CALL – as any CALL book, paper, essay and blog post will tell you – is computer-assisted language learning. Yeah, right. Bollocks.
CALL may have been computer-assisted language learning at some point in time, but today, it is more. It is learning and teaching of languages through digital media, usually with a focus on computers, mobile devices, and anything that has internet access and is smaller than a fridge (intelligent toasters included).
Time and again, you will find people who argue we need a new label, as the old one doesn’t seem to fit anymore. This, I think, misses the point.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the label "CALL". It has a nice ring to it. It is well-established within the community. It’s short! And – most importantly – it offers rich opportunities for puns, for the authors so inclined (CALLme? CALL center? ReCALL? CALLous? Get it? *haha*)
There is nothing wrong with the word. Except its etymology.
CALL isn’t a teenager anymore. The word has been hanging around, trying to look cool, for quite some time now: Since the late 1980ies. The word has stayed the same, even though the thing it denotes has changed. It’s like light bulbs. Light bulbs used to look like bulbs. Today, they come in all kinds of shapes, some looking more like melons, others more like match sticks. Still, we call all of them light bulbs - and we don’t think too much about the underlying metaphor anymore.
Etymology is not destiny. Nor should a changed world force our hand in discarding well-loved words, just because the historical meaning of the word components does not fit the current reality anymore*.
Let’s stop treating CALL as an acronym. Let’s stop saying: „CALL means….“, „CALL is….“, just to finish the sentence with an etymological statement. Let’s say, if we must, „CALL, historically, meant…“ or „CALL’s etymology can be traced to…“. But let’s stop reducing CALL to its historical meaning.
*I am very happy to make an exception here in the case of words denoting groups of people that may be well-loved by some, and perceived as hateful by others.