The relatively new ‘missed call’ trend used by young people to communicate via their mobile phones has crossed barriers and is now universally accepted as a part of informal communication. People will tell their friends that they will ‘missed call’ them when they arrive at a pre-arranged meeting place, or that they’ll ‘missed call’ them as an indication of something else. In France, it’s called a ‘bip’, in Spain it’s a ‘dame un toque’, and in Italy it’s the ‘squillo’.
“Ti faccio uno squillo quando arrivo”, I’ll give you a ring when I get there, a friend may say to another upon arranging to meet somewhere. Parents often ask their children to fare uno squillo to let them know they have arrived at a certain place: “fammi uno squillo quando arrivi”. Both situations imply dialing, waiting for the phone to ring once and then hanging up - the receiver of the call should not respond.
However, this innocent bleep of a mobile phone has taken on a much broader usage in Italy, with Italians taking it to the next level and creating an entirely new form of informal communication. The major difference is this: in other countries, the sender tells someone they will send them the missed call, however, in Italy, the sender of a squillo doesn’t necessarily inform the recipient in advance. This is because the message can vary from person to person and from one situation to another.
The art of allowing the call to connect but then disconnecting it sends your caller I.D. to the recipient and they are then left to decipher your intention.
It’s now common place to fare uno squillo to a friend to let them know you are running late, the person, seeing you’re not at the meeting place as arranged, will then understand the reason for the missed call.
However, it gets more complicated than just indicating tardiness: youngsters in love will send a squillo that is simply to let the other one know that they’re thinking of them. Young men send them to their friends asking the question, ‘everything okay?’; they’ll receive one by return that indicates, ‘yes, all is okay’.
This new form of communication has replaced text messaging in terms of quick contacts, the squillo now can ask many things, from a friendly ‘how are you?’ to a not so friendly, ‘Where the heck are you?’, and even as a way of letting someone know you’d like them to call you. The latter is often done by teenage sons and daughters to their parents as they're often running short on money or minutes. Otherwise, it’s only used if it’s important that someone call you; but do it too often and you’ll be on the receiving end of a less than friendly squillo.