Will's word

27th January 2006 at 00:00

teenage; teenager

This modern-sounding word in fact dates from the mid-17th century - but not as far back as Shakespeare. He knew a much older usage, deriving from an Old English word meaning "hurt" or "trouble", and it is this, in an extended group of senses, including "distress" and "suffering", which is found in his plays and poems.

We hear it from the Nurse, when she talks about her (lack of) teeth: "to my teen be it spoken, I have but four" (Romeo and Juliet, I.iii.14); and from Miranda to her father: "To think o'th' teen I have turned you to" (The Tempest, I.ii.64).

And in the poems, Adonis complains to Venus: "My face is full of shame, my heart of teen" (Venus and Adonis, 808). The old usage is so different from the modern one that there is unlikely to be any ambiguity; but the present-day meaning can nonetheless interfere, unless we consciously put it aside. Mind you, when the Duchess of York complains of "each hour's joy wracked with a week of teen" (Richard III, IV.i.96), some parents might not see the difference!

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now