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What is an appropriate term for a young person (child, or teenager) whose words and actions mimic that of a much older person from a previous generation? Such a youngster would demonstrate strong nostalgia for the past, despite never having lived during that time period.

An example I can think of is a 12 year old boy who observes that "children nowadays spend all their time with their faces glued to smartphones", or who prefers to write letters rather than emails "like it was done in the good old days". This child would never have a Facebook or Twitter account, because they are "silly fads of the 21st century".1

A possible phrase would be mature beyond his years, although that does quite capture the characteristic in question, in particular the underlying contradiction, cynicism and nostalgia.

I can think a perfectly fitting term from another language, but not English...

1The motivation behind this question is an interesting youngster I know who makes these statements!

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Scottish? (joke). It's not precocious, that's different. Really the only way I can think to describe that is "surprisingly XYZ has the outlook of an old-fogey" –  Joe Blow Jul 28 at 14:48
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I think we just call them little adults –  user3306356 Jul 28 at 14:51
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I've always used the phrase, "n going on x". For example, "My daughter is 3 going on 30." –  MegaMark Jul 28 at 15:17
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I don't see how this is a duplicate. One question asks for a word that describes a feeling, and the other question asks for a word that describes a person. –  phenry Jul 29 at 23:25
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@phenry I fully agree. How could the top rated answers wistful and yearning apply to a pre-teen who prefers to ignore modern technology? A wistful child describes someone very different from the OP's description If it were true that this question is a duplicate then why is it that there are no duplicate answers?! –  Mari-Lou A Jul 30 at 12:21

17 Answers 17

up vote 16 down vote accepted

A young person who demonstrates wisdom and maturity beyond their years is often called an old soul. It comes from the belief that some reincarnated souls retain a measure of the wisdom and character developed in previous incarnations. These days, even those who don't share in the actual belief find use for the phrase in normal conversation. I'd be perfectly comfortable referring to the boy you describe with this term.

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Only that the behaviour described in the question is the sign neither of maturity nor wisdom –  Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt Jul 29 at 13:00
    
It's true that the term typically describes advanced maturity and wisdom. However, I still feel it's the best term in this particular scenario because of its origin in the concept of reincarnation. If the original belief is taken for granted, then the term implies that the child literally experienced those things which they now express nostalgia for, providing a practical explanation for their otherwise unusual preference for the old-fashioned. This is why it was the very first thought that came to mind when I read the question. –  talrnu Jul 29 at 18:29
    
With several strong answers to choose from, I find that "old soul" is a good description of the quality in question. –  jesterII Jul 31 at 2:25

Sclerotic: an inability to adapt. For example,

That boy Tim is a sclerotic kid — age 13 going on 65.

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+1 more for "13 going on 65" than sclerotic –  Ollie Ford Jul 28 at 21:48
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I'll take it. Thanks. –  user3847 Jul 29 at 0:20

He sounds like a fuddy-duddy

one that is old-fashioned, unimaginative, or conservative [Merriam-Webster]

The term is not limited to children, but is often applied to someone who seems old beyond their years.

You also might consider fogey

an extremely fussy, old-fashioned, or conservative person (esp in the phrase old fogey) [Collins]

In this case, he's a young fogey.

You also might consider relic

(informal) an old or old-fashioned person or thing [Collins]

And finally, throwback

one that is suggestive of or suited to an earlier time or style: his manners were a throwback to a more polite era [Merriam-Webster]

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The first three are usually applied to people who are actually old, not young people acting old. "Throwback" works in the example sentence given. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 29 at 18:29
    
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner "young fogey" implies exactly that (young person acting old) It was the first phrase that came to my mind on reading the question and scanned down to see if any of the answers already mentioned it. –  Martin Smith Jul 30 at 21:08
    
@MartinSmith: "Young fogey" is not all that common around here. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 30 at 22:11
    
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner I don't know where "round here" is. I've seen this in the British press. –  Martin Smith Jul 30 at 22:17
    
@MartinSmith: Ah, I'm "'round here" in the colonies. ;) It's a phrase I've heard, but certainly not often. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 31 at 2:46

The lad you speak of has an anachronistic perspective.

Anachronistic may seem to be a stretch here, but when you think about it, an anachronistic perspective (attitude, outlook, way of looking at things) is a perspective that is somehow out of order chronologically.

Very often we think of anachronistic thinking as backward-looking, from the perspective of the present, such as the existence today of "colored only" drinking fountains or "colored only" restrooms, which are things of the past. Why couldn't a forward-looking perspective be anachronistic in the sense that it is ahead of its time?

Someone feel free to correct me if I'm off base.

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As I native North American English speaker, I would colloquially refer to the person you described as old-school. Meriam-Webster defines that term as:

old-school

  • typical of an earlier style or form
  • based on a way of doing things that was common in the past
  • using or supporting traditional practices

So for example:

Joey is old-school. He listens to all of his music on vinyl.

You will also often hear the term old soul, but this usually refers more to maturity or emotional outlook than to an individual’s interests in technology or tradition.

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I'd prefer old soul to old school here, in as much as *old school" has connotations of a trendy adoption of a "retro" aesthetic, where this child seems to be deliberately flouting trends. –  Chris Sunami Jul 28 at 17:53

"Born middle-aged" is a phrase I have heard applied to such people (including myself, actually). There are plenty of matches on Google for that phrase. The OED says that "middle-aged" can be used for "resembling a person in middle age", so you can interpret the phrase in that sense.

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My son was like this when younger, and his Scoutmaster remarked once that he appeared to be

working on his Running-for-the-Senate merit badge.

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"Born too late" is a moderately common phrase, as popularized by Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Miniver Cheevy":

... Miniver loved the days of old
    When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
    Would set him dancing.

[...]

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
    Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
    And kept on drinking.

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I would consider this term to be very applicable if one could assume a context. If he is like this because of his own personality, then yes; if he is merely reflecting the opinions of Luddites, then I would think it does not apply. Contextualizing his circumstances is very important for identifying the correct term in this instance. –  K. Alan Bates Jul 29 at 17:39

I'm going to suggest nostalgist. It seems like there is no word that covers both being young and nostalgic, but nostalgist conveys the idea in the context. You can use nostalgic as an adjective also, as in a nostalgic person.

Nostalgist is the noun version of nostalgic but urbandictionary mentions that it is used among young people and includes regional slang terms:

Someone who always believes the items, fads, morals of the past are better than what is comparable today. Someone who fanatically believes that something today can never be as good as the thing of the past.


(noun) One who looks constantly to nostalgia to save the day. This word has been adopted by young culture in cities across the country. Regional slang synonyms include coconut boost and taleggio.


Other than that, it is mentioned as the nostalgia of the young in online articles along with having retrospective characteristic or feelings.

In psychology, there is a phenomenon called reminiscence bump which is the tendency for older adults to remember the past. Scientists also found a term for the nostalgia for a time that you haven't experienced that is seen among young people. It is called cascading reminiscence bump and mostly related to music, which is being nostalgic for music that was being played before you were born.

Here is the article for further read:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cusp/201309/nostalgia-time-you-didnt-know

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I think old-fashioned can well describe the characteristics you are describing:

  • favouring or adopting the dress, manners, fashions, etc, of a former time

  • Scot and Northern English: old for one's age: an old-fashioned child.

Source: Collins English Dictionary

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I would read old-fashioned as a child who resembles the children of the past, rather than as a child who resembles the old people of the present. –  Chris Sunami Jul 28 at 17:48

I would suggest perhaps a cynic, or a cynical 12 year old.

cynic - noun. a person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honourable or unselfish reasons.

While the term cynic in itself doesn't capture 'young person who acts like a jaded old person', in context both mentioning that they're young and that they're cynical gives the impression that they act old and jaded.

Perhaps also jaded would be appropriate.

jaded - adj. bored or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something.

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It's quite curious to learn that if a 12-year-old child shuns Facebook, Twitter, computer games, and is not glued 24/7 to their smart phone then he or she could be classed as being old, cynical, fuddy-duddy, fogey, quaintly old-fashioned or manipulated by antiquarian-minded parents.

I disagree with the above analysis so may I suggest the following, less biased, phrases:

  • He is (at heart) a 20th century boy
  • An out of sync/synch youngster
  • An unconventional teenager
  • An old person trapped in a young body.
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I agree with your sentiment that rejection of those particular services should not immediately garner disdainful or dismissive connotations; however, the world of communications is changed drastically over the last 10 years. When "most" people make a phone call "nowadays" that is not immediately answered, the assumption is that they are being ignored. They assume they are calling someone's pocket. It happens to me all the time when I have my ringer off for privacy or phone off all together to conserve battery. The word I would use to describe this situation is an "Ockham." –  K. Alan Bates Jul 29 at 17:46
    
or "Ockhamite"/"Ockhamist" : One who adheres to and follows Ockham's Razor. –  K. Alan Bates Jul 29 at 18:02
    
Note also that if you are a 12 year old wishing to go into Marketing, Sales, Advertisement, or any myriad of other fields that require communication with people in the modern world, completely dismissing services such as Facebook, Twitter, etc could set you very far behind the 8 ball. If you are a 12 year old seeking a career in software development, avoiding computer games and smartphones all together would do the same....context. –  K. Alan Bates Jul 29 at 18:07
    
@K.AlanBates there are many other careers a twelve-year old boy could be interested in, besides I don't think not having an account with Facebook or twitter, or liking video games will necessarily preclude a future in marketing etc. I quite like the idea of a pre-teen who's into writing letters with a pen and listening to vinyl records, the real dilemma is whether his peers will respect his lifestyle or will he be teased and ridiculed? –  Mari-Lou A Jul 29 at 19:42
    
If you haven't figured out what you want to do by the time you're 12, you'll be late to the game (that's a joke) ...I was merely mentioning valid cases where those services and tasks are not superfluous to one's aims. The mentioning of specific services like Facebook and twitter misses the mark, if eve so slightly. Sure, not using one of those services does no particular harm, but taking an Amish approach to modern technology will put you out of place in the job market; unless you live in Des Moines. They're at least 10 years behind current standards. –  K. Alan Bates Jul 29 at 20:26

In British English, I would call such a person an old fogey.

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No we wouldn't, because he isn't, he's 12. One might however say he is "behaving like an old fogey", but that's not really what OP wants (or would presumably be happy with "behaving like an old cynical person") –  Ollie Ford Jul 28 at 21:50
    
How about a young fogey? –  John Peyton Jul 29 at 19:39

curmudgeon - a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man

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I like @dwjohnston's suggested jaded. Given that the suffix -ette often means "small, young" (c.f. French cadette = younger sister, BrE ladette = loutish young woman), I propose the neologism...

jadette - [prematurely] jaded young person

Since it's not yet in the dictionary, I don't know whether it's pronounced with a long or a short 'a'.

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Maybe, but to me, jaded is mainly about having lost pleasure in things that others enjoy, having experienced them to the point of boredom; whereas the described boy seems to dislike modern things for other reasons than having tried them a lot and become disillusioned. 'Jaded' also seems wholly negative, whereas this boy likes the things of yesteryear. –  LarsH Jul 29 at 1:08
    
@LarsH: Honestly, how is one to speculate on how this poor kid came by his unusual attitudes? OP knows him, but we don't. All we can say for sure is that he's at the very least atypical, and I'd be quite prepared to go so far as abnormal. But I wouldn't have a problem accusing someone of having a "jaded" outlook if they affected boredom with some activity I happen to know they actually have little or no personal experience of. The word reflects a current attitude, not the past history leading up to that attitude. –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 at 1:22
    
I was going by the OP's statement, that the boy "would never have a Facebook or Twitter account," and therefore is inexperienced in such things. M-W's definitions of jaded include "by having done or experienced too much of something" and "by experience or by surfeit." –  LarsH Jul 29 at 5:34
    
@LarsH: You're repeating yourself. Like I said, dictionary definitions notwithstanding, I'm happy to describe someone as "jaded" simply because he says something is boring, even if he personally has never done it, and therefore never been "bored" by it. –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 at 12:14
    
I don't see the repetition. I was appealing to more objective sources than our speculations about what the boy has done, and our differing personal feelings about what "jaded" means. –  LarsH Jul 29 at 13:23

I would call him an oxymoron. In the very nature of the word that is what you have here.

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Pessimist, depressed, or just brain-washed by an elder.

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