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Strictly speaking | Phubbing

Creating new words is an unpredictable business. How was Lewis Carroll to know that amongst the brillig, gimble and uffish of “Jabberwocky”, chortle would gain popular acceptance? Did we really need a new term for laughing? Advertising agency McCann thought there was a need to find a way of describing the social phenomenon of ignoring the person in front of you in favour of your phone. With the help of the Macquarie Dictionary and a panel of word experts, it came up with phubbing (a ‘portmanteau’, as Carroll would have described it, of phone and snubbing). Anyone who gets about in (im)polite society would recognise this as a real thing – we see it every day on trains and in restaurants. But has the word caught on since its emergence in 2012? Well, yes and no. It’s been defined in dictionary.com, online searches reveal that it’s getting bandied about from China to India to the UK, and a recent study on the effect of mobile phone use on relationships, at Baylor University, in Texas, brought phubbing to the media’s attention again. But its usage has dwindled since the early spike of interest around its invention. Maybe phub will itself be snubbed.

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