Is the use of the expression "past-dweller" correct in the phrases below:

Please, don't take me for a past-dweller. Some of today's songs are great, and I like them, but none of them are as good as the ones we had in the sixties and seventies.


Your days of fame and glory are gone. You must stop being a past-dweller, get yourself a real job, and start living life as an ordinary person, just like everybody else in the family.

Is this expression commonly used in English?
Are there any alternatives that would sound more colloquial?


I don't think I've ever seen the hyphenated "past-dweller" before, so I would have to answer your question of usage by saying it is not common. However, it is immediately obvious to a native speaker that it must mean one who dwells in the past, just as a "pond-dweller" would be a creature that dwells or lives in a pond. "Dwelling (or living) in the past" is a common phrase which means having old-fashioned or outdated ideas and attitudes, so while the term "past-dweller" isn't commonly used it is directly alluding to a common expression.

English allows for creativity in the use of both hyphenated and compound words. It is quite common for a product name to be created as a compound word and it should be easily understood by native speakers that it does what its name implies. For example, it seems obvious that a "dustbuster" gets rid of dust.

There are lots of synonyms to describe a thing which is "old fashioned", such as "antiquated", "outmoded" etc. The words I can think of to describe a person who is stuck in the past vary in meaning:

  • Traditionalist - an advocate of maintaining tradition, especially so as to resist change
  • Nostalgic - Someone who enjoys things from the past, not necessarily someone who resists them
  • Luddite - someone who actively refuses to embrace new technologies
  • Anachronistic - Someone or something that belongs to an earlier time period
  • Fuddy Duddy - a person who is very old-fashioned and pompous.

If any of these, "nostalgic" could replace the term "past-dweller" in your sentence and is probably the most widely used, but it would not necessarily carry the same meaning.

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  • Hi, thanks a lot for all the explanations and alternatives you provided. I saw this expression in the movie "Everybody wants to be Italian" where there is the following dialog: You're a past-dweller / Fine, if holding into memories makes me a past-dweller, then I'm a past-dweller. Once again, thanks for your help. – Itamar Jun 27 '19 at 19:49

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