Have a nice life!

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Paulfromitaly, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    Hello,

    In this thread in the English-Italian forum ( Have a nice life ) a native English speaker from Canada says that "Have a nice life" is a way to wish someone well, whereas a native English speaker from Australia doesn't seem to quite agree with her, arguing that it means you don't want to see the other person ever again.

    What does it mean to you?
    Does this phrase have different meanings in different countries?

    Thank you
     
  2. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    On the surface it sounds polite like Have a nice day, but I would tend to think it is over the top and thus either a stupid or even rude thing to say. That puts me in the camp with the Aussie.
     
  3. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    In my experience, it's another way of saying good-bye (and hope never to see you again). It's not at all like "Have a nice day," which is positive.

    Have a nice life can be said in a variety of ways: sarcastic, wistful, sad, generous -- but it means we won't be seeing each other again.
     
  4. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    Especially if it is said with a slightly sneery tone!

    To be honest it has taken me ages to accept "have a nice day" as a genuinely polite phrase!
     
  5. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    I have a hard time imagining someone saying this in a nice/cheerful manner. It could perhaps be sad as Copyright says, but I imagine the sarcastic use is predominant.
     
  6. <<...>>


    On a visit to Vermont last year we befriended a very nice waitress at a Perkins restaurant. On our last day, when we knew we would never meet again, I said, 'It's been lovely to meet you, Jenny. Have a nice rest of your life.' She smiled, kissed me and said 'You, too.'

    Rover
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2011
  7. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    You dog, you. :) I think the "rest of your" insertion can change the meaning substantially. And then there's the context, of course.
     
  8. Enigmista

    Enigmista Senior Member

    Italiano
    Yes I think "Have a nice rest of your life" is very elegant
    <<...>>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2011
  9. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I can't imagine it having any other interpretation other than being sarcastic or caustic. Under what circumstances would one say this sincerely? Presumably to someone that one isn't expecting to see ever again (a stranger one met on a train perhaps), but I'm sure there are more appropriate things—and things a lot less open to misinterpretation—to say in those circumstances. Perhaps this is a set phrase in some regions, where its intention is understood to be sincere, but it isn't in the UK, and I'd strongly advise anyone not to use it here.

    I agree with Gwan that it does not matter how you say this; no tone of speech can take away the suggestion of sarcasm for me.
     
  10. aes_uk Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Yes, I agree with this.

    Personally, I think "have a nice life" is nearly always said in a sarcastic manner, and the person saying it does not wish to the other person ever again.

    However, in the American series "Gossip Girl", I have heard "have a nice life" used in a nicer context; Dan tells Serena he cannot see her again and she looks upset and says "Well, have a nice life, Dan." Although she is upset, she genuinely wants him to have a nice life.
     
  11. aes_uk Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Yes, if you actually did want the person to have a nice life, I agree with Gwan that "all the best for the future" sounds far less sarcastic and far more genuine.
     
  12. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I think it's the "nice" that makes it seem sarcastic, as with "Nice job!" While I do think you can say "Have a nice life" (without the exclamation mark) and mean it sincerely -- in very limited circumstances -- you would be better off in most cases with "I hope you have a great life" or something similar. Obviously, the "I hope you" in the beginning adds to the sincerity: "Have a great life!" would be just as bad as "Have a nice life!" in most cases.
     
  13. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    Thank you.
    In the light of your comments it seems to be rather unlikely that Canadian people use this expression to wish someone well :)
     
  14. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Hmmm .... I don't think "I hope you have a great life" woud go down very well here. I don't think I've ever heard it from the mouth of a compatriot.
     
  15. aes_uk Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I wouldn't interpret it in a rude way, though I think it depends very much on the tone in which it's said. It has the potential to be rude but it could also be genuine.
     
  16. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I was saying that you could say this as a farewell greeting to someone if you needed a "Have a nice life" substitute -- it wasn't intended as a stand-in for "How's it goin'?" :)
     
  17. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Thanks for the clarification, Copyright, but as it happens I understood you correctly in the first place, so I stand by my comments at post 17.
     
  18. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    Well, then ... Have a nice life! :D:D:D
     
  19. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Yeah, right ... You too, mate! :D:D:D
     
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    << Moderator note.
    The topic of the thread is a specific expression - Have a nice life - and its possible variations in meaning.
    Posts that do not refer to the thread topic will be deleted.
    Some have moved to
    What about have a nice continuation? >>
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2011
  21. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    I've never heard Have a nice life! used to mean anything more polite than Eat shit and die! (pardon me French).
     
  22. Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    And how. Congrats on your French.

    Of course if it was said by somebody who was clearly a non - native speaker I wouldn't take it amiss.



    :D:D:D Hermione
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2011
  23. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    I agree wholeheartedly with Copyright here. Sure, you can mean it sarcastically. If a guy breaks up with you and you hate his lying guts, you might say it with that intention instead of smashing your fist in his nose.

    But it's also possible and believable that if you parted in a kind, loving way, and you know it was the right thing for both of you, you might tell him to have a nice life very sincerely, sad that it hadn't lasted; wistful that some day you'll both find happiness elsewhere.

    It's also goodbye. The end.
     
  24. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Jerusalem
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I think that if I meant it sincerely and not sarcastically, I would say something like "I hope you have a nice life" (though I would probably use a stronger word than "nice"). I can't imagine the shortened form being anything but sarcastic or sardonic.
     
  25. ciao-bella Senior Member

    English - United States
    You absolutely, positively never say "have a nice life" or "I hope you have a nice life" or "I wish you a nice life" or anything else based around "nice life" as a cheery farewell anywhere in America or, I suspect, the rest of the English speaking world.

    For purposes of the question posed in this thread, in actual usage, in just about every situation imaginable, "have a nice life" is used as a sarcastic way to tell someone the same thing as: "go to hell." The other variations are either just extra layered with sarcasm or start to mix signals.

    Depending on the context, "have a nice life" might be at best an extremely melancholy way of saying goodbye. But you would have to try very hard to make it sound genuine and overcome the sarcastic undertones, and you would be better of just saying something else so you weren't potentially misunderstood to be mocking them. Posts here trying to say otherwise are playing devil's advocate to argue for a hypothetical situation that certainly could conceivably exist and in which it might barely sound appropriate to say if you were 100% sure the person knew you were being genuine, but the general reality is you just don't use it in a nice way.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013

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