Advances in technology have ensured that we are always on call, but whether that improves the quality of our lives is somewhat debatable. There now seems to be a whole new set of phrases describing our relationship with mobile phones.
For example in Sweden, they call a phone yuppienalle – a yuppie teddy: as they appeared to be security blankets for yuppies (young upwardly-mobile professionals) when they first came out)
Young Japanese kids are members of the mǔ zhǐ zú (拇指) or “thumb tribe” too: particularly the ones whose two-digit tapping never stops. Another Japanese term used is belonging to oyayubizoku (拇指族) – the “clan of the thumbs” – it was first coined to describe teenagers better at text messaging than talking.
In Russia they use proverka sloukha – an expression used in telephone conversations, meaning ‘I have nothing special to say – I just called to say hello’ (literally, a hearing test)
Telebabad (Tagalog, Philippines)describes a person talking on the phone for a long time and the Czech’s use the phrase prozvonit, which is to to call someone’s mobile from your own to leave your number in their phone’s memory, without the intention of the other person picking up
The art of snubbing people by looking at your phone, even while you’re buying a cup of coffee or sitting together at a table, is known as “phubbing”. Short for “phone snubbing” the word was suddenly appeared in 2012 by the ad agency McCann Melbourne as part of a dictionary promotion, which spawned a global “stop phubbing” campaign.
And finally is the portmanteau word “smombie”, short for “smartphone zombie” and used to describe a mindlessly strolling pedestrian whose attention is consumed by their device.
In a sense, none of this is new. Terms of technological disapproval, conjured from hyperbolic hopes and fears, are as old as electronic communications. When the telephone first arrived in American homes in the late 19th Century, it provoked both elation and despair.
For some, world peace was only a decade of international telephony away. For others, new forms of interaction meant new opportunities for addiction, time wasting and idle chat. Once again, new words needed to be found, and it was to the medical term “mania” that disconcerted commentators turned.
“The telephone maniacs,” began an article in the Chicago journal Western Electrician on 17 July 1897, “are usually men of leisure who have small appreciation of the value of time, and the more leisure they have the less hope there is for them, as far as cure is concerned… An unmistakable symptom of the disease is a desire to talk to people at distant points about all sorts of things at all hours of the day or night… The worst feature about the disease is that those who have it never realise that they are making themselves obnoxious, and, regardless of the hour or the pressure of business, they insist on telling long stories over the wire.”