Welcome to the bowedhead tribe
Are you a phubber or a smombie?
You need to know, you’re almost certainly a member of the bowed-head tribe.
The Chinese term dī tóu zú (literally the “bowed-head tribe”) perfectly describes the people we see every day on city streets – or don’t, because we’re a member of the tribe ourselves – their heads lowered, gazing at their phones.
It’s a wittier, more vivid description than “smartphone addict”.
And if you belong to the bowed-head tribe, you’re probably an honorary member of the “m zh zú”, or “thumb tribe”, too. These are people whose incessant two-digit tapping on the phone keys never stops.
That term originated in Japan, where belonging to oyayubizoku – the “clan of the thumbs” – was first coined to describe teenagers better at text messaging than talking.
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 coined in 2012 by Australian ad agency McCann Melbourne as part of a dictionary promotion, which then went on to spawn a global “stop phubbing” campaign.
More sinister is “smombie”, short for “smartphone zombie”, and used to describe a mindlessly strolling pedestrian whose attention is consumed by their device.
Crowned the Youth Word of the Year in Germany in 2015 – despite its general use by older speakers as a despairing description of young people – “smombie” took on new urgency with the Pokemon Go craze this year.
Germany also boasts the distinction of installing some of the world’s first traffic lights in the pavement, designed to stop smombies walking out in front of a bus or into the traffic in their consumed state.