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On Minors and Responsibility

Image by Munkh-Erdene Eenee on Unsplash

This post started with a word trail. I was looking at the roots of the words miner and minor because I thought a miner works underground, and a minor is underage; there’s gotta be something there. It turns out that the word miner comes from the French mine (like mineral). In contrast, the word minor comes from the root *mei- which means small. 

But this got me thinking about the young people in the house. I’ve talked before about them being “my kids” and how I don’t like using that phrase, even though it would make my life so much easier. But I was talking about the implications of possessiveness. Lately, I’ve been struggling with the term kids or children. They are thirteen and fourteen years old now. They are barely children, and they certainly are not kids anymore. But they are still minors.

A hundred years ago, these minors would have been either working full-time, married, or (probably) both. Heck, my uncle quit school at fourteen and went to work at my grandfather’s mechanic shop. But today, we understand that they are still children, young and require protection. 

Well, that depends on who you ask. The legal age of adulthood in the UK is eighteen. You can vote after you turn 18 in England or 16 in Scotland and Wales, which is, interestingly, the same age you can join the UK armed forces (not counting cadets). In England, you can leave school the year you turn 16, but there are rules about what you can and can’t do until you’re 18. But here’s the kicker. The age of criminal responsibility in England is ten years old. Yes, you read that right. In Scotland, they recently upped it to twelve. 

So there’s a gap of at least four years and up to eight, where you can be responsible for committing a crime, but you can’t be responsible for deciding who you want the next prime minister to be. Which, fine, it’s much easier to commit a crime than to make a considerate, fully informed decision about the fate of the country. And that is what the adults do on election day.

The excellent root of *mei- gave us several words. Among them is our word of the day, minor. Other words from the same root are “minority” (a small group within a larger population) and “to diminish” (to make smaller). And I wonder if there’s a way in which we can stop diminishing our young people, making minors out of them. 

So, kids and children are terms that are off the table. The word teenagers is super awkward (try shouting, “Teenagers, dinner is ready!” up the stairs). I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have a good word for this in-between age. I started calling them offsprings, which makes me chuckle every time because it’s intentionally awkward. Maybe it’ll catch. 

13 views2 comments


Jun 25

I agree this teen age is an age when the child spreads the wings and makes their way in the world!


Jun 25

One of my daughters is 13 and, personally, I like, "Hey Punk! Dinner's ready" Okay, I do occasionally call her, "Punk", but she knows I'm not serious. I don't assume she knows, my wife and I talk to her about stuff like that. Open communication, especially with those one cares about, is one of the most important things we work hard to teach our kids that we were largely not taught by our parents. Our parents generation was taught to keep anything that might cause offense or conflict to themselves


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