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I'm looking for a word to describe my son. Basically, he sucks in virtually everything around him - music, books, adult conversations, etc - and adds that to his mental image(s) of how the world works.

It's something like absorptive, but that does not feel active enough. Thoughts?

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Can someone explain why the downvote? – aronchick Dec 16 '11 at 1:40
"Input! More input!", "MAJOR INPUT!" – Hugo Dec 16 '11 at 10:05
up vote 3 down vote accepted

To describe someone who, for instance, can't get her hands on enough books to read, we often use the adjective insatiable (as in insatiable reader).

You might describe your son the same way, either as just insatiable or as an insatiable learner.

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+1 and welcome to 10k! – Hugo Dec 16 '11 at 10:08
Thanks, @Hugo! From what I understand, it's an elite club. :) – onomatomaniak Dec 16 '11 at 10:58
insatiable is quite nice... i don't know why i didn't think about that – aronchick Dec 16 '11 at 21:07

You might call him voracious about observation and learning.

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+1 Though I have come across voracious used mostly in relation to reading. – Kris Dec 16 '11 at 10:01
I've heard people say "He's in his 'voracious' phase" (as opposed to his sullen, withdrawn, insular phase) of their teenage son. I don't recall anyone ever making this distinction about their daughter's fluctuating behaviour. – FumbleFingers Dec 17 '11 at 0:33

While not a single word, the expression mind like a sponge is often used to describe that concept.

Synonyms: quick mind, ready grasp, receptivity, quick study

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Close, but still too passive. Almost more like a bacteria, reaching out and grasping everything around him, growing as a result. – aronchick Dec 16 '11 at 1:17

I've heard the word consumes used to describe this behavior.

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This is much closer - Adjective based on this? – aronchick Dec 16 '11 at 1:39
consumptive, but who wants to say that. – ThinkingStiff Dec 16 '11 at 2:27
@ThinkingStiff: consumptive genius is a surprisingly common conjunction. – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '11 at 3:45

I would call your son perceptive, but attentive and intelligent could also be fitting. He could also be said to have an inquiring mind.

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You could say he's receptive - able or quick to receive knowledge, ideas, etc.: a receptive mind.

If he's exceptionally so, maybe hyper-receptive (hyphenated or not). But this can have negative connotations, particularly in medical contexts.

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Here is the definition of absorb that I have in mind:

: to take in and make part of an existent whole

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Assimilative might be a good word. It means capable of mentally absorbing something. So there is a component of taking it all in, but also fitting new information into your other experiences or world view.

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Black hole, may it acquire positive connotations, and why not? With a hyphen, if you please, to distinguish from the heavenly non-phenomenon.

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I personally consider them awesome and deserving great respect. – Kris Dec 16 '11 at 7:00
My son is [like] a black hole? You must have some pretty weird neighbours if you can say that without them assuming you mean he's a bottomless pit – FumbleFingers Dec 17 '11 at 0:26
@FumbleFingers "may it acquire positive connotations, and why not?" Those with a fascination for the astronomical do not look down upon anything! – Kris Dec 17 '11 at 4:37
I too think black holes are fascinating, but putting aside Hawking radiation for the moment, to all intents and purposes what goes in to a black hole never comes out. Seems more like what happens to the contents of my wallet when my son gets too close, rather than a suitable metaphor for his acquisition of knowledge. – FumbleFingers Dec 17 '11 at 14:14
What about infovorous, like carnivorous, but there is no such thing, right? – kiraz Feb 29 '12 at 7:33

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