Do You Phub?

Do you phub? (Photo: Kostenko Maxim/Shutterstock)
Do you phub? (Photo: Kostenko Maxim/Shutterstock)

What’s a real word? What’s a word really?

Is ad agency McCann Melbourne wrong to create a word from thin air to sell product for their client Macquarie dictionary?

Well, that’s what happened. And the word is “phubbing,” verb form ‘phub.’ I’ll have to buy the dictionary. It means to ignore someone you’re physically in front of in favour of your phone.

Language is mercurial. Words are made by making words. The problem for McCann Melbourne and Macquarie Dictionary is being caught-out doing it. McCann, apparently, along with using the word, started a Facebook page called “stop phubbing” and a PR campaign to push their ‘term’ into full word-dom. Now it’s world-wide. The irony is being caught doing it made the word way more popular than just the ad-campaign would have. Tricky.

What about the etymological issue? McCann defines their word as ‘snubbing’ someone with your phone– is that an etymological clue? Is “phubbing,” to “phub,” a port-manteau of “phone” and “snub?” Probefinitely…

The new word’s a larger testament not just to the absolute flexibility of language, but to the changing ways people get their language today: mostly through the internet. It’s why Macquarie needed help to sell a print dictionary in the first place.

Check out a video of baby phub’s gestation process on YouTube. Or go read a book.



Zach Buck

Zach Buck is a writer and editor currently living in South Korea. He serves as the official editor of Spatial Studies magazine HEADREST. In 2016 he released experimental digital archive game house.xct_ with Other Families, and it can be read about on

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>