bad-hair day OR bad hair-day?

David Bowie db.list at BYU.EDU
Tue Jan 25 17:31:48 UTC 2000

From: <RonButters at AOL.COM>

: Interesting, 'cause the pronunciation is always "bad HAIR day" (cf. "light
: HOUSE keeping" = "light housekeeping") and never "BAD hair day" (cf.
: house keeping" = "lighthouse keeping"). Compare also "bad MAN hunt"
: ( = "bad manhunt," i.e., an unsuccessful manhunt) vs. "BAD man hunt"
: ( = "bad-man hunt," i.e., a hunt for a bad man).

It's probably blasphemy for a linguist to say that sometimes a stress
pattern is just a stress pattern, but i really have to wonder if this whole
bad-hair day vs. bad hair-day thing might not be an example of
*over*analysis as opposed to analysis.

For my part, i don't know that i've noticed anything other than a flat
stress pattern in people's use of the term--i.e., no extra stress on either
'bad' or 'hair'. (I'll have to pay more attention when i hear the term next,
though.) In any event, it's worth noting that i don't *ever* recall someone
talking about having a (unmodified) 'hair day', but i have heard people
talking about having 'bad hair' or 'good hair' without a time following it.
(I *have* heard someone say that she was having a 'bad hair year', though.)

David Bowie                                       Department of English
Assistant Professor                            Brigham Young University
db.list at    
   The opinions stated here are not necessarily those of my employer

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