a bad hair day

Nunty

Modified
Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
Does "a bad hair day" mean that someone is upset sort of generally?

I saw it in the middle of a particularly acrimonious "discussion" (fight, actually) on -- of all things -- a theology discussion list. One party to the ad hominem festivities said to the other, "Richard, are you having a bad hair day?"

Thanks, and may your hair always behave itself (?)
 
  • . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    I have always assumed that a bad hair day is a day that starts badly.
    One of the first tasks of the day is to comb or style the hair and if this is done badly the person will feel ill at ease all day.

    .,,
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Ah, Dotcommas, it's a common expression, then? Your explanation makes perfect sense. Thank you, and thanks also to Setwale for casting light on this expression.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Buffy and the vampires may have had their fair share of bad hair days, but they were not the first to do so.

    The OED charts the first recorded instance of the colloquial expression bad hair day to a July 24, 1988 article in the Santa Rosa, California-based newspaper Press Democrat. The citation reads:
    Even those who emerge from the sea to casually braid their shiny wet vines into a thick coil with a hibiscus on the end also have bad-hair days.
    ... the OED lists the second recorded instance of this phrase as being sourced in an Us Weekly magazine article dated January 24, 1991.

    Dining on tacos and sundaes, Gary Shandling revealed he can't live with 'having a bad hair day."
    source
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Wow and I've even been to Santa Rosa, California.

    However, wearing a cap and veil, I can't say I actually have bad hair days... Thank you everyone!
     

    lexicalia

    Member
    American English
    That's funny, I always took "bad hair day" literally, and use it so. For a woman this can be a very real thing. A day where your hair simply will not do what you want it to, or just looks bad no matter what you do with it. I had one the other day.
    But it totally makes sense (and is really funny:p ) figuratively as well, although I can't say I've ever heard it used that way.
     

    Heba

    Senior Member
    Egypt, Arabic
    Oh I thought the expression was merely used to comment on the bad state of someone's hair!

    Can I use the expression only to comment of my friends' hair, excluding the idea that I am commenting on the entire day?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Oh I thought the expression was merely used to comment on the bad state of someone's hair!

    Can I use the expression only to comment of my friends' hair, excluding the idea that I am commenting on the entire day?

    Yes, it can be used this way, although it's good to know about its figurative sense, too, since the person you say it to may take it as a comment on the day.
     

    Erik 182

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Does "a bad hair day" mean that someone is upset sort of generally?

    I saw it in the middle of a particularly acrimonious "discussion" (fight, actually) on -- of all things -- a theology discussion list. One party to the ad hominem festivities said to the other, "Richard, are you having a bad hair day?"

    Thanks, and may your hair always behave itself (?)


    Mxpx has a great song called "bad hair day". If you read it over, you can figure the meaning out easily.
    "would you like an aspirin for your bad hair day". It rules!!! :)

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mxpx/badhairday.html
     

    scotu

    Senior Member
    Chicago English
    Oh I thought the expression was merely used to comment on the bad state of someone's hair!

    Can I use the expression only to comment of my friends' hair, excluding the idea that I am commenting on the entire day?
    If you say "I'm having a bad hair day" I think it means you're having a crappy day.

    If you say "he/she is having a bad hair day" you are probably talking about his/her hair or maybe manner of dress.
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    I would assume, it means "a day when everything goes wrong".
    If you say "I'm having a bad hair day" I think it means you're having a crappy day.
    Just to be sure: can it be used both for a lousy day, and for a day where everything goes wrong? Because one doesn't necessarily imply the other...
    A day where everything goes wrong (fictional story): your car won't start, it starts raining but by the time you reach the subway station the rain has stopped, then someone drops their wine glass on your jacket, and the heel of your favourite pair of boots breaks just when you were trying to reach your car before the traffic warden fines you for parking there all day.
    A crappy day (not so fictional): you start your day by waiting in a line during one hour to get a visa, then you spend your morning organizing details for business trips, then you attend a 4-hour meeting in a room without windows and a poor lighting, then you stand in a line for another half an hour to get train tickets. Nothing went wrong per se, but still...
    Do both days qualify to be called bad hair days?
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    From what I understand so far, if in either case you are very crabby to someone, then they will say you are having a bad hair day. My impression is that is a sarcastic thing that someone will say to someone who is being gratuitously (but still mildly) nasty. I'm not sure it works in the first person.

    By the way, to the "keep it simple, wear a wimple" crowd and those who asked if any nuns have bad days: I don't know about that, but I certainly know a few with bad habits. Full stop.
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    From what I understand so far, if in either case you are very crabby to someone, then they will say you are having a bad hair day. My impression is that is a sarcastic thing that someone will say to someone who is being gratuitously (but still mildly) nasty. I'm not sure it works in the first person.
    But I want to say that I had a bad hair day! :( Can't I? Pleeease?
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    But I want to say that I had a bad hair day! :( Can't I? Pleeease?
    Well, don't rely on me. I'm the one who didn't know what it means in the first place! But maybe if I'm being crabby and my friend asks "What got into you!" I could reply "Sorry, having a bad hair day". But it sounds funny to me.

    On the other hand, Geve, why not!
     

    scotu

    Senior Member
    Chicago English
    But I want to say that I had a bad hair day! :( Can't I? Pleeease?
    Sounds to me like a really gentle way to express the kind of day you had. It would be great if everyone would say "bad hair day" for the two experiences you mentioned instead of some of the stronger language that many of us would be tempted to use.

    saludos, scotu
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I disagree with Jtolj - I think that 9 times out of 10 someone who is described as having a bad hair day has not got poor looking hair that day.

    My impression of the phrase is that sometimes hair has a will of its own. You wake up and whatever you do in front of the mirror you can't make your hair look good - you can't say why it should behave that way this particular day, that's just life. So this has become a symbol of "a day where things just go wrong". Also, by extension, you can describe someone who is crabby as having a bad hair day because you are suggesting that that is why they are crabby.

    So, yes, Gève you can describe yourself as having a bad hair day (you forgot to make your sandwiches, you got to the bus-stop and the bus had just left, you got in late to work and your boss was there waiting for you etc etc) and someone else could describe someone who is in a bad mood as having a bad hair day because they assume that since they are normally friendly things must have gone wrong for them that day.

    That leaves the 1 time in 10 where I agree with Jtolj - if someone's hair looks a mess you could say they are having a bad hair day. The joke is in the fact that hair can't normally be described as "bad" as such so doing so creates a stylistic impression.

    Edit - nun-translator's example where you apologise for being in a bad mood since you are having a bad hair day (eg everything is going wrong) sounds perfectly natural to me.:)
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Would you really use the phrase as a descriptive to a person with messy hair?

    .,,
    I could imagine using it literally, but only in a comparative sense. I know lots of people with messy hair, but I would not describe them as having a bad hair day (maybe a bad hair life?:D). If there was someone who was usually immaculately turned out who one day surpirsingly had messy hair then I could imagine describing them as having a bad hair day.
     

    Jtolj

    Banned
    USA English
    If it does mean something, it is a subjective social concept of which is completely not necessary to learn.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    If it does mean something, it is a subjective social concept of which is completely not necessary to learn.
    Jtolj, I don't think it is for you to decide what other people should or should not find necessary to learn (of).
     

    Jtolj

    Banned
    USA English
    Jtolj, I don't think it is for you to decide what other people should or should not find necessary to learn (of).
    I mean that learning it is more trouble than it is worth because of confusion that could come up. Best only learn the core English phrases and everything else will be learnt contextually as you go about interaction.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I mean that learning it is more trouble than it is worth because of confusion that could come up.
    Ok, sorry I misinterpreted you. But still, I think we can trust nun-translator to use the information she is given here judiciously and decide if someone really means someone's hair looks bad or if they are having a bad day generally.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    You're doing it all wrong. It literally just means that your hair looks poor that day.
    Incorrect. If you denude a language of idiomatic expression, you will not only be left with nothing but dry, literal meanings, you will also have, and inflict, a bad hair day.
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Thank you for the confirmation Scotu and Tim. I had a good hair day today but now I know how to use the phrase when the situation comes up!
    Best only learn the core English phrases [...]
    Personally I don't come here to learn just "the core English phrases". I think every learner wants to feel at ease to interact in the language, and knowing the proper use of idioms is a significant part of the game.
    [...] and everything else will be learnt contextually as you go about interaction.
    This forum is a place where we interact, hence a medium where to learn contextually ;)
     

    stevemcleod

    New Member
    Punjabi - Canada
    Lord know, why old people had created such types of funny idioms, "bad hair day". But good to read this interesting discuss about it.
    Thanks
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Lord know, why old people had created such types of funny idioms, "bad hair day". But good to read this interesting discuss about it.
    Thanks
    Well, it's a funny thread. But in this case I'd have to say: "Dont't believe everything you read on the internet!" :)

    In this specific case I happen to know that the phrase "bad hair day" was coined by Michael J. Fox (or to be exact by his script writers) in the movie "Back to the future" (1985). Watch the movie and you know it was meant literally.
    But it's very interesting to see how such a phrase evolves over time, and how people start to attach a deep, profound, mystical meaning to it -- as if Nostradamus himself had said it.... :D
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In this specific case I happen to know that the phrase "bad hair day" was coined by Michael J. Fox (or to be exact by his script writers) in the movie "Back to the future" (1985).
    Interesting you should say that. The phrase is not in the script - the fourth revision (October 1984) is available as an online pdf, and there are several sites carrying other drafts and transcripts.
    A search of Google Books finds this text
    "He's scholarly, but not very predictable on what he might do on a matter." "He is very bright and cerebral." Lawyers interviewed said Korman has good demeanor. "With the exception of an occasional bad hair day, he's very pleasant, courteous ...
    It is identified as being found in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary: Profiles and evaluations of all judges of the United States District Courts, published by Aspen Lawn & Business in 1984. Unfortunately, the text cannot be checked online.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    My statement is purely based on memory -- and it's been a few days since 1985.
    And yet, my mind shows me an actual image of M.J. Fox saying this phrase. So now I'm only 99.653% certain that I'm right, because I know that the mind can play tricks on you.
    I have the DVD and I'll have to watch it again for definitive proof. But even without watching it, I'm certain that the phrase was uttered by M.J. Fox in one of his popular movies in that time frame, because i clearly remember a short TV documentary from the early nineties on him and this specific phrase "bad hair day" and how such an innocent and practically meaningless phrase can turn into a global phenomenon (as it apparently did for a while).
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top