Charles Harrington Elster

Celling Out

by Charles Harrington Elster

I hereby proclaim 2003 to be the year of the cell phone—which is fast becoming cellphone, so we might as well get with it.

Everywhere you go these days you see people walking around with a cellphone glued to their ear. They're jabbering away, oblivious to the effect they're having on others—an effect that has been described (in The Dictionary of the Future) as "secondhand speech," the verbal equivalent of secondhand smoke.

What to call these cellphone addicts, these wireless public prattlers? Allow me to propose cellfish (or perhaps cellphish), which could also be employed as an adjective.

Now, what to call those few sad souls who still don't possess the means of instant and constant communication? How about cellphless?

Finally, we need a word for the way these cellfish drive while they're yakking on their cranial appendages. (And I think we can do better than badly or erratically.)

Allow me to propose celling out (or cellin' out)—on analogy with freaking out, spacing out, dorking out, etc.—which we can define as "lousy driving caused by blabbing on a cellphone."

So there you have it: 2003, the Year of the Cellout.

Y'all drive carefully now, y'hear?

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Copyright © 2003 by Charles Harrington Elster.
All rights reserved.
Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

Selected Works

Colin Kaepernick and Charles Harrington Elster have something in common: exercising their First Amendment rights.
In the cover story for the October-November 2013 issue of Copyediting, Charlie looks at how the relative pronoun who is taking over the traditional role of that and which.
Read Charlie's amiable rant on redundancy, which appeared in the August-September 2012 issue of Copyediting.
Timeless tips for aspiring vocabulary builders.
Charlie beats up on Merriam-Webster in the Boston Globe.
At a loss for words? Read one of Charlie's guest "On Language" columns for The New York Times Magazine.
Read Charlie's guest "On Language" piece about resistentialism.
Shopping for a new dictionary? Here's some sage advice.
Charlie's brave new words for a wireless world.
Read one of Charlie's articles in SPELL/Binder.
Read a profile of Charlie in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles.
Charlie explains why he left the public radio show.