By now, the word ‘phubbing’ is most likely a familiar word to everybody but just in case, it is defined in the dictionary as: the practice of ignoring one’s companion or companions in order to pay attention to one’s phone or another mobile device. The word is derived from the two words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’.
In January 2019, the city of Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province fined a Phubber 10 Yuan, an
equivalent of approximately USD1.50 for crossing the street with her head down, eyes glued to a smart phone. The Wenzhou regulations on the promotion of civilized behavior state: “Anyone who looks at their mobile phone while crossing the road shall be fined 10 yuan.” Is fining phubbers the answer to phubbing? Seat belts were the answer to saving lives of drivers and passengers; phubbing has caused accidents and fining phubbers might save lives as well.
Phubbing is a symptom of our increased reliance on mobile phones and the Internet. However, the word ‘phubbing’ has only been around since 2012. Technology advances at a rapid pace and new words are created to follow any new technology. Translators are often the first ones to be confronted with new words, often having to inquire about the meaning and then having to find a translation that makes sense in their own language. Sometimes the new word is adopted in other languages and a local ending added or the spelling changed so that the original pronunciation remains.
Coming up with the original word is quite interesting; here is a video of how the word ‘phubbing’ was created: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBCYpAl6jpk
And here are some examples of how ‘phubbing’ was translated in other languages:
French: télésnobisme (from “telephone” and “snob”)
Mandarin: 低头族 (the word 低头 means ‘to bow the head’ and 族 means ‘a group of people with a shared hobby or behavior.’ The complete back translation: those who always bow their head or always look at their cell phone even when walking on the street).
Czech: Either the English word is used, or the action of phubbing is described.
Japanese: The English word is used and phonetically translated: ファビング (“fa-be-nn-goo”)
Polish: A translation does not exist yet. ‘Phubbing’ does not sound attractive when pronounced in Polish. Finding a Polish translation of a new word normally takes time.
Spanish LA: The official translation is ‘ningufoneo’ resulting from “ningunear” and “telefonear”. “Ningunear” means ignoring or demeaning someone and “telefonear” means using a telephone.