‘Phubbing’ is Still a Thing According to McCann Melbourne, Macquarie Dictionary

By Erik Oster 

Last year, we brought you news of the “Stop Phubbing” campaign from MRM . The new term had even made it into The Macquarie Dictionary. To spread awareness of the growing problem of the “act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention” a term for the “uniquely 21st century problem” needed to be developed. It’s on Urban Dictionary (the true measure of a word’s acceptance) now, so “phubbing” is completely legit.

If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “phubbing” came from, the above video is for you. The short answer: it was developed in May 2012 by a team at Sydney University that included a lexicologist, a phonetician, a debating champion, a poet, several authors, and a cruciverbalist (a professional crossword maker — yeah, I didn’t know that one either). This team gathered, brainstormed, and debated to find a word to call people’s attention to the problem of phubbing. Some of the discarded suggestions? Nubbing, fumping, phufing, phrolling, igging, exing, phexing, nuthering, bitting, and tele-snub. I think you’ll agree that phubbing was the right choice. Tele-snub is the only one of those choices that even makes sense. Nuthering does kind of have a nice ring to it though, no?


The video above from McCann Melbourne and Macquarie goes on to document the spread of the word, complete with an overly-enthusiastic interpretation of the word’s effects. Sure it may have gotten people to talk about phubbing. But how many phubbers did it actually stop? At the end of the spot comes the declaration “Language is always changing. Update your dictionary,” with a shot of the Macquarie Dictionary 6th Edition. It’s a clever way for Macquarie Dictionary to plug itself, since it was one of the first places where the new word appeared. If you’d like to join the movement to stop phubbing, you can do that here, where, as it turns out, you can also come out as pro-phubbing (for some reason).