A line from a movie: If it’s corny, or if it’s going to ruin your outfit, you don’t have to wear it.
Question: I’d like to know if the word “corny” is common? People use corny to describe something that is silly? old-fashioned? or…
And don’t laugh at me, the word “corny” has nothing to do with corn, right?
The way it’s used in this movie, I think it means sappy, overly sentimental, so that it causes mild embarrassment. Corny could definitely describe something that you think of as silly or old-fashioned, like the corsage that she wears on her wrist.
Adjectives are sometimes hard to explain or translate because they are cultural. I often have difficulty translating Dutch adjectives into English. Can you think of what the right word for ‘corny’ might be in your native language?
What did the gendarme say when his tummy was rumbling?
Stop! You’re under a vest!
I think of a corny joke as one with a really bad and obvious pun. The kind of joke that is only told by kids or your weird relative who laughs at his her their own jokes. The kind of joke that only certain people laugh at. Once the joke is told, the pun is so obvious that, even if it was funny the first time, it’s not funny anymore because everyone already knows the punchline.
A joke can also be called ‘cheesy.’ The joke kind of ‘stinks.’ It becomes worn out so quickly, it’s ‘rotten.’ Like old cheese.
Here is a whole list of corny jokes which may or may not make you laugh. See if you can guess the pun:
I’m not going to try to get into the etymology, but yes, in all probability the words were originally associated with corn or cheese. Ham also comes to mind.
“Corny”… yeah! awesome explanation by brucenator, and I agree with Lily Yang, this word is used to refer to things old fashioned or silly in Spanish we say: “muy usado”/ “muy trillado”/ “Pasado de moda”/“Muy anticuado”/
Cool, Victor. And I understand most of those expressions because they are similar to English. Muy usado. Overused. Pasado de moda. Outmoded. Muy anticuado. Very antiquated. I had to look up trillado because it didn’t immediately ring a bell. Muy trillado. Very trite.
Well, according to various online sources, the word ‘corny’ in the sense hackneyed, mawkish, maudlin, overly sentimental, etc. dates back to the 1920’s or 30’s. One hypothesis is that it comes from “corn jokes,” jokes that were considered to be unsophisticated which were printed in mail-order seed catalogues.
Another source I found, which cited the Oxford English Dictionary, gives the OED’s earliest citation from 1932 as a term used by jazz musicians: “The bounce of the brass section … has degenerated into a definitely corny and staccato style of playing.” The hypothesis here is that it is a shortening of ‘cornfed,’ which describes something that is considered rustic, countrified, old-fashioned, behind the times. Etymology is not always an exact science, but a shortening of ‘cornfed’ seems the most plausible of the two.
In any case, it implies something unsophisticated. I would say that the connection to corn has been lost over time.
It reminds me of the Dutch expression ‘op het nippertje’ which means ‘at the last moment.’ The expression comes from the nipper, which was a naval term, namely during the Age of Sail. The nipper (or nippertje, which is the diminutive form) was the rearmost part of the stern of the ship. If a junior officer had a long wild night on shore and was late returning to the ship, he literally had to jump ‘on the nipper’ to get on board the ship which had already started to sail away. The expression is currently in use, but the original meaning of the word ‘nippertje’ has been lost on most Dutch people today.
Ah, “This short was worn by Columbus” makes more sense to me. It’s really old-fashioned, not necessarily old and worn-out. ‘This shirt was brought here by Columbus’ makes me think it’s old and worn-out. In any case, I like this expression.