Word Nerd

Word of the Week: Cellfish

Cellfish is the word of the week. When spoken it sounds like ‘selfish’ which is basically what a person does with their phone when they’re being ‘cellfish’

We’ve all been there. Having a good time with someone, perhaps at dinner or just chatting over a cuppa and then a mobile phone rings. If your companion is truly cellfish, (s)he will totally ignore you to answer the call. Then (s)he will have a conversation on the phone while completely ignoring you.

Being Cellfish is a modern affliction

On the one hand, the person is being extremely rude. For some people however, technology has erased all the rules of rudeness. Even for such folk, etiquette is evolving to accommodate the intricacies of modern life. You can avoid being rude by explaining up front that you’re expecting a call. This not only sets an expectation but does so while acknowledging that you still respect your companion.

To avoid the situation altogether, many people are playing the “phone stack game” with dining companions. Everyone at the table stacks their phones in a pile with the intention of leaving them there throughout the meal. They all agree, that the first person to remove his/her phone from the stack has to pay for the bill for the entire group.

Mixed results and not much of a game

I like this idea in theory. The two times I’ve tried it, the results weren’t that good. The first time, the group agreed and everything was fine. Fine that is, until after we ordered. The food was taking a long time to arrive. The richest guy at the table was getting antsy to grab his phone. Suddenly he blurted out, “I don’t care if I have to pay for dinner.” Then he picked up his phone from the stack and ignored the rest of us until the food arrived. Of course the conversation immediately shifted to screen addiction and impulse control.

The second time the phone stack game was suggested, I agreed to play right away. I’m not habituated or conditioned to check my phone constantly. One of our dinner companions could not say the same thing. In fact, she refused to play. “I reserve the right to check my phone whenever I need to.” She said, as if her circular logic could persuade the rest of us. It was astonishing to hear the rest of her deflections. Eventually I realized she might rather have us consider her to be addicted to technology than to be too poor to pay for everyone’s meal. Of course disposable income was never part of the overt discussion. Our attempt at a fun game to induce more screen-free interaction backfired completely. We spent the first half of our time together arguing about our various levels of phone use, impulse control and technology addiction. Maybe in that regard it wasn’t a complete failure as those are topics more of us need to review regularly.

1m cellfish

Quartknee is an internationally beloved author, storied entertainer, and legendary night-life impresario. He’s also a prominent aesthete and all around tall guy.