the meaning of "hair day"

Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Wed Feb 9 18:42:39 UTC 2000

RonButters at AOL.COM writes:

In a message dated 2/1/2000 11:01:35 AM, Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM writes:

<< I can't make any sense at all out of "hair day" >>

     Well, yes you can (if you are a native speaker of English and given the
right context)--you just haven't thought it through. That is to say, ANY two
adjunctive nouns are subject to interpretation according to normal principles
of English syntax and semantics. Suppose, for example, that you hear someone
say, "August 1 was a memorable hair day for me." Wouldn't one be most likely
to interpret this as meaning 'August 1 was a memorable day with respect to
hair'? If you read in a novel, "August 1 was an important hair day for
Toby--it was the day he decided to shave his head', wouldn't it be impossible
to parse this ((important hair) day)?

Those of us who concluded that "bad hair day" meant ((bad hair) day) simply
followed this general sense of "hair day." The other pattern occurred to you
and many other people (especially those for whom "bad hair" already had a
special meaning).

Well, OK, but not exactly. We're not talking now about "hair day", but about
"Adj hair day". "Hair day" in isolation is still meaningless to me, and you
haven't offered any examples of it.

In this respect it's rather like "do". Does "do" mean anything like 'succeed'?
Hardly!... unless you use it with an adverb, as in
     How did I do on the test?
     You did just fine.
     How're ya doin'?

And that's how I was thinking when I wrote the line you quote above. Yes, in the
contexts you provide I can make sense of it, but it's still meaningful only when
modified: a day that is Adj with respect to hair. I'm not comfortable with
saying this is a *sense* of "hair day".

   Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist and Manager of Acoustic Data
         Mark_Mandel at : Dragon Systems, Inc.
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :
                     (speaking for myself)

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