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phone it in

phone it in

Date: Jan 24 2008

Themes: Pop Culture


1. Quote - Listen to the quote and guess what the slang means.

“She was in Los Angeles and I was in Albuquerque…And she broke down in tears. And I played my part and she played her part. She phoned it in.”

- Actor Tommy Lee Jones jokes about doing a scene over the phone in In the Valley of Elah. (Entertainment Weekly)


1. Definition - Study the definition.

to give a poor performance; not to try very hard

2. Use - Learn how the slang is used.

Phoning it in means pretty much the same thing only it usually has to do with a performance that has no energy. It comes from the idea that a really lazy actor or singer might try to deliver a performance over the phone rather than actually coming in to work.

People use phoning it in a lot when they’re talking about concerts and movies. It can also be used to talk about other types of performances, like you’re performance at work. If you knew you were going to quit your job for months before you did, and you stopped trying very hard, you could say you were phoning it in near the end.

Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon did a scene where they are talking on the phone in In the Valley of Elah. He explains that he and Sarandon were actually on the phone and in different cities when the scene was shot. He makes a joke that Sarandon phoned it in because she literally gave her performance over the phone.

Normally, to say someone phoned it in is a mean thing to say. But Jones is only kidding. He actually thinks Sarandon did a very good job. It just happens that she did it over the phone!


1. Examples - Hear some example sentences.

“They’re not playing well at all. This team just doesn’t care. They’re totally phoning it in.”

“The show was OK. The singer was kind of phoning it in though. He seemed distracted.”


1. Winners - See who guessed the slang definition correctly.

she was faking
by stefrocco
doing your job or getting your message across by phone
by wordsmith
nad1a It means to do something in a perfunctory and nonchalant way, do it just for the sake of doing and geting over with it, without being commited. And it's pretty much like when you call someone on the phone rather than meet in person. I guess he made a joke about it as it is a phone scene maybe.
by nad1a
jojodine To present something, whether an idea, project, product, etc. by way of a phone call, rather than in person.
by jojodine
donnadonna just like in a radio show in which people living in different places call to get the answers for their (personal, most frequently) questions, she was "playing her part" with her interlocutor in L.A. and the conversation was anything but real, or at least that`s how it seemed to him, sort of a radio play. "She phoned it in" = "she faked reactions, emotions,spontaneous speech"
by donnadonna
Sridharjai she played her part and completed but she put half assed instead of full assed. She didnt plan her execution plan with well effort.
by Sridharjai
to perform an act in a perfunctory, uncommitted fashion, as if it didn't matter
by panggerm

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Log in to Comment




I`m phoning it in near the end towards our relationship, it is bad. Feb.14 is around the corner and it is a full can of worms. 

09:38 AM Feb 13 2014 |




I don’t usually do it at work, but when I see that I’m the only one who’s working at all and that the others are just hanging around and trying to take advantage on me, I just play dumb and dance to their tune. Do they want to phone it in? Let’s do it! If you keep on doing everything, you’ll just get more people trying to ride on your coattails… That sucks! 

05:28 PM Feb 12 2014 |

1 person likes this



I always phoning it in at work. :P

07:36 AM Jun 28 2013 |


United States

Would you send yourself to space ? 


01:58 PM Jun 25 2013 |

lucas thet naung


I can't stand the people who phone the job in. 

02:23 AM Feb 17 2011 |




Someone in the official place do some job like a nine- to- fiveSmile

10:54 AM Nov 07 2010 |




Way to 'phone it in'

10:07 AM Feb 04 2010 |



I got my some colleagues would retire next week and they never did the same performance like before, coming late for office and going home earlier.

they are kind of phoning it in before they would retire next week.  

01:49 AM Oct 15 2009 |

rabia khan

rabia khan


ok,this is good wa for impoving english i am looking eye to eye to you in this mattr. i am apeciate ebaby for this job.ok thanks

07:45 AM Jan 29 2008 |



i don’t want to phone everything in. i enjoy the feeling that i do something with my all energy.

01:12 PM Jan 28 2008 |




I used to phone it in.but i think i must change that~

05:31 AM Jan 26 2008 |


Cote D'Ivoire

Don’t phone it in

05:28 PM Jan 25 2008 |





11:22 AM Jan 25 2008 |




i like the lesson ,sometimes i will phone it in dance

02:35 AM Jan 25 2008 |



I really want to phone it in before Spring festivals,since i was informed that my salary was only added 300 chinese yuan.I am down.

12:28 AM Jan 25 2008 |



Phone It in, Tommy Lee Jones I agree with him and support him he is elegant actor. wow he is great

02:37 PM Jan 24 2008 |




guessed perfumance is not team

10:50 AM Jan 24 2008 |

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