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Re: Teenager to Teen

Posted by ESC on May 21, 2003

In Reply to: Re: Teenager to Teen posted by R. Berg on May 21, 2003

: : Does anyone know when the word "teenager" became simply "teen"? I still use the former, which indicates that I'm not the latter! I know the word "teenager" itself was coined in the 1920's by a sociologist.

: : I first noticed the transition about two years ago when I heard a radio commercial in which an actor putting on an "old guy" voice used the phrase "when I was a teen". No old guy I've yet met would say that!

: : Thanks...

: They might know the answer to that at askoxford.com (I surely don't).

TEEN, TEENAGER/TEEN-AGER -- According to these references, "teen" is older than "teenager" but teen wasn't in wide use until 1951, a decade after teenager.

"America discovered the teenager in the 1940s, or, perhaps more correctly, the American teenager invented herself and himself in the 1940s. In 1947, the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' identified 'teen ager' as a new word that was coined in 1944, while American Speech included 'teen-ager' in 'Among the New Words' in its April 1945 issue, with an earliest citation of 1944. 'Teen' was not new; several years earlier, Carl Ed has launched his highly successful comic strip 'Harold Teen,' which was adapted for the movies in 1928. While 'teen-age' was used at times in the 1930s (American Speech in 1935 included a usage - 'The dress is probably slinky and suitable for the teen-age group,' while 'Time' magazine of February 22, 1937, wrote of the concern of German parents for keeping 'their teen-age son of daughter out of one of the Hitler camps for young people'), it did not gain momentum until the 1940s." "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996).

TEENAGER - noun. someone in their teens. Originally US: formed from teenage , and confirming the status of the pre-twenties as a force to be reckoned with (and often patronized) in the second half of the 20th century. TEEN - noun. a teenager. A usage anticipated in the early 19th century (title: "Advice to the Teens; or, Practical Helps to the Formation of Character," I. Taylor ), but in modern times mainly US. From "20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years" by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).

FYI, AP style is to hyphenate teen-ager: Teen, teen-ager (n), teen-age (adj.) Do not use teen-aged. (The hyphen is an exception to Webster's.) From the Associated Press Stylebook .