Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for February 7, 2020 is:
infantilize • IN-fun-tye-lyze • verb
1 : to make or keep infantile
2 : to treat as if infantile
“Food manufacturers have been infantilizing us by selling calorie-dense, salty, sweet stuff in brightly colored packages with exciting punctuation for a very long time. And we’re buying it.” — Tamar Haspel, The Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2019
“In China, we like to believe we honor the elderly. We pamper them with gifts of fancy fruit baskets, imported foods and other indulgences. But this shallow perspective on aging infantilizes the elderly and neglects to preserve their dignity.” — Frankie Huang, The New York Times, 7 Dec. 2019
Did you know?
Infantilize is just a baby, relatively speaking. It first saw the light of day in the early 1900s, when social scientists started using the term to discuss the ways in which treating humans as helpless can prolong or encourage their dependency on others. The adjective infantile, which gave birth to infantilize, is far more mature: it dates to the 17th century. Infantile sometimes literally means “relating to infants”—that is, to children in the first year of life—but it also has a broader meaning. If you chide someone for their infantile behavior, you rebuke the person for acting immaturely or childishly.