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A short history of how the word ‘Phubbing’ came to be

Thanks to a group of Australian academics, the obnoxious, highly irritating, and sinful practice of snubbing a person in real life in favor of checking your phone has now a word of its own.

But go ahead, it’s ok this one time. Ignore the person talking to you right now and read this article to find out all about it.

Ironically, since the advent of mobile phones almost a decade ago, people are relating less and less to each other in person. In a time when the world is more connected than ever before, it seems like we are less inclined to meet and interact with our fellow humans in real life.

A man phubbing

Back in May 2012 at the University of Sydney, a panel of experts gathered to come up with a word to describe this phenomenon. Among the group of academics, there was a lexicologist, a phonetician, a debating champion, a poet, several authors, and wait for it… A cruciverbalist.

Yep, a professional crossword puzzle maker was among this distinguished bunch.

And thus, ‘Phubbing’ came to be. It has been defined as “The act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.”

An infographic on Phubbing

The new, ingenious word was released on the internet the following day in an attempt to ignite a viral campaign against the rude practice. The movement, called ‘Stop Phubbing’ spread slowly but steadily, earning headlines and being appropriated by talk show hosts and news anchors all over the globe.

At first glance, coining the word could seem like a simple gesture in the grand scheme of things, but in reality, it’s the most decisive step towards addressing this grave social issue. With a catchy word to describe the practice, this 21st-century phenomenon can be discussed, dissected, and argued, creating a much-needed conversation that can lead to a solution.

I phub, you phub, we all phub. Sounds neat, doesn’t it? So there you have it Australians. You can now put your phone down and go about your day, knowing that vegemite and Hugh Jackman aren’t your only contributions to save the world.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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