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phone tag




phone + tag (children's game)


phone tag (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) A situation in which two individuals attempting to contact each other by telephone repeatedly do not get a live person and instead trade messages, such as by voice mail.
    • 2000, Sharon MacDonald, Gilbert Cockton, People and Computers XIV - Usability Or Else!: Proceedings of HCI 2000:
      "What frequently results is a game of phone tag. One party tries to reach another, is unable to, and leaves voice-mail indicating an interest in finding a time to meet. The other party returns the call, more often than not fails to reach the original caller, and leaves voice-mail in response."
    • 2005, Dorothy A. Maxwell, Phone Skills for the Information Age:
      "Avoid phone tag, which results when two parties go back and forth trying to reach each other by phone."
    • 2006, Steven Fishman, Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Consultants:
      "To reduce the time you spend playing phone tag, ask what time the client will be in and call back then."

Usage notesEdit

In keeping with the origin of this term in the game of tag, being in this situation is often referred to as playing phone tag.