Monday, 30 June 2014

Why Do We Say Things are 'Corny'?

A corny photo by G.Pozzi


Adjective. Late Middle English.
[from CORN noun.]

1 Of beer: tasting strongly of malt. Long obsolete excluding dialect. LME

2 Of or pertaining to corn. L16

3 Producing corn; having much corn, as a crop or as grains. L16

4 Drunk, intoxicated. Compare with CORNED adj. dialectical. E19

5 Rustic, unsophisticated;
ridiculously or tiresomely old-fashioned or sentimental;
trite. colloquial. M20

corniness noun (colloquial) the quality of being corny (sense 5). M20

Why corn? I mean, specifically, why are we singling out this one cereal crop and attaching it in a pejorative adjective to things we consider banal, trite, and mawkishly sentimental? When we decry corny jokes, corny chat-up lines and corny films, why are we dragging maize of all things into the fray of our subjective assertions? And corniness is subjective, of course. A man going down on one knee to propose is the ultimate romantic gesture for some, yet chaff-chompingly corny for others. And then there are Facebook pages. Y'know the type:

"My husband is the love of my life and the life of my love. Please share if you agree."

Yes, that type. For some, they're sweetness and beauty and ... no, hang on ... this isn't subjective. This is the very essence of corn! This is concentrated corn, in all its (un)refined, ultra-processed gloop. Why, oh why ... oh why!? ... do thousands upon thousands upon thousands share this tat? If you really do love your husband, or wife, sister, cat, gerbil, goldfish, whatever, why not just tell them? Here's an idea: Why not get your face off Facebook, rub your bleary eyes, and actually have a go at forming an original thought for once? And anyway, is your beloved so cravenly fawning, so subserviently supine, as to be taken by such effortlessly unoriginal displays of affection? Does clicking share on Facebook really serve to validate the oh so deep love that you somehow can't bring yourself to express in your own words?

Umm ... where were we? Oh yes - why corn? Sorry. I must have needed to get that off my chest. The origin is 1930s American slang, in which corny ('of corn' or 'full of corn') meant 'appealing to country folk', country folk being, of course, rustic, unsophisticated and old-fashioned in the minds of many. It's easy to see how this meaning took hold - one can just imagine a bevy of country bumpkins arriving in New York fresh from the cornfields, attempting to impress these urbane socialites with their combine harvester jokes and root beer gags. Poor chaps. Would they be able to do anything that wasn't immediately decried as corny? Still, I bet they wouldn't have liked and shared stupid 'inspirational' Facebook pages. I mean, seriously! Is there anything more maddenly mawkish? More infuriatingly inane? Why are you sharing this tripe with us? Leave us out of it! We don't care! Oh for ...  

An inspiration Facebook photo: "Life is better with your best friend; that's why I married mine."
Please share if you've never expressed an original thought in your entire life

What do you find to be unbearably corny?

Conversely, does corniness rock your combine?

Do please leave your most amaizing comments in the box below.


  1. Well ~ I can't help being sophisticated most of the time ~ but boy, does it ever feel good to indulge in your corny side once in a while, by listening to 'schmalzy' songs ... or crying over a sad love-story. It's all about balance, isn't it ;o)

    p.s. your definition is superb, but contains so many words unknown to me, that I now have to reach for my (beloved) dictionary, to educate myself even further.

    regards ... with thanks for the incredible work you share,

    1. There's a fine balance between corniness and brilliance, or ironic corniness, or post-ironic corniness, or metaphysical corniness ... or ...

      Hmm. I think the faster I gallop on my high high horse, the longer the words I use become. How pretentiously corny!

  2. The pressure of sharing an original ;) - can't think of a single original idea I've ever had so no shared brilliance around from me ahahah

    I enjoyed discovering the origins of the word. And I agree with you that the so called corny people were probably the last to share corniness around but once it sticks...

    Corny, above any other feeling, embarrasses me. And pains me, as I always feel a bit bullied when people share these must-share. I feel rotten for not sharing what a friend tells me to share but I know I will, definitely, feel worse if I do, because most of the times I don't get the point. For example, when they post:

    "My husband is the love of my life and the life of my love. Please share if you agree."

    If I share - heavens forbid ;) - I'm saying I agree her husband is the love her life, or that I agree with the thought but regarding mine?! I'm not good in dealing with this ahahahah

    I once came up with a poem by a Portuguese Poet - Agustina Bessa-Luís - to explain to a friend why I wouldn't share her must-share or perish ;). It's called "The Best Proof of a Real Friendship". She unfriended me ;)... Corny people were less touchy when they "got" the name, I think.

    1. Ha! That's awful, Teresa (so I don't mean to laugh). You were unfriended on FB for not sharing something? Eek. The things people value, eh?

      Tsk, tsk.