Wordisms # 581 – Infantilization??

From my posts found in the Wayback Machine, originally published on April 1, 2010.

This business of finding and declaring words invalid is a sticky one. So before I introduce you to the latest lame word of the week (it’s a real gem), I want to explain my methodology. Although explaining my methods would have sufficed, explaining my methodology makes me sound so much more sophisticated, don’t you think?

First, a little 101 about dictionaries. It’s important to note that there are different types of dictionaries: descriptive and prescriptive. Many dictionaries in use today are descriptive and include thousands of non-standard words. Prescriptive dictionaries, on the other hand, focus more on the traditional rules of language and usage. Though a non-standard word may be found in common usage, the prescriptive dictionary will often omit it, or at least designate the word as non-standard.

I’m explaining all of this in advance because at some time, somebody somewhere is going to come at me with, “Hey, buddy – you were wrong about such-and-such because I found it in the dictionary.” Sure, I’m going to be challenged, I’m going to be proven wrong, and I’ll take an occasional bite of humble pie.

So, my reference of choice is an American Heritage (prescriptive) dictionary from 1985. I like this edition because it was around before Clinton became president, and confused us all about the definition of sex. It seems like things just went haywire after that. I also like this edition because it’s one I happen to have in my possession, and it’s old.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the word of the week. This word is so convoluted; I have to give it to you in parts. It’s a real monster. Here’s what happened: I was in my car the other day, and the sound of my own thoughts was starting to annoy me, so I turned on the radio. I happened to be tuned to 99.7 FM (KTTR), because I usually listen to the Morning Mayors in the morning. I like the way Bill Bates and Lee Buhr peck at each other constantly. It reminds me of watching chickens – one of my favorite pastimes. Anyway, it was later in the day, and a guy named Mark Steyn was on, talking about how the government treats its citizens like children. In his description, he dropped this little jewel: the infantilization of America. Come on. Infantilization? Really?

I looked over at my American Heritage that I keep on a fluffy pillow in the passenger’s seat. It was laughing uncontrollably. Everyone knows the word infantile: characteristic of an infant, or immature. And we’ve all seen how some people love to add “ize” to an adjective or noun to make it a verb, like the recent incentivize. I don’t know about you, but I think infantilization is a little over the top, and it doesn’t get credit as a real word. I say if there’s a simpler word out there, you should use it. At least, that’s my personal methodologicalization.

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