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Tied Up on the Phone

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An old telephone with a cord for the receiver is a dangerous object! Especially in fiction, when a) that cord can be absurdly long for no practical reason, and b) characters are easily distracted and ignorant of the world around them when they become engrossed in the phone conversation.

This results in the phone user, or more often the people around them, finding themselves caught in a messy web of tangled phone cord quite easily. Can occur if the character likes to Walk and Talk, slowly encasing themselves and any innocent bystanders as the conversation goes on. Of course, they could just as easily fall into the phone, and if a villain is short on rope a phone cord is the surprisingly popular alternative to tie up or strangle a victim.

Sadly, Technology Marches On, and the advent of cordless phones and cellphones are the Trope Breaker for this trope. This can also add to the trope though; if a character is used to using cellphones and has to rely on an old phone in an old building etc, they would invariably struggle with an unexpected cord.


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    Comic Strips 
  • In FoxTrot, at one point Paige is on the phone, wandering about the house. In the final panel, the perspective widens and we see that she's ensnared every member of the house in the phone cord.
  • Zits has had Jeremy do this by moving from phone to phone in the house, stretching out the cord on one phone till he can pick up the receiver on the next.

    Films — Animation 
  • The animated film Freddie as F.R.O.7 has a character who is constantly doing this to himself with long phone conversations.
  • The butler in Oliver & Company is watching a wrestling match on TV and getting caught up in the action when the phone rings, and he swings around so hard when answering it that he gets tangled up in the cord.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film 9 to 5, Doralee Rhodes rips the phone cord out of the wall and ties up her boss Frank Hart with it to prevent him from calling the police on her, Violet Newstead, and Judy Bernly for their accidental attempt of poisoning him and covering up the evidence.
  • One of the Accidental Murders in Detour Vera was strangled to death when she passed out with the cord wrapped around her throat and Al yanked on the cord from the other side of a shut door in order to stop her calling the cops.
  • A running gag in the Fred movie is that because Fred can never stop moving, he has to untangle himself from the cord at the end of every phone conversation.
  • At the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the eponymous duo attempt to get revenge on everyone who said bad things about them on the internet. One man is on the phone, so Silent Bob grabs the phone cord and tangles him up in it, starting to strangle him.
  • Played for Drama in Mirage (1965) when a character is strangled to death with a phone cord.
  • In one scene of Police Story, Jackie Chan is alone in the squad room and so has to answer several phones ringing at the same time. He gets rather confused and ends up placing the receivers on the wrong telephones, leading to the room being strung with telephone cords.
  • In The Silence of the Hams when Jo is on the phone walking while strangling several people (one of them is hanging clothes) and continues talking while leaving the station. He hangs up the phone in his car dragging the victims along while driving.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A sketch on The Benny Hill Show has appliances come to life and attack humans; at one point a phone cord wraps itself around Hill.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Terror of the Autons", the Doctor's phone cord deliberately ties him up — its plastic covering is possessed by the Nestene Consciousness.
  • This sometimes happens to Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances, as her prized white Slimline telephone with recall facility seems to have an absurdly long cord.
  • In an early episode of Soap, Danny tries to kill Burt by wrapping a phone cord around his neck. Burt, being oblivious to the murder attempt, takes the handset and says, "Hello?"

  • The poem "Eletelephony" by Laura Richards is about an elephant who tries to use a telephone and gets his trunk tangled up in the phone cord.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • An insanely long phone cord used for slapstick purposes is one of the few bits in Noises Off, which actually goes as planned.

    Web Comics 
  • Happens in Better Days, where a young Fisk is talking to his mom and...
  • In one Bug comic, the main character says that one of the nice things about growing up in a home with a very long phone cord was the ability to clothesline his sister and Make It Look Like an Accident.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "De Plane! De Plane!", Doofenshmirtz manages to trap Perry the Platypus in a phone cord for a while.

    Real Life 
  • One of the inevitable results of old-style telephone receivers, where the handset was permanently attached to the receiver by a coiled cord, was how quickly the connecting cord ceased to be a neatly organised smooth coil. It would inevitably tangle, snag, knot, loop back on itself, and tended to somehow double over on itself, until the connecting wire between handset and receiver was effectively half its original length. Anyone picking up the handset to such a phone would drag the whole thing up off its table and find it swinging in the air. Left-handed users soon found that the arrangement favored right-handed people — both in the direction of coiling, and in the way the headset was meant to be returned to its rest with the connecting wire on the right-hand side. Any old-style phone regularly used by left-handed people would unravel its coils twice as fast (the natural tendency being for a left-hander to return the handset to the rest with the coil-connected end on the left.) Any household with both left and right-handed people would discover their shared phone suffered from Garden Hose Syndrome — it became an utter tangled mess very quickly.