Questions on “Ghosting” This Halloween Night

By Edward M. Bury. APR (aka The PRDude)

Note the subtle “shadowing” around the image — my effort to add a little “ghostly” drama.

To get started, the topic of this post on what’s purported to be the “scariest night of the year,” has nothing to do with the celebration of Halloween.  Rather, my focus here is on a new addition to the modern lexicon: Ghosting.

As noted in this headline from an editorial published in today’s Chicago Tribune, the word “ghost” and its present participle form, “ghosting,” take on a particular meaning these days. The Urban Dictionary listed a definition for “ghosting” from 2016, which I’ll summarize: Halting communications without notice.  According to further research, the word is often used in personal relationships (ignoring a text from a person you have dated) and in the job market (failing to show up for a job you accepted).

Now, to my questions:

  1. How did “ghost” evolve from a noun for “spirit” into verb?  Who initiated the re-interpretation of the word?
  2. Why does modern society accept this ongoing bastardization of the language? (See this 2015 post on “doxing” for a somewhat related example.) Because it’s cool? Edgy? Modern?
  3. Why did the Chicago Tribune resort to what many may consider a colloquialism in an editorial?  And, in the headline, no less! Also, I dispute the use of “ghost” in the headline because Chicago Public School kids are not purposefully or intentionally causing the enrollment decline.
  4. What’s the next common word to get reinterpreted due to unforeseen and unfathomable justification?
  5. Can “ghosting” still be used should someone want to practice being a ghost?  Example: “I will complete a stringent ghosting regimen this week to prepare for Halloween.”
  6. What are the perspectives and insights from real ghosts on this dictionary-centered phenomenon?

Okay, I don’t anticipate a response to #6, although replies are welcomed; but please feel free to share thoughts to the other questions noted above.

But, in the spirit of Halloween, I’ll leave you with a link to a 2010 post, where I outlined public relations strategies and tactics for the holiday, one once primarily celebrated by kids. Speaking of kids, I better head home now. Don’t want to ghost neighborhood trick or treaters.

Public Relations Strategies & Tactics for a Spooktacular Halloween

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

Hours from now, ghosts and goblins, and other scary creatures — for example Lady Gaga and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich — will be scampering up the stairs of our Chicago home to commemorate an annual pagan celebration now fully commercialized and called Halloween.

Once a relatively quiet holiday just for kids, Halloween has exploded into a multi-billion-dollar industry.  Did you know more than $1 billion is spent on fake cobwebs, tombstones, pseudo monsters and other outdoor decorations alone?  Quite an impressive sum, especially knowing this explosion of Halloween hoopla happened in the past few years.

This development is ripe for sound public relations strategies and tactics that can help building awareness, acceptance and action for a product, service, cause or candidate.  Here are some suggestions from the PRDude to help guide marketers and communications for Halloween 2011.  For the record, tonight I’m dressing up as a grumpy middle-aged guy and we’re giving out Butterfingers.

  1. Lock in Licensing Rights. Why not? Just think of all the potential products and services that could benefit from a scary, spooky branding campaign!  Some organizations, like your local Department of Motor Vehicle Services, already provide frightening experiences.  But imagine your hospital or clinic client being known as “The Place Ghouls Go for Real Healthcare.”  Or, your bridal shop getting an endorsement from Mrs. Frankenstein.
  2. Carpe Dien. Seize October 31st. Everyone knows what falls on October 31 — one of the biggest refined sugar-eating days of the year. Companies that use a lot of high fructose corn syrup should form a coalition and launch an awareness campaign that kicks off Halloween Night to promote the health benefits of the product. True, this stuff really is bad for your health, but so what.  Who could resist a pitch coming from a nice guy like Count Dracula?
  3. Create Halloween Year-round. Why settle for the month of October!  How about incorporating Halloween into a 365-day promotion or theme?  Think of the possibilities:  Companies could let workers dress in costume  year-round as a way to building morale, and get around enforcement of a dress code.  Developers could build Halloween-themed sub-divisions geared to the Goth crowd.  There’s even a ready-made theme song, “Everyday is Halloween, “ from the Chicago industrial-synth band Ministry.
  4. Politics is Now Black and Orange. Since Halloween precedes November elections, those practitioners who represent political candidates should have no trouble creating attack ads portraying the opposition as a monster, a clown or a ghost-payroller.  Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Delaware, of course has brilliantly counter-punched against allegations that she dabbled in witchcraft.

Well, it’s getting near the witching hour and the doorbell has sounded.  Now, where’s those *&#@% Butterfingers.