How many phones do you have? Un fijo? (A landline?) Un celular? (A cell phone?) Pretty typical. Here in Colombia (and many other parts of the Spanish-speaking world), though, you get two more phones. But, don’t worry–no more numbers to memorize. Anybody got a dataphone? And where’s the closest citophone? They sound like something that must have been around in the 80s–some clunky device with big colored buttons and antennae out the wazoo– but in Spanish these are the names of very common objects. I’d forgotten them entirely, so we’ve been getting reacquainted.
Un datáfono is a credit card reader. If you’re at a restaurant and want to pay by card, they usually bring a small credit card reader to your table to swipe it. To ask if they offer this service, you can ask, ¿Tienes datáfono? Whereas I would say, do you take cards? Or you could say this when the pizza boy is at your door and you don’t have much cash on you. I see it translated as dataphone, but I’ve never heard that word. One website I found defined a Dataphone as an early version of a modem that was first released by AT&T in 1960. One look at pictures of this behemoth fuddy-dud and you’d see that dataphone is not an acceptable translation of datáfono. PIN pad, credit card transaction terminal, and credit card swipe machine are other ways of referring to a datáfono. Apparently, Datáfono was a brand name used by Telefónica in Spain in the 80s, and it stuck. The word is universal.
Un citófono is what is used in the reception areas of apartment buildings to buzz the residents to see if it’s OK to let visitors in. Or the buttons on the outside of the building that visitors press to call up to residents. In a word, a buzzer. (Which I always want to translate as buzón! But buzón is mailbox, or voicemail: buzón de mensajes) Or an intercom. The DRAE says that this word is Colombian, and it’s also used in Chile for some reason. Citofono is the word in Italian. The name comes from circuito (cerrado) + teléfono.
It’s normal to see signs on the doors of residential buildings that say something to the effect of, Todo visitante, sin excepción, será anunciado a través del citófono. All visitors must be buzzed in to gain access to the building.
Kids who grew up in cities had to play ding dong ditch (here called rin rin corre corre) with the citófono. More like buzz bozz ditch.
Of course, there are more phones (fonos) in Spanish, but they’re all phones in English as well. Megáfono (megaphone), dictáfono (Dictaphone, ie, voice recorder), micrófono (microphone), saxófono (saxophone, though saxofón is more common), and xilófono (xylophone). Also, I just learned during my nerdy virtual jaunt that homophone in Spanish is homófona.
And while we’re on the subject: French speakers get to be Francophones, and English speakers are Anglophones. And we Spanish speakers? What are we, chopped liver? Isn’t anybody going to give us a phone? Actually, there was one ringing for me this whole time, and I didn’t realize it: the Hispanophone. Rebuscado, yes, but it totally exists and I’m determined to use it at least once in this lifetime. And Lusophone exists for Portuguese speakers. Feel free to call me on any one of them.
So, with the addition of citófono and datáfono to your Spanish knowledge, it will now be that much harder to know which one they mean the next time someone yells at you, Pick up the phone! And your life gets decidedly more techy with these big words. I could almost imagine myself slipping them into my CV. Imagínate, TECHNICAL SKILLS: WELL-VERSED IN CITOPHONE AND DATAPHONE. Just remember, there is such a thing as being overqualified.