Friday, October 12, 2007

Credit Card / Off falling

"Have you ever wondered why they call it a credit card number?"


"Why do they call it a credit card number?"

"Err...because it's a number on a credit card?"

"Yes, but it's the number that matters, doesn't it? The number's what you need to make the transaction. Just think about phone orders. Or stuff you buy over the Internet."

"True, but it's still the number associated with your card."

"Is it? Isn't it, in fact, the other way around? Isn't it the card that's the artifact - merely a convenient way of carrying the number around, in fact? Can you imagine a card without a number?"

"I guess. But so, what's your point?"

"Just that if it's the number that matters then saying 'credit card number', and therefore suggesting that the card is somehow crucial, makes no sense."

"So what do you think it should be called? Just credit number?"

"Yes, exactly."

"But what would you call the card then?"

"A card with your credit number. A credit number card."

"Hmm...a bit awkward that."

"Not at all. It's just habit that makes it seem so. Besides, you wouldn't have to say the whole thing. The seller would say 'May I have your credit number, please?' and you'd reply 'Yes, here it is, on my card.' Nobody but random uncle-jis says 'credit card' anyway - everyone else just says 'card'. The whole thing is perfectly simple."

"I suppose so. So what brought on this new insight?"

"Oh, nothing really. Just, you know."

"You've been shopping again, haven't you?"

"Well yes, but that has nothing..."

"How much did you spend?"

"Not much. Nothing at all really. It's just that there was this sale, see, and..."


Meanwhile, it's another long weekend (it's Fall Break, and unlike certain other PhD students, I am taking time off) and I'm off to make yet another attempt to see these Fall Colors everyone keeps talking about (details of my last attempt to catch Fall Foliage here). Back Wednesday. Meanwhile, you can amuse yourself by checking out a new poem by the inimitable Matthea Harvey (who has a new book out!) on Poetry Daily. Enjoy.


Revealed said...

Phew. You got over the twee phase pretty quick :). Thankfully.

??! said...

Not true. Yet.

The majority of card usage is done physically, rather than on the phone/Net. Hence the card is more important.

But in 10 years time...perhaps.

Falstaff said...

revealed: What twee phase?

??!: That's irrelevant isn't it? Even if you use the physical card, it's still just a way of carrying around the number with you. A number without a card is still useful; a card without a number would make no sense. Hence the primacy of the number over the card.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

what about the magnetic stripe?

Revealed said...

This one

??! said...

No no. You have a bank account, hence the number. You have a credit card, hence the number.

In its original form, the card was the only thing of importance - you just swiped it, nobody cared about the number. It's only with online banking that the number has become important. I agree, the balance is shifting, but for all the hordes of people who don't shop online, the card is the important bit, not the number.

Falstaff said...

girl from i: the magnetic stripe is just a way of storing the number in a machine-readable format isn't it?

??!: See above. The point of 'swiping' the card is to allow the machine to read your number, isn't it? It's not like there's some magical process. Just because people are muggles and don't recognize this doesn't mean that the card is truly important. Of course people think it's important, but the wrong-headedness of that belief is exactly the point.

Also, people, missing the bigger picture here. What part of that story made you think this card argument was to be taken so seriously?