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Webster's New World College Dictionary Word of the Year 2004: adultescent; Neverland Found.

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- "Some people just never grow up." While this irksome phenomenon has been noted for countless generations, it has recently acquired a substantial and wryly amusing lexicon all its own.

Thus, editors at WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD COLLEGE(R) DICTIONARY (WILEY, $22.99 cloth) have selected as WORD OF THE YEAR for 2004 the novel noun adultescent, denoting an adult who has not achieved expected intellectual maturity or who indulges in the tastes and attitudes of youth. These "I won't grow ups" in their 30s and 40s (and beyond) revel in movies made for teenagers and clothes targeted at hip youngsters and spend their time in general stagnation in bars, in front of television sets, or deep in the pages of comic books. Curiously, the term even has new synonyms: kidult and rejuvenile.

The adultescent phenomenon is viewed by some as so widespread as to be termed the Peter Pandemic (in reference to Peter Pan, the title character of J. M. Barrie's 1904 play), and it carries some interesting implications. Marketers in the entertainment industry have noticed the broader demographic for youth-oriented products and have adjusted their campaigns accordingly. Action-packed and comedy-heavy films and television programs are now drawing, not only their usual younger audiences but also moms, dads, and professionals pampering their child within. Games and clothing lines are also exhibiting this broader appeal, making Peter Pan proud.

Other terms associated with the child-adult transition (or lack of it) being tracked by the dictionary's staff include middlescent, a kidult in middle age (the term middle youth has also been noted in British English).

Particularly interesting to WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD editors in these new terms is the use of "blends" - the blending of two or more words to form one: adult + adolescent, kid + adult, and middle-aged + adolescent. The practice is common in language (Lewis Carroll's famous chortle in the poem "Jabberwocky" in Through the Looking Glass comes to mind - assumed to be the blending of chuckle and snort), and today's coinages continue to amuse. Two such blends were even runners-up for the editors' Word of the Year:
shoppertainment shopping + entertainment, a reference to
 commercial complexes designed to enhance the
 shopping experience

nutraceutical nutrition + pharmaceutical, a controversial
 product challenges drug and medical standards
 for efficacy in treating and preventing

Choosing the Word of the Year is always a source of lively debate in WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD's editorial offices. Winners from previous years include
transparency (2003) a policy with a positive spin, promising
 uncensored exposure of records, moral conduct,
 and virtue

job spill (2002) the phenomenon of work spilling over into
 personal free time

senior moment (2000) an instance of forgetfulness or inability to
 recall something, typically associated with
 advancing age

The reflection of language trends is only one of the fine qualities of WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD COLLEGE(R) DICTIONARY. It is also renowned for its clear and accurate definitions, in-depth etymologies, helpful maps and illustrations, and the most up-to-date information. No wonder it is the dictionary of choice for the Associated Press and most leading U.S. newspapers.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Nov 17, 2004
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