I asked somebody a question, and they said it's stupid(in a friendly manner I hope) and then replied that :"It smacks of the Juvenile"

What does this mean?


It means that it has a juvenile (in the sense of "childish") character. Juvenile can have a neutral connotation (it could refer a "juvenile animal" or "juvenile education"), but in this case the connotation is definitely negative (similar to puerile). (Although it may be being used in a playful fashion in this instance.) Juvenile in this case is a "nominalized adjective", meaning an adjective used to refer to the class that shares the characteristics the adjective describes: "the rich" or "the homeless".

In this case, smacks of means "is suggestive of", this figurative use deriving from smack's meaning of "to taste".

I should note that this is a somewhat common phrase (if a touch old fashioned), but it is not idiomatic. Juvenile can be used as a negative adjective in any context. To smack of could theoretically be used to describe any one thing as resembling or sharing characteristics with something else, but it is typically used in an at least mildly negative, or condescending, sense (at least in modern usage).

  • Thank you for detailed reply. I haven't heard of "Smacks of..." before. Is it common among native americans to be used? (I live in DC.) – doubleE Mar 4 '15 at 1:05
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    @Arash I think it is a phrase that any native speaker would understand immediately. I do think it is fairly common (in the figurative sense, not in the literal "taste" sense, which is valid, but very much out of fashion), when appropriate; I'd be interested in whether others agree (southern US speaker here). IMO, it always carries a sense of opinion, following from its origins in taste, which is subjective and personal. It also weakens the opinion; your example is less harsh than saying "It is juvenile." – Matthew W Mar 4 '15 at 19:41

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