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 n.— «“The label ‘rejuvenile,’…isn’t meant to be entirely celebratory, or for that matter pejorative. It’s value-neutral.” Rejuveniles are “a new breed of adult, identified by a determination to remain playful, energetic, and flexible in the face of adult responsibilities.”» —“The play’s the thing” Los Angeles Times July 2, 2006. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  • Pop quiz: what’s a “rejuvenile”?

    a) The brand name for a facial moisturizer filled with the extract of the kwao krua flower that “works on a hormonal level to enforce native feminine power”

    b) a pro cricket team in India

    c) a surgical procedure advertised by Thai sex change doctors

    d) a briefly considered, ultimately rejected name for people who “work toward the possibility of human immortality.”

    e) a person whose tastes or mindsets are traditionally associated with those younger than themselves.

    If you said all of the above, you get a lollipop. “Rejuvenile” says it all.

    As the writer who came up with the last definition in a New York Times story three years ago, I’m partial to (e), of course. But since coining what I thought was an entirely new word three years ago while researching my book of the same name, I’ve come across these other, wonderfully esoteric uses. All hail Google.

    To wit: Rejuvenile Night Cream is sold via online beauty supply shops. It’s produced by a company called Health Herb Products, Thailand and is said to “make skin smooth, tender and shiny.” All of which sounds like one of those wonderful malapropisms common in the Far East – a product of too little ESL and a cheerful stab at English phrasing (a friend recently got back from China where she spotted a sign that read “naughty family veterinary hospital”).

    In that same vein, “rejuvenile” appears in promotional literature for Thai surgical practices that specialize in sex change procedures. Bancock-based Dr. Chettawut Tulayaphanich will perform “facial rejuvenile surgery” to help our trans-gendered friends lift, tuck and stretch their way to more feminine selves. The same sort of curious attempt at Englishness appears to be at work in the name of the Rejuvenile Cricket Club, a pro team whose contests are covered in the Indian newspaper the Daily Excelsior (sadly, they’re not particularly good).

    Then there’s the use of the word by members of the Immortality Institute, an Internet-based organization for those who literally believe they can live forever. I’ve heard tell of a few eccentric, creepily intense folks here in L.A. who’ve gone on starvation diets of nuts and fish oils with the aim of living past 100, but I had no idea that there were people out there who’d gone for the full vampire schtick. In a 2002 forum, members were asked to propose names for “someone who has many years, but has a biological age of a 26 year old. We have ‘young’ and ‘old’ but not a word to describe a healthy, hearty and exuberant 500 year old.” One member proposed, you guessed it, “rejuvenile” – but it quickly was discarded in favor of the phrases “perennials,” “transhumans,” “lifers” and “Generation Eight” (which naturally stands for Enlightened, Infinite, Galactic, Human, Tireless).

    As for my definition, it’s worth repeating that there are many other words to describe the same basic idea, or at least aspects of it. Sociologists talk about “adultescence” to describe the years between adolescence and adulthood. “Kidult” is a popular word in Europe for adults with a fondness for kid culture. Time coined “Twixter,” New York Magazine tried “Grup” and Faith Popcorn proposed “B2B” (for back-to-bedroom).

    So why “rejuvenile”? New words can be reflexively annoying – one blogger made the inevitable comparison between “rejuvenile” and words like “metrosexual” and “bobo,” which he called “endemic marketing speak we love to hate.” But here’s the thing: none of the other words that attempt to describe this phenomenon cover the whole cross-generational scope – rejuveniles include 10-year-olds who veg out to Teletubbies, teenage punks who sport Care Bear T-shirts, twentysomethings who live at home, CEO’s who champion the power of play in the workplace and card-carrying members of the AARP who go on extreme sport excursions. They all share an impulse to cultivate and protect a childlike (and sometimes childish) part of themselves. It’s an actual phenomenon and it deserves its own real word.

    And sorry – “Grup” just sounds like a venereal disease.

Further reading

Coinkydink (episode #1505)

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Spinning Cookies (episode #1618)

A book of photographs and essays by famous writers celebrates libraries — and the librarians who changed their lives. Plus cutting doughnuts, spinning cookies, and pulling brodies: There are lots of ways to talk about spinning a car in circles on...