I am looking for a small list of Latin, Greek, or French words which would be most concise and descriptive of the qualities and functions of a pager-like device. The technical description of the device, as it might appear in a patent would be: "A portable, wireless, and paperless device for conveniently creating, holding, transmitting, and receiving, and displaying telegraph communications via the BAUDOT code."

My world deviates from earth in 1891 but evolves a parallel technology. The society has these portable messaging devices similar to pagers (enhanced character sets and longer messages - 2,048 character limit and 'ASCII art' equivalent). The etymology cannot derive from modern concepts such as "radio" or "cellular telephone" because there is no Marconi (no word 'radio'), no Tesla, but they had both telegraph and wired telephones. The word 'wireless' was very popular - the hallmark achievements of both Marconi and Tesla.

The list will be used to evolve a colloquial in-world name for the device in the way the natural course of linguistics evolved our "TV"—from "Television," which evolved from the "Electric Telescope" (from the Greek tēle = far and Latin * vidēre = to see*).

I only know a couple root words, such as the already mentioned "far", "gramma" for something written, and the French suffix "-ette" which commonly etymologizes small or portable things.

  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't thought of "script" or "write" - all this needs is the concepts of portable and wireless to differentiate them from a plug-in terminal. Good ideas, thanks $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ I've voted to close as opinion-based as they are off-topic as per this meta post. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ Probably not, unless you're asking about the etymology of an existing name that you've already come up with. You might try the main chat room, soliciting passers-by for ideas. Many will be pleased to help. (Insta-chat or IC for short is my two-penneth worth). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ It's on the fringe of being opinion-based, but looking closely there are enough constraints for this to not be, at least not to have an infinite quantity of answers (a common criteria for being opinion-based). Besides, you're looking not for a name, but for words particules, prefixes and suffixes, a subtle difference which means that the creative process of choosing (->opinions) the final name is not on us : In other words, we give the best tools, you craft your own name 🦋. I think people now know if I voted to reopen :p. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ (1) The word television does not come from **electric telescope. (2) Marconi was not the first to use the word radio to refer to communication by Hertzian waves. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 21:54

7 Answers 7


Living in France, I'll focus a lot more on the French part. Also, since reading is as much as important as hearing, I'll give some insights at how about it should sound (though the link provided also give audio records).

Then, I'll mark all pure French words in italic, well pure relatively to the topic. Parts that can be used relatively easily as word ends will start with "-" and ones as starter/prefixes will end with the same "-".

Finally, know that most word combinations are already used, so you'll have to do with it ^^'. Indeed, writing was -and is still, look at me writing :p - very important, so all sorts of words related to this has been made at some point and there's few to explore now.

French word particles for writing


It is a simple as it sounds, the definition and way it is pronounced is about the same as in English. You can very easily prefix it, too : description, inscription, but more interestingly téléscripteurs. Those last ones were actually used for machines to communicate over long distances. It is not told or written anymore nowadays so it'll surely sounds old timey, especially to young people.


It's the French for "printing", sounds a bit like "impress" mixed with the end of "atten-tion".

You can make it a "maker" of prints by replacing it with imprimeur, like téléimprimeur. Imprimeur is more old style, as today it defines the companies that print in large quantities documents such as newspapers. A variant of imprimeur is imprimerie, it has mostly the same meaning.

A more modern sounding word would be imprimante, just means a computer printer. The "mante" part should be sound about like the start of "mantis", cut just before the "is".


Or with silly English words, sounds like "ray'd ack'ter". A rédacteur is a writer, often related to journalists and in general document writing, compared to écrivain from écrire which is solely for novelists and the such.


Its counterpart verb composer is sometimes used in printing industry, hence I let it here.

It's at its root someone who organize objects into something bigger, like notes into music or letters into sentences. It's the composer in English and the beginning is spelled the same, and the rest "almost" like "l-ighter". Since it has strong relationship with music, note that it tends to be more elegant and artistic than the others.

I don't remember seeing it used as a part of another word, but I guess you could make use of it like with some télécompositeur or in more English-like telecomposer. Doesn't sound too shabby.

French word particles for linking


Well, téléporteur, télégraphe, télévision, téléphone... I think you don't need much to understand how widely it is used to mean "from a distance", or what the above words mean :).


"Trans" is used to mean a way to move something from one place to another, to... Transmit :p.

See the kinds of words related to communication you have : Transmettre/transmit, transcripteur/transcriber and transpondeur/transponders for instance.


It's the prefix to relate things one to another. It's actually used in French to tell the world wide web (internet). As such, it's better used in conjunction with the things you want to intertwine together, rather than its content. You might need some thoughts on what would be your communicating box to people, therefore.

To give you a modern usage to reach people inside buildings : interphones/intercom.

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    $\begingroup$ A few good options: I particularly like telescripter, but I would steer clear of rédacteur for an English speaking audience since it sounds a lot like redactor which most typically means a person or thing that censors or obscures information rather than to communicate it. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Most probably yes. Interestingly, English is one of the few tongues to choose author/editor instead of something in "redact'". Redakteur in German, or редактор (read "reydaktor") in Russian and some other countries I'm not proficient in keep the "author/editor" meaning. So if the target audience for the pager/for the book/movie/game coming out is not primarily English... Arfu, making good looking translations for everywhere is quite hard x). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 15:51

Sounds like tweets. I'd suggest TeleText, TT. You could call it TeleMail or TeleNote, TeleWrite or TeleWriting. Even TeleCopy; if one focuses on the idea of "copying" what you wrote elsewhere.

In the same "copy" sense, I can make a case for "Twinner"; making a twin (=copy) of what I wrote on my device, on your device. So, Twin me back. Twin me when you get there.

Or just use "Copy", like they say on Radio; "Do you copy?" You can make it clear from the context this is just text messaging.

John's copier vibrated, he extracted it from his pocket to read the screen. From Linda. "I just got a copy from Brenda, she said Alex never showed up."

John typed back, "OK. I'll try the canyon. Copy me if you hear anything."

  • $\begingroup$ Or, you know, telex. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Really like it except that Telex was post-WWII, it sounds logical but doesn't suggest "portable" or "wireless." Due to moderators' actions the question is now objectively looking for existing root words which would concisely describe the patented device. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ I presume you are answering @AlexP, not me. By context, you make anything portable. As I showed in my example snippet, "John extracted his copier from his pocket to read the screen". If you are walking around with it in your pocket, or purse, or you can pick up four of them with one hand, or the pawn shop has about 40 used copiers in a shoebox ... They are clearly portable. This is part of the "show don't tell" maxim. Don't say 'a copier is 3 inches tall, 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick." Instead, just show copiers used in ways that imply they are small and compact. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 10:59
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    $\begingroup$ I particularly like teletext. Not only does it convey the idea of what it does to a person who's never seen one before, but it sounds good and conjugates well. "He has a teletexter in his pocket", "He received a teletext.", "He teletexted his wife that he will be home late.", "He checked his teletexts before he went to bed". $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet needing to covey "Mobile" is only important if this is a new technology that simultaneously exists with non-mobile versions of it. We used to say cell-phone to distinguish them from landline-phones, but now there are so few landline-phones that when you hear "phone" by itself you assume the person means a cell-phone. So if landline telexs are still dominant, you could call it a pocket-telex or something like that, but if they are an older technology, just calling it a telex (or whatever other base word you choose) should be sufficient. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 15:37
  1. As far as anybody knows, the word television is a direct macaronic compound of Greek tele- "far" (as in tele-scope, tele-graph and tele-phone, all of which are correct Greek compounds) and Latin vision- (which means what you think it means).

  2. Making up classical-sounding words is an endless game:

    • If we like macaronic Latin-Greek compounds, why not portagraph, from portable and telegraph; after all, that's what it is, isn't it? Shortened in everyday speech to graph, of course, as we shorten mobile telephone to phone.

      • Or Greek-Latin telescriptor, which would of course be une téléscriptrice in French.
    • Or purely Greek, perigraph, from peri- "all around", as in peri-meter and peri-phery. (The word periphorêtos (περιφορητός) actually means "portable" in Greek.) (The more normal Greek word for "portable", agôgimos (ἀγώγιμος) does not lend itself to euphonious compounds.)

    • Or, historically atested, teletext (remember it?) and telex. (Telex was introduced commercially between the wars, in Germany of course; and yes, telex worked over wireless too.)

    • Or, if we prefer fancier Greek, something like logagremon, from logos "word, sentence, story" and agremôn "hunter, catcher". Shortened to L.A. in everyday speech, of course.

    • Of the more normal Greek words for "hunter", agreutês (ἀγρευτής) could give panagrete /ˈpænəgriːt/ or panagry "universal catcher", or, most sweetly, paragrete /ˈpærəgriːt/, which would mean something like a "catcher who stands beside somebody", a "side-catcher".)

      Most sweet of course because it alludes to the Paraclete. (Speak about making a late career. The word normally meant "advocate" or "helper" in Greek. Christianity promoted it to refer to a hypostasis of God.)

    • Or, using an actual Greek word, a grammatophore (γραμματοφόρος), which properly means a "letter-carrier", a "courier".

  3. But the truth is that we actually have a word for a small, portable, wireless, and paperless device for receiving and displaying telegraph communications": a pager. And yes, two-way pagers with tiny keyboards did exist back in the day when pagers were a thing. If the bloody thing is a "pager-like device", why not call it a pager? Why make it harder for the readers to read the story?

  4. Guglielmo Marconi did not invent the word radio to refer to radio.

    The oldest known application of the ancient Latin root to wireless communications, as far as the Oxford English Dictionary and the Trésor de la langue française informatisé know, belongs to Édouard Branly who used radioconducteur (in French, radioconductor in English) back in 1897 to refer to what we call a coherer. The OED even has a citation from 1898, refering to "M. Branly, whose ‘radioconductor’ or ‘coherer’ is used by Marconi in his wireless telegraph".

    • Which means that the story can freely use radio mail to refer to the epistles sent by radio. Shorted to first r-mail and then eventually to just mail, as in real history.
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    $\begingroup$ I would upvote for the helpful suggestions etymology, but downvote for all the snark. No vote it is. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ cut out the first 2 points, start with the suggestions in in point 3, and get rid of 5, and this is a very helpful comment $\endgroup$
    – Ushumgallu
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't notice at first glance, téléscriptrice would probably be the word if somehow téléscripteur went feminine. Ending with "-trice" makes it look like calculatrice (calculator), ... Or perhaps it could be une téléscripteuse, too, it's a bit easier to pronounce (less "i" on "i"). In any case, both can be an interesting alternative for an alternative history ^^.2 $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena: Yes, after the model of calculatrice. And, isn't it the case that names of machines are usually feminine, because they are perceived as modifying the word machine ? Tabulatrice, lavatrice / laveuse / lessiveuse, batteuse, égreneuse... But my Romanian ears say that the expected French form would be télécriveuse. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Nowadays we talk more about un lave-linge, sèche-linge and lave-vaisselle (all masculine) like English does with dish-washers, but I don't know when these words have replaced the other ones, so ^^'... Regarding machines "gender", well, see those pairs of words as a few examples : Une calculatrice (f.), un calculateur/ordinateur (m.); une moissoneuse-batteuse (f.), un tracteur (m.); une radio (f.), un radio-émetteur (m.). We don't have any sort of neutral, so it's a battlefield for items' genderization in the land of the Croissant :p. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 0:48

A Historical Perspective

Voc-o-Graph (eventually just vocograph or even VG) is a name to consider based on historical models.

In real world history, back in the day, people that went around waking on call workers might colloquially have been termed "callers". You can find recordings of Harvey & Shirkey's Railroad Blues:

I hear somone a-knockin, knockin at my front door;
Hear somone a-knockin, knockin at my front door;
It's a doggone caller, callin me for half past four.

This usage dates in minstrelsy to the early 20th century and almost certainly in railroad (etc) usage to an earlier period than that. Example from a Casey Jones ballad:

Caller called Jones at half past four
He kissed his wife at the station door.

voc- is the Latin root for calling and we see it in phrases like vox populi (voice of the people) and words like convocatio, a calling together.

Graph and scribe have long been associated with writing, and especially the former with the relatively newly invented office machine sector of which the typewriter was the centerpiece.

enter image description here

Since your device somehow writes or displays the caller's message, the Greek root γράφ- / graph- meaning write is always a good choice. We see it in words like telegraph (distance writing) and graphic artist (an artist who deals, literally, in engraved imaged and words). scrib-, the Latin root underlying scribe and scripture, is a good alternate.

There are loads of trade names and brands this kind of tech can generate with these roots and associated marketing forms like the pseudoGreek suffix -a/orama (actually derived from the Greek horama).

You might find an advertising war between VG-Rama and Vocograph with Vok-ette, VoGraf and TeleVox nipping at the big boys' heels.


The obvious answer would be "teletype". I'd vaguely assumed there would be more unix nerds on here (because of what TTY means) but maybe they're all busy.

Radioteletypes were very much a thing in the real world... they even worked using Baudot code (note that it isn't all-caps... M. Baudot was a person, not an acronym). They evolved from teleprinters (~1849). I'm not entirely sure where the name "teletype" came from... there's a reference to it in a news article about one of the earliest demonstrations of sending text over radio: Typing in airplane received by radio (NYT, 1922).

Now, I know you said

The etymology cannot derive from modern concepts such as "radio"

but I take some issue with that... obviously "cellular" is a fairly technology-specific term, but radio just comes from the latin for "ray", and its appearance in the language isn't entirely implausible. If you'd prefer a more purely Greek root I could suggest aktis (which gives us words like actinic though I can't say that "actiteletype" quite trips off the tongue as well as its real world counterpart. Actitype starts coming close though, I'd say... plausibly the name of an early commercial model or manufacturer, at least. Though the root still means "ray", it is pleasingly similar to the Latin root that gives us "active" which implies a certain amount of mobility.

For a less format term, take a look at the history of radios: we have the cumbersome "handheld transceiver" which gave rise to the ever popular walkie-talkie (though the phrase "handie-talkie" came first). I've got to admit that "walkie-typie" seems kinda ridiculous to me, but it isn't any more ridiculous than walkie-talkie and that phrase still seems to be with us today ~80 years after its debut.

Handheld transceiver may be abbreviated to HT, and so the actiteletype may reasonably be shortened to AT, which is a nice simple and easy to say initialism.

Finally though, to avoid the "acti-" neologism entirely you might simply resort to "telememo" which will at least have a meaning more readily guessable by your audience as a way to leave a "remote note". I'm not sure when the first use of "memo" (as an abbreviation for memorandum) came about so it may be a little anachronistic, which may or may not bother you. It appears in the real world as an Australian email service in the 80s, and a feature of some casio watches, sp if you wanted a term without any real world counterpart then actitype is the best I have to offer, sorry.

  • $\begingroup$ Parallel evolution of an etymology is not impossible but to any reader, the first suspicion when they hear "radio" will not be parallel evolution, they will assume the author lied about the timeline and Marconi influenced this world. Best to avoid such goose chases in good storytelling. Unambiguously alternate etymologies clearly communicate the point of an 'alternate world' But that is TMI as it is now my task to create the derivative, in a way that supports my narrative. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet I don't want to say that you have too high an expectation of your audience in terms of their knowledge of etymology and the history of technology, but y'know... sometime people can cope with stand-in words, anachronisms and anything else that makes the story more easily consumed. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ I don't recall who said this but it struck a chord in me and changed the way I write. "The first goal of an author is not to be understood; it is to not be misunderstood." I love that quote, and I want to say it was related to someone well-read, like Stephen King. So I will try to use no language originating post 1891, making miscomprehension very difficult. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet I think you've missed both my point and the meaning of the author of the quote, but I'll leave it there. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 17:09


It is the Baudot wireless device or a direct descendant. It would be the "Baudotype", like the daguerrotype was named after Daguerre or pasteurization after Pasteur.

British would call them Baudos or Boddos or Bods.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow! I like this! $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 4:15

If the device is invented in France, on the wave of the successes of the telegraph, I believe it is a virtual certainty that it will be called something like télécrivant (seeing as how telegraphe is already taken; also, écrire is more clearly understandable by the wide public).

The obvious abbreviation would be télé. By the same token, maybe téléscripteur or scrip.

Another possibility could be port or portéc - from the more awkward machine à écrire portative or portatif, portable typewriter (nowadays, cellular telephone has contracted to cellphone and finally cell, completely dropping the phone part).

(Back in the days, portatif (orgue portatif) was a kind of portable organ that could be operated one-handed).

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    $\begingroup$ As a French froggy, "écrivant" sounds a bit weird to my ears, since it is a rare form of the verb "écrire", used mostly when someone is, well, currently writing (Il te parle en écrivant - He's speaking to you while writing). I'm prepping my own answer with more French words to offer some alternatives. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 18:43

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