush, without putting much effort into it. However, in a courtroom drama I watched the defendant says "you phoned it in" to his lawyer to congratulate him after he has delivered a brilliant closing argument(his client is acquitted). Could it maybe have been used to suggest that the lawyer is so good that even though he improvised it was a walkover?

    << Later edit: See also >>
    phone it in (phoned, phoning)
    phoned it in (phone, phoning)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2010
  2. cas29

    cas29 Senior Member

    Milan Italy
    I've never heard "phoned it in" as an idiomatic expression! I wonder if I am out of touch!

    To phone something in, would be , in my mind, to do a task over the telphone because you could not be there in person. I don't see that there is any idea of no effort involved, though certainly it is easy to imagine a rushed situation (think of a journalist phoning in a story from across the world)

    Could the defendant have said "you homed it in" - using a baseball expression meaning that the "runner" (the court decision) was brought safely back to home plate (like in a home run).
  3. asearchforreason Member

    English (USA)
    I've never heard it used like that either. Are you sure you didn't misunderstand either the phrase or the context?

    edit: After seeing the Urban Dictionary link, I wonder if it's a regional phrase... because I'm quite certain that I've never heard it used like that before.
  4. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Thanks, cas29. I've only heard it used in this idiomatic sense in American movies so it's probably an AE phrase. It is defined in the Urban Dictionary:

    EDIT: It was definitely "you phoned it in". I had taped the movie so I was able to play it again
  5. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    "Phoning it in" does have the meaning you describe, Carlo, and I wouldn't even describe as uncommon but I've only heard it in the negative sense -- when you have no passion or interest in what you are doing, but just doing it routinely, "you are phoning it in."

    Could the client have been teasing his lawyer?

    Here's some background from phrasefinder, along with a discussion of the related mail it in, which I haven't heard:
  6. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Thanks, Elaine. Actually the client said it to his lawyer before the "not guilty" verdict so maybe he wasn't too happy with his closing argument or - as you suggest - he was teasing him.

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