Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Adulting comes of age

The child in me was excited to see ‘adulting‘ as one of the shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016. Adulting is on the minds–and tongues–of many of my millennial-generation college students.

They explain that it is about assuming adult responsibilities like managing money, showing up at a job, buying food and paying rent, getting health care, and more. Adulting can even be about mundane things events like staying in on the weekend, doing the laundry, filling the car with gas, or charging their phones.

Adulting is different than just “growing up” or even “acting your age.” You can tell an unruly seven-year-old to “grow up” or “act your age” but not to adult. The expression is especially useful because it captures a concept of our time: becoming a new adult in a world with more responsibilities, more and less clear economic opportunity than the last generation enjoyed. The experience of millennials is different from that of their parents, so it’s a concept in need of a word.

And adulting represents long-standing linguistic trend of making verbs and then gerunds out of well-worn nouns. When I first learned about adulting, I asked my students what other nouns they used as verbs. Of course, they text, they friend and unfriend, and they club. Several students volunteered that they library. One athlete said that she gyms. And two students reported that they money. When I asked for examples of the last usage, the students suggested things like “I need to get my car fixed as soon as I can money it” and “I had to money my tuition, so things are going to be tight this month.”

I like these shifts and now I occasionally library, gym, and money things myself. When I use these neologisms, I get some funny looks implying that I need some adulting, but for now I’m just going to oblivious them.

Featured image credit: “Doing laundry”. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

You can learn more about the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016.

Recent Comments

There are currently no comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *