workaday -- only before a noun?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Couch Tomato, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    In “The Maternal Capacitance,” when they acknowledge that they feel very comfortable around each other, Sheldon remarks, “It’s surprising because I generally don’t feel comfortable around—well, anyone.” Beverly concurs, “Nor I.” Intrigued, Sheldon asks, “What are the odds that two unique individuals as unique as ourselves would be connected by someone as comparatively workaday as your son?”
    (The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Aristotle, Locke – Edited by Dean A. Kowalski)

    I've always thought that 'workaday' is used before a noun only, as this dictionary entry points out:

    work‧a‧day / ˈwɜːkədeɪ $ ˈwɜːr- / adjective [ only before noun ]
    ordinary and not interesting SYN everyday : He promised to tackle the workaday matters affecting people’s daily lives.
    (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)

    But in the example I quoted it does not seem to be used before a noun. Is the dictionary entry wrong?

    Thank you in advance.
  2. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    Adjectives do not have to be followed by nouns. That would be rather pedestrian. :)
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    It is certainly predominantly attributive (used with a noun), but not absolutely so. The British National Corpus has 41 attributive uses and two predicative, but these are in novels by Melvyn Bragg and Julian Barnes:

    Burkett's daughter sat on the stallion like a lady in a tapestry and he felt his body move out to join hers; he ought to marry someone like her — handsome, workaday, submissive, as sensual as a sunny woodland; perhaps he would ask her. [The Maid of Buttermere]

    Religion has become either wimpishly workaday, or terminally crazy, or merely businesslike — confusing spirituality with charitable donations. [A History of the World in 10½ Chapters]
  4. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    It's an adjective, so it's treated like any other adjective - say, green.

    Followed by a noun: "I see the green box."

    Not followed by a noun: "The box is green."
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    True attributive-only adjectives tend to have a more or less grammatical function - mere, main, utter - rather than being semantically distinctive.* So although workaday is in common practice always used with a noun, it's not the kind that sounds wrong (the way mere or main would) when used in a predicate, so a novelist could be adventurous with it.

    * It would help if I had a complete list of them, of course.
  6. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    Thank you, Copyright, Egmont and entangledbank.

Share This Page