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The dictionary says

ghost somebody: to suddenly stop all communication with somebody, usually online, in order to end a relationship

so, according to the dictionary, we often say "someone ghosted someone" in an online communication.

My question is that

Can we say "someone ghosted someone" in an offline communication?

For example, a couple lived in the same house but the wife avoided to talk with her husband.

Is it correct to say "his wife ghosted him although they lived in the same house"?

If we can not say that, do we have a common phrase to say that in an offline communication?

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    Be aware that this is very new slang. It's used mainly by trendy young people on the internet. That means that using it immediately puts you at risk of not being understood by many native speakers, one who are not as young and hip and "in-group" as this word would necessarily mark you as being.
    – tchrist
    Jul 26 at 14:01
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    We’d probably call that shunning or the cold shoulder.
    – Davislor
    Jul 26 at 18:39
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    Your example would imply that she not only stopped talking to her husband, but tried very hard to avoid being seen by him as well.
    – chepner
    Jul 27 at 16:42
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    @JohnDouma: That's poor advise. What is important – not only for learners but also for native speakers – is that they're aware of the register to which the idioms belong, and that they choose them accordingly. "Scrum", "story points", and "sprint" are modern idioms – would you really terminate the candidacy because a learner used them in an interview even if they applied for a job in a team that uses Agile development?
    – Schmuddi
    Jul 28 at 14:26
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    @JohnDouma: If the non-native speaker uses slang or jargon that is appropriate for the context, then yes, they will be received as good or even better than if they used "proper English" (the term that you want to use here is probably "standard English"). If you happen to dine with the Queen and you don't speak the slang that is used in these circles, but only standard English, than you may not as well-received as you hope. If you're invited to dine with a group of ex-Proud Boys, but you speak the slang that the Queen uses, you may not be that well-received either. Context matters, always.
    – Schmuddi
    Jul 28 at 14:51

7 Answers 7

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"Ghosting" is a fairly new word in Engilsh, and the full range of its use hasn't been explored, but my guess is that when it settles, it will not be possible to ghost someone who knows where you are.

The reason it's called "ghosting" is because you completely disappear, as if by magic, from someone's life, and they're unable to contact you. The husband could clearly still contact his wife, but she would choose each time not to respond.

What you're talking about is "the silent treatment":

His wife gave him the silent treatment.

No need to mention that she still lived there.

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His wife ghosted him although they lived in the same house.

The usage is unusual. We can all agree on that.

Certainly the grammar is correct. I think the meaning is also 100% clear—at least, it is clear to people who are familiar with the recent usage of ghost.

I will even go so far as to say that your proposed usage is clever. If I heard a native speaker say it or read it in a magazine (e.g., BuzzFeed) I would not think twice about it. Depending on the context, I might even laugh. The beauty of the expression is not that it is accurate but that it is inaccurate in a way that still makes sense.

The only risk I see is the same one that arises whenever someone with an accent says something unexpected: some listeners might conclude that you have made a mistake. I'm sure you make judgments about such situations pretty regularly.

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    Yes, there's an attractive "poetic misuse" to it
    – gotube
    Jul 26 at 14:32
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    I must say that I would have no idea what the intended meaning was if it were not for the explanations given in this thread. If I had understood the slang use with regard to social media, then I agree that I would have viewed it as a cleverly constructed play on words. Not knowing that, I would think the speaker an idiot. The moral: know your audience before using slang. Jul 26 at 21:09
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    One thing about "accurate but inaccurate" usages like this is that, if they become widespread, they disrupt the original meaning and make it harder to communicate about the original concept. Folks who are aware of this phenomenon and affected by it may be really irritated with your choice to do such a thing. Jul 27 at 16:17
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    I'm not young, and never been on most social media — yet the meaning was immediately clear to me without further explanation. I think the term has already gained some currency in the wider world.
    – gidds
    Jul 28 at 9:33
  • I am perfectly familiar with the concept ghosting, and it was not at all clear to me what the sentence meant – quite the opposite, I actively misunderstood it. To me, the sentence can only mean that the wife ignored her husband’s text messages, phone calls, e-mails, etc. It says nothing about whether she spoke to him in person when they were together in the house, because that’s not what ghosting is. If the intended meaning is that she gave him the cold shoulder at home, the sentence fails completely. Jul 29 at 8:26
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His wife ignored him although they lived in the same house -- this is a plain alternative, assuming you are not asking about grammar.

'Ghosted him' is a fairly rare phrase and I recommend avoiding it in general. The meaning is unclear and somewhat ambiguous: ghosted may also mean to have killed someone.

However, using it could make sense if the context of your text (story?) is intentionally trendy in a semi-pretentious fashion.

If you must use it I'd recommend additional descriptive text to make your meaning completely clear.

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As has already been stated in various comments, the usual accepted slang for ignoring someone who is in plain sight is cold shoulder:

Ever since Tom's affair with Angela from accounts, his wife has given him the cold shoulder. There's a really tense atmosphere in their household now.

Another, possibly British English only, slang expression is to blank:

Ever since Tom's affair with Angela from accounts, his wife has blanked him. There's a really tense atmosphere in their household now.

The non-slang version of to blank would be to shun:

Ever since Tom's affair with Angela from accounts, his wife has shunned him. There's a really tense atmosphere in their household now.

Also, as has already been stated, saying that someone is being ghosted whilst they remain in plain sight just makes no sense at all, IMHO.

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  • Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I would have said "his wife has been giving him the cold shoulder." To me, unlike "ghosting" or "giving the silent treatment," which indicate states, giving the cold shoulder is a perfective aspect action that would be repeated with each attempt at contact or communication.
    – cjs
    Jul 29 at 2:11
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I agree that you can't really 'ghost' somebody you live with, unless you are trying to give the impression that you've completely disappeared.

Blanking someone makes sense at least in British English, we also have the delightful phrase sent to Coventry to mean exactly the same thing.

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  • Note that neither of these exist in AmE and wouldn't be readily understood if heard.
    – Drake P
    Jul 27 at 12:40
  • sorry I'm new to the site is it only for American English? Jul 27 at 12:48
  • No you're good, your answer is valuable and all English dialects are welcome here. I just wanted to note for future readers that there's some nuance in when one might use this option since it's not universally understood.
    – Drake P
    Jul 27 at 12:59
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    Ah yes, "sent to Coventry" - more popular 200 years ago. :) Of course they weren't literally sent to Coventry. ;) In fact, as I recall, it was more of a group punishment, from my old schoolbooks. In other words, a class might send a member of the class "to Coventry" to punish them for something or other, like snitching to a teacher. Jul 28 at 6:23
  • ‘Blanking’ is a good word, but would it refer to a continual state? My impression is that it usually refers only to individual instance(s).
    – gidds
    Jul 28 at 9:36
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I'll reiterate what others have said about 'ghosting' being a relatively new term unknown by older generations, but also that your proposed usage misses some of its nuance. Ghosting implies a person completely removing themselves from another person's life abruptly, as if they've turned into a ghost. It generally implies that you don't even know whether they're alive or dead, because it's exactly the same from your perspective as if they had died (there are exceptions to this where you know it's a decision they made because they blocked you on various means of communication).

"His wife ghosted him although they lived in the same house" would imply to me that the wife had moved out without the husband's knowledge and just disappeared. There are examples of people doing this in real life (google "ghosted by my husband" for more), described exactly that way.

In other words, yes you can use that phrase, but it won't be understood by everyone, and it means something different and more extreme to what you intended. If made clear in context that you were only referring to communication it could possibly be used, but "the silent treatment" already covers exactly that scenario.

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I'm going to disagree with many people on here. I think saying that his wife "ghosted" him is a humorous way of saying she stopped talking to him. I think it totally makes sense to a young audience. However, if these are not the things you are going for then avoid the term.

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