Are You Guilty of ‘Phubbing’? Ad Agency Creates New Word to Sell Dictionaries

Here are some words recently added to the dictionary: jeggings, guyliner, bromance, chillax, crunk and bling.

Thanks to our ever-changing vernacular and the speed at which new “non-words” are spread via social media and other outlets, dictionary-makers have a lot to keep up with these days.

To highlight this point, ad agency McCann Melbourne, with the help of some great word-oriented minds, recently created its own timely word: Phubbing. Phubbing is defined as the act of snubbing the people in one’s presence in favor of one’s smartphone. The agency then spread the word like wildfire via social media, a dedicated anti-phubbing website and other channels in order to prove the point that it’s important for people to own an updated dictionary, lest they find themselves in a modern situation without a modern enough word with which to describe it.

As a lover of words, the below case study truly is a thing of beauty and wonder to behold — the birth of a word! That said, I do have to wonder whether the agency’s pitch to the viewer, “Language is always changing; update your dictionary,” doesn’t, in a way, defeat its own argument. The dictionary in question is a hard-copy of the new edition of Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary. So, if language is changing at an unprecedented rate, then won’t that hard-copy dictionary soon be as obsolete as last year’s smartphone?

I have to agree with AdWeek’s take on this one: “The paradox inherent in the strategy…is self-defeating.”

Don’t get me wrong — I am one of those obnoxious book-lovers who does not own an e-reader, and still buys all her books in hard-copy, but even I refer to a digital dictionary for exactly the reason this commercial is suggesting I buy a hard-copy.