The great debate

Some people actually say they ‘call off sick’ instead of ‘call in sick’ and we’re shook

It’s official. This is the worst flu season in a decade. The CDC reported this month that there have been 10 new child deaths and the highest flu hospitalization rate since 2010. So in other words, if you are exhibiting any symptoms of the flu or really any sickness, DO NOT GO INTO WORK. Call out sick. You are not a hero if you go to the office when you basically have the plague.

So now that you have accepted you are sick (this is often the hardest part) and will be staying home for the day, it’s time to notify your boss.


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But this is where it gets really interesting: Do you “call in,” “call out,” or even “call off” sick?

It turns out there are a few different ways to say the same thing, depending on where you live in these United States, and people have some pretty strong opinions about it.

To ‘call in sick’ is most popular

Oh, idioms! We decided to conduct our own Facebook and Twitter polls to try and clear things up.

On our Facebook group, The Climb, we found that as of Thursday afternoon, 217 people (84.8%) had said they “call in,” 35 (13.7%) said they “call out,” and four (1.5%) actually admitted to using “call off” — really, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan?

‘Call out sick’ is a strong second, concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic

Twitter was slightly more diverse:

Google Trends shows that the majority of the country uses “call in,” and backs the Mid-Atlantic “call out” cluster, but also shows additional small pockets in California, Texas and Florida.

To ‘call off sick’ is concentrated in Ohio and western Pennsylvania

According to the StraightDope message board, “call off” is used in Ohio and western Pennsylvania as well.

“People say, ‘Jane called off.’ I can’t recall anyone around here ever saying, ‘Jane called in sick this morning,’ ” wrote one user.

The board also suggests that “call off” is the preferred phrase for Australians.

But for some people, calling in is the only way to go: “I’ve only heard and used ‘called in sick.’ If someone told me Jane called off, I wonder what the hell they were talking about. Called off what? The dogs?” wrote another user.

The bottom line

Whether you ‘call in,’ ‘call out,’ or ‘call off’ when you are ill, the important thing is to stay home because if you have the flu, you’re probably contagious for a lot longer than you think:

Meredith Lepore is the Deputy Editor of Ladders. She is based in New York City and can be reached at mlepore@theladders.com.