Bad Hair Day

Bob Haas highbob at MINDSPRING.COM
Tue Jan 25 15:36:38 UTC 2000

I don't know about that, Lynne.  Why can't it be a day where one is simply
having "bad hair."  And I have heard friends--no doubt pleased with the way
the look on the way to class, or to a fete--state proudly, and with a little
irony, that they were having a good hair day.

Perhaps if there's room for consternation here, it's because all the
elements seem to me to be restrictive in the particular phrase.  No one has
a "hair day."  One's hair might be good or bad on a particular day, but if
so, then one adds that it is a good or a bad hair day.

BTW, you are right about the fact that some folks simply have bad hair.

> From: Lynne Murphy <lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK>
> Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 08:50:32 +0000
> Subject: Re: Bad Hair Day
> It seems really counterintuitive that 'bad hair day' should come from 'bad
> hair'.  As noted elsewhere, it does sound more like (bad (hair day)) than
> ((bad hair) day) in terms of the compound stress, but there's also a big
> semantic gap between the two.  Having 'bad hair' is a condition you're born
> into.  Even if you get it to look like good hair, you know it's still bad
> hair because you had to do drastic things to get it to look like 'good hair.'
> On the other hand, bad hair days are temporary conditions--acts of god, hat,
> or
> those horrid shampoo/conditioner combinations.  I think it's much more likely
> that 'bad hair day' comes from a more general pattern 'good/bad --- day'.
> E.g., I'm having a good e-mail day but a bad train day (they're on strike,
> dammit!).  The stress pattern works the same for these as for 'bad hair day'.
> The hair version seems to have been lexicalized because so many people
> identify with how the status of your hair affects the status of your day in a
> global way.
> I guess the way to test this is to see whether 'good/bad * day' precedes
> 'bad hair day' to a significant degree.  I don't have lexis/nexis access, so
> I can't do much...
> Lynne, who KNOWS bad hair days

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