Child’s Play

Whether it’s the special treats, presents, traditions, videos of cats climbing Christmas trees, or the shiny tinselly delight of it all, the collective winter holiday season can bring out the child in us. Which made me think of a bunch of childlike and childish words for being in a state of newness, where we are wet behind the ears and smell faintly of talcum powder and New Car.

  1. Childlike: An adult who has not lost his or her innocent sense of wonder at the world. Think Dr. Seuss, Mr. Rogers, or Robin Williams off his meds.
  2. Childish: A more negative connotation, drawing up references to “childish behavior” discouraged by parents, such as pouting and selfishness, or how some adults act. Especially on reality television programs or on Black Friday.
  3. Juvenile: From Latin. On the surface, this word refers to “one who is youthful.” It has also taken on the negative connotation of juvenile or immature behavior. Especially on reality television programs or Black Friday.
  4. Neophyte: From the Greek words meaning “newly planted”, first recorded use 1590. Has a bit more sophisticated ring than “newbie.” Does not refer to any of Keanu Reeves’ battle scenes from The Matrix. Sorry. I know how badly you want it to.
  5. Noob or N00b: From the world of online gaming and internet forum slang, short for “newbie” but used in a more derisive fashion. Say, a newbie who refuses to learn the rules of a group, blusters around obnoxiously pretending they know what they’re doing but ends up wiping out your landing party with an enchanted hand grenade.
  6. Green: From Old English, meaning young or raw, also gullible. Greenhorn (a young buck, elk, ram or other horned beast just sprouting his horns) is another variant, a slang term applied to a newly arrived member of a group who hasn’t yet learned the secret handshake. As in, “That greenhorn thought Dr. Seuss made house calls.”
  7. Novice: One Latin form of this word, novicius, was used in reference to newly acquired slaves. Odd that it’s also used to describe someone in a religious order. Coincidence? Discuss.
  8. Apprentice: from Old French, “one who is learning.” Perhaps Donald Trump could apprentice to someone who has some humility, and maybe hair styling experience.
  9. Amateur: “One who has a taste for (something)” from French and Latin. Amateurish is an entirely different matter. Even if you are an amateur, you want to avoid looking amateurish. Context is also important here. While amateur athletes are revered, amateur brain surgeons are shunned.
  10. Tyro: From Middle Latin, meaning “young soldier or recruit.” Not to be confused with “Tyra,” which according to the Urban Dictionary, means to throw a tantrum if things don’t go your way. You know, like a child. But not “childlike.”