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The cover story in Time Magazine of 24 January 2005 argued that a shift has taken place in the culture of young people between the ages of about 20 and 28, usually college graduates who are often unmarried and living at home, often with no settled employment. The article wasn’t kind to them, calling them “permanent adolescents” and “twenty-something Peter Pans”, stuck between childhood and the adult world; it also coined twixters for them because they were “betwixt and between”, perhaps modelled on the established terms tweens and tweenies for those a little younger than teenagers. As the article implied, there’s nothing particularly new in identifying this age group as one with special problems: psychologists have in the past coined terms such as kidult, youthhood, adultescent, emerging adulthood, and boomerang kid when writing about it, none of which have been especially successful in linguistic terms. The piece got a lot of attention, including criticism from members of the group, who argued that it was economics, not arrested development, that has led to their situation. It’s too early to say whether twixter stands any greater chance of catching the public imagination than previous creations. Early indications, mainly that few other writers have borrowed it, suggest it isn’t likely to become part of the permanent lexicon.

And what might a twixter be? Those in their middle-to-late-20s experiencing a period of limbo between the college years and the permanence of adulthood (career, marriage, children).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 31 Jan. 2005

In his view, what looks like incessant, hedonistic play is the twixters’ way of trying on jobs and partners and personalities and making sure that when they do settle down, they do it the right way, their way. It’s not that they don’t take adulthood seriously; they take it so seriously, they’re spending years carefully choosing the right path into it.

Time, 24 Jan. 2005

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 12 Feb. 2005

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-twi1.htm
Last modified: 12 February 2005.