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Vanity Phone Numbers in Pop Culture

Ring Central Blog


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3 min read

Most people are familiar with vanity phone numbers – numbers that spell out a certain phrase or a company name. This is commonly called a “phoneword” and is the alphanumeric equivalent of a telephone number.

Vanity phone numbers are superior to standard numbers because they are more memorable. That means they give business owners another area where they can expand their brand.

Over the past 10 to 20 years, vanity numbers have become quite prevalent in pop culture; they can be seen in commercials, sitcoms and elsewhere. And, as we all know, if something techie is popular in a sitcom, then it has already become popular with the cool tech crowd.


One of the best uses of a vanity number in recent memory is on the show Scrubs. In it, Donald Faison’s character, Dr. Chris Turk, managed to get 916-CALL-TURK.

Turk: J.D., big news! Guess what my new cell phone number spells!

J.D.: Why’d you get a new cell phone number? Your old number spelled “kufunninapuh.”

Turk: Yeah, well this one’s 916-CALL-TURK. Yeah, so now all you gotta do is call Turk!

J.D.: How’m I supposed to remember that? I’m begging you, stick with “kufunninapuh!”

Turk: Come on, man, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me besides getting married.

J.D.: She’s not here.

Turk: It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me!

J.D.: But “CALL-TURK” is eight numbers.

Turk: I know, actually it’s just CALL-TUR, but I’m hoping people will dial the “K” anyway.

J.D.: I’ll always dial the “K” for you.

Instead of using the standard 555 number that Hollywood uses to keep real numbers from being abused, the producers of Scrubs actually purchased the number. When called, a recording would thank fans for watching. If you were lucky and a cast member was nearby, they would pick up the phone and talk to you.

It was a great way to reach out to fans and help brand the show. However, the number is no longer in service. I suspect that when the show moved to ABC, NBC turned it off.

(Yes, it’s in German, but that kinda makes it funnier.)
Something interesting to note here that most people don’t realize is that a vanity number doesn’t have to be a toll-free number. Obviously, if you want to reach customers outside your area code, you should consider a toll-free number, but if you aren’t worried about that limitation, then you have three more numbers to use with your catch phrase.


TBS created a commercial using one of the characters from My Boys and a vanity number: 1-800-TBS-FUNNY.

Not only does the number help advertise the show – it also helps to create a clever marketing gag for TBS.

Sadly, nobody picked up the phone when I tried calling it, but it was a real phone number. I am surprised that they do not have an auto attendant to deal with any calls. Maybe they should take note of what Scrubs was doing.


Ever been curious what your number might spell? The majority of our numbers aren’t going to spell anything that is memorable, but every once in a while, something neat will come up. I went to PhoneSpell and put in my home number and cell phone with and without area code. Nothing really cool came up except for the cell phone without the area code. (And in the interest of not wanting to be plagued by phone calls, I won’t post that here.) You can also put in your phoneword and it will give you the resulting number. (In case you didn’t want to try to do the “math” in your head while looking at a phone.)

Signing Up for a Vanity Number

Once you have a vanity number in mind, you can head on over to RingCentral to get it set up. You can check and see if the toll free number is available first, giving you the chance to make changes if someone already has it.

Have a specific local number in mind? RingCentral can help you with that, too. Just call Sales at 800-574-5290 and they can look into your vanity phone number and find out what’s available.

A vanity number can be a great resource for your company, website and sales team. Wouldn’t you like for people to be able to call you by just remembering a word or two?

Originally published Aug 26, 2009, updated Aug 12, 2020

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