“Mobile Phone” First Used In 1947? No…

According to a tweet today from @oedonline and subsequently retweeted by British author and actor @stephenfry, the first use of the term “mobile phone” was in Yank, The Army Weekly back in 1947. The context was, “They say the mobile phone will enable Doc Jones to start out on his rounds and keep in touch with his nurse back in the office.” Very prophetic.

Except that it seems to be wrong…it was 1945. Firstly, Yank ceased publication in December 1945 and secondly, one of the OED’s own quizzes has the question, “When did the mobile phone first enter the English language?” and then helpfully provides the answer of 1945. March issue apparently.

Given that Stephen Fry has over 2.7 million followers, this small error has propagated enormously, especially as the OED only has 8,000-odd followers. If you now do a search in Google, most of the hits reference Stephen Fry’s tweets. Only one entry in the whole ream of results actually is correct.

The Internet is a powerful tool for spreading information…and misinformation.

PS I’d like to emphasise that this post is in no way a criticism of Stephen Fry, of whom I’m a great fan.