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Lately I've been searching for a current slang term, used in the US, describing people who live in a fantasy land, or prefer to live in a bubble.

After googling quite a lot, I realized that it's quite hard to search for this kind of thing, as slang is constantly changing and what may have been an excellent fit a year ago is long outdated today.

Any suggestions?

For clarification — The context should be somewhat cynical. The assumption is that living in fantasy is, of course, not recommended. You can think of it as a cynical slogan saying: "Not recommended for people who want to live in fantasy land".

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15 Answers 15

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Consider space cadet:

  1. (slang, derogatory) One who deals with reality in a way consistent with being under the influence of (or "spaced out on") drugs.
  2. (slang, derogatory) One who forgets, daydreams, or otherwise is distracted from reality more often than most.

Ngrams for space cadet shows its use increasing steadily between 1970 and 2004, since which use has flattened out.

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  • spacy seems to be related; maybe also airhead. Jun 7, 2014 at 20:26
  • Since I can't think of a noun denoting a person who is in la-la land (the other term that instantly came to mind), I'm backing space cadet. Plenty of other terms apply, but they either aren't the right kind of noun or are awfully ephemeral. Oddly, the earliest reference to Space Cadet I can recall is as the title of a Robert Heinlein sci-fi novel for young adults, referring in all earnestness to a student in training for a career in space--written long before astronauts and cosmonauts before them made it out of the atmosphere. Jun 10, 2014 at 23:05
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La la land: Not very current but very apt:

A place renowned for its frivolous activity; a state of mind characterized by unrealistic expectations or a lack of seriousness.

It first was used, I think, for the fantasy life in Los Angeles (where Hollywood is) but generalized to an attitude.

I'm not sure, but I think I saw her flip me off in my rearview mirror — ah, the ties between the famous and the obscure that bind the fabric of our lives in La-la land.

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I rather like (living) on a different planet.

(At least, that's what my wife says.)

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If you want a single word to describe this then the word you're after, only slightly hampered by the fact that it's a very obscure word and almost no one will understand it, is nephelococcygian.

It derives from Aristophanes' naming cloud-cuckoo land Nephelococcygia.

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  • Surely I adopt this word. Nice to learn that coccyx is firstly cuckoo. Jun 8, 2014 at 18:26
  • 'only slightly hampered by the fact that it's a very obscure word and almost no one will understand it' is worryingly descriptive of many other suggestions on ELU. Feb 23, 2015 at 10:46
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have one's head in the clouds is a current expression, and live in cloud-cuckoo land (or cloudland) a less common, yet very up to date one at the time with D-Day Anniversary.

have one's head in the clouds: to not know what is happening around you because you are paying too much attention to your own ideas

live in cloud-cuckoo land, or cloudland: to believe that things you want will happen, when they are actually impossible

starry-eyed

starry-eyed: having hopes and desires that are not realistic or practical

out in left field

out in left field: out of contact with reality; out of touch

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    I never heard cloud-cuckoo land. Is it common? Maybe I'm not up on my slang. :-) It wouldn't be the first time. Jun 7, 2014 at 15:18
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    @medica: 'Cloud-cuckoo land' sounds very old-fashioned to me, like from some WWII movie.
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2014 at 16:14
  • @Mitch It's D-Say Anniversary, Mitch. Time for WW2 phrase revival! ;-)
    – Elian
    Jun 7, 2014 at 16:29
  • @Elian Fubar? Battle fatigue? "We had to destroy the town to save it"?
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2014 at 16:31
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    @medica et al, “Cloud-cuckoo land” is a phrase from translations of Aristophanes' The Birds, 414 BC: “Pisthetaerus and Euelpides ... name the city-in-the-sky Νεφελοκοκκυγία (Cloudcuckooland) ...” Jun 8, 2014 at 14:30
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I would say that the person is a wishful thinker.

And something somewhat negative to say about them is that they are "off in never never land".

  • an unreal, imaginary, or ideal state, condition, place, etc.

And not creative but probably the most used is "you are living in your own world."

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There was a 1960s word for such people: flower children.

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    It may or may not be a reasonable description of what many of them were like, but it's not what 'flower children' actually meant
    – peterG
    Jun 8, 2014 at 13:39
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dreamer

noun

  1. a person who dreams.
  2. a person who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic.
  3. a person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; visionary.

idealist

a visionary or impractical person.

fantasizer

to conceive fanciful or extravagant notions, ideas, suppositions, or the like (often followed by about ): to fantasize about the ideal job.

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  • “Day-dreamer” — proposed by @Suhrud — is even better. Jun 8, 2014 at 12:50
  • 3 different answers in one answer, I am supporting Dreamer.
    – James
    Jun 8, 2014 at 15:42
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You can consider make-believe also. As in, living in a world of make-believe.

things that are imagined or pretended to be true or real

He has been living in a world of make-believe. [=he has been believing things that are not true; he has been living in a fantasy world]

It has a current usage also. (See: Google Ngram result)

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You could describe such a person as "a Walter Mitty character" or Mittyesque.

The phrase comes from the James Thurber story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which was written in 1939 and made into a movie in 1947, but it is current insofar as the movie was remade in 2013.

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Perhaps daydreamer is what you are looking for?

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Almost a full day before I see this thread.
I can't believe nobody mentioned Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses.

The idiom is a bit more tied to being overly optimistic than really living on another planet than the rest of us, but depending on context it could be appropriate.

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You could say that the person is spaced out.

adjective Slang.

2) dreamily or eerily out of touch with reality or seemingly so; spacey.

Another alternative:

That person is in his own world / dream world

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Nowadays, the lotus eaters - drink the Kool-Aid.

refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination.

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What about 'Away with the fairies'? Probably Irish in origin but a good term for someone who seems to have only a sporadic relationship with reality.

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