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Prank calling is one of the oldest tricks, the exact origin of which is unknown. Perhaps, we could say that it is as old as Graham Bell, who invented the phone.
Only a rube would answer a call from an unknown number and hear, “Is your fridge running?” and then reply in the affirmative. If you happen to be an amateur mischief-maker, you would probably know what to say and casually drop, “Well, better go and catch it before it runs away!”
Did you know that the first prank call was made in 1933? History tells the tale of Carl Bosch, a refugee and physicist from Nazi Germany, who told the newspaper that he could see the actions of the person on the other end of the phone when, in reality, he was watching the journalist in his flat from his laboratory.
So, that’s what a prank call is! Then, what is a crank call? In case you are wondering, these two types of calls differ greatly. Like prank calls, the earliest record of a crank call can be found in 1876 made by Graham Bell himself.
It’s alright to be confused between crank calls and pranks calls. Though eerily similar in name, what sets them apart is the tone used during the call.
Now that you know when these calls first started coming in, let’s look at them in detail:
What Is a Prank Call?
A prank call is a call made as a joke made at the receiver’s expense. There’s nothing more or less to it. The call is made anonymously, which is annoying for the receiver and amusing for the caller. Here are a few examples of prank calls:
“Can I speak to May?”
Calling Pizza Hut
Asking about the different flavors of pizza and their prices, and before placing the order, saying, “Does Dominos offer the same flavors?”
What Is a Crank Call?
If you look up crank call online, here’s the definition you will get:
“Annoy, trick, or disturb someone… anonymously.”
This definition sounds awful and familiar. Doesn’t it? Let’s go ahead and say that it sounds just like a prank call.
However, the general consensus is that the former is a harassment call, whereas the latter is made in fun. A crank call is long, made more frequently, and considered malicious and mean-spirited.
If you think about it, the word crank explains the type of call it is. Crank refers to a person who is eccentric and bad-tempered. This definition fits the write-up of crank calls. Here’s an example to help you understand how crank calls are:
A person calls 911 and says that he has been hearing noises coming from his neighbor’s house. It sounds like the parents are beating their children mercilessly. The police arrive at the address given by the caller and barge into the house They search the entire house and separate the children from their parents. The children are taken into another room and inspected to see if they have any bruises. When nothing is found, the police go to the neighbor and ask if they were the one who made the call, which they didn’t.
People in the neighborhood start peering from their homes, and rumors start flying that child abusers live among them. The call and what followed it destroyed the family’s reputation and put them under the radar of child protective services.
While the crank call was made in jest, it affected the lives of many people.
Prank Call vs. Crank Call
Finding the Similarities
The number from which a crank or prank call is made never comes on your caller ID. This is because the caller does not want you to trace them, which is why all calls seem identical. Until you answer them, you don’t know whether you have become a victim of a prank call or a crank call.
- Both Calls Are Aimed at Getting a Reaction
The sole purpose of both prank calls and crank calls is to get a rise out of you. They just want a reaction, whether it is a sigh of exasperation or a curse word. This means the caller will do anything to annoy you. They will poke and prod, say things that don’t make any sense, use vulgar language, and more. Their goal is to make themselves laugh at the reaction you give.
- Both Calls Are Immediately Shut Down
You might catch a victim on your first prank or crank call, but it’s likely that the person will drop the call on the second one. If your number is visible on the caller ID, you might get traced by the police.
Though anonymity is the main feature of a prank call, it’s not a must. Some friends and family members make prank calls because they are on a person’s contact list. This makes the joke all the more hilarious. On the other hand, a crank call is always anonymous because it will harass and anger you.
A classic prank is about showboating. It’s a practical joke that relies on an entertainment factor. A person on the receiving end of the prank call might enjoy the joke too. As for crank calls, since they are mean, they can be off-putting. While there’s an element of play and joke, it is spoiled by how the caller speaks.
As mentioned earlier, there’s no way of finding out whether the call is a prank or a crank. Here’s how you can differentiate after answering them:
- Prank Calls: Start with a question that is a pun or has a gag name. Ends with a punch line.
- Crank Calls: Starts with a mocking question that demeans you and borders on harassment.
In conclusion, a prank call might or might not put a smile on your face, but a crank call will definitely annoy and anger you.