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smombie – noun

smartphone zombie – noun

distracted walking – noun

Cyclists claim that they have to swerve out of the way of smombies twice or three times a day.

There is no doubt about it—we are in the midst of a smartphone zombie plague.

Honolulu became the first major U.S. city to pass legislation aimed at reducing injuries and deaths from distracted walking.


I was once so busy looking at my phone that I walked into a tree, giving an elderly lady who was nearby a great deal of amusement. In my defence, I was walking through a park not along a street, but still the bump on my head was sufficiently painful to deter me from similar acts of self-inflicted damage for quite some time. I was lucky: people have been injured and even killed walking into or crossing the road while engrossed in their phones, leading the city of Honolulu in Hawaii last year to introduce bans on using a phone while crossing the road, with fines for offenders. There were even reports recently from Germany of new road signs being introduced to warn drivers to look out for pedestrians glued to their phone screens, but it turned out to be a prank.




The word smombie is a blend of smartphone and zombie. The term came into English from German, where it first came to attention when a dictionary publisher chose it as its ‘youth word of the year’ in 2015. It has reached a modest level of popularity in the intervening three years without really catching on in everyday use. The less colourful distracted walking, meanwhile, is based on the term distracted driving, itself frequently the result of — you guessed it — using a smartphone while at the wheel.


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