bad-hair day OR bad hair-day?

David Bowie db.list at BYU.EDU
Wed Jan 26 16:52:55 UTC 2000

From: <RonButters at AOL.COM>

: This makes good sense to me. It is clear from this seemingly endless
: that a minority of people think of "bad hair" as a genuine compound and a
: majority see  "hair day" as just a noun preceded by a noun adjunct. Since
: the semantic consequences are virtually identical, there are rarely if
: any envronments in which the competing analyses would come into conflict
: (the way that, say "good-time man" and "good time-man" could).

Well, i'm not sure that i agree with what you characterize as the minority
and majority readings, but like you say, it's not really an important issue.
What is semi-important, though, is in the following:

: All I have been suggesting all along is that stress patterns tend to
: indicate how people parse such constructions. Take, for example, "good
: man". To indicate "good-time man," people tend to say (1 = primary stress,
: etc.) "1good 2time 3man" or "2good 2time 1man." To indicate "good
: people tend to say "3good 1time 2man". I have never heard anything but
: "3good 1hair 2day", which suggest to me that most people parse it "bad
: hair-day" and not "bad-hair day". Of course, stress in English is
: enormously complex--and varies dialectally.

What about what i said earlier is the way i've tended to hear 'bad hair
day'--'2bad 2hair 2day'? Would we have to say that, given such a stress
assignment, there's no grouping at all?

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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