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As a non-native speaker, I already get used to the word enough in expressions like those below, but I sometimes still got confused of it. It makes me wonder what it actually means and where does it come from.

There are two different groups in which it confuses me. Actually, the first group contains only one expression, that is fair enough. This is an idiomatic expression that is 'used to admit that something is reasonable or acceptable' Oxford Dictionaries.
The second group contains hundreds of examples; actually, it's a seemingly endless list:
funny enough, oddly enough, strangely enough, interestingly enough, curiously enough, amazingly enough, appropriately enough, astonishingly enough etc.

Frankly speaking, in my mother-tongue, German, there's something similar, i.e. we add -weise to certain words:

interestingly: interessant -- interestingly enough: interessanterweise
    amazingly: erstaunlich --     amazingly enough: erstaunlicherweise

Though, there are two main difference between enough in English an -weise in German. First, -weise does not have any meaning on its own1 and, second, in those instances you use -weise you cannot drop it whereas in English you don't necessarily need to add enough. Example:

English: Interestingly (enough), you don't need *enough* in this sentence.  
German:  Interessanterweise kann man in diesem Satz *-weise* nicht auslassen.  
         (Interestingly, you cannot drop *-weise* in this sentence.)

In all these expressions, the general sense of enough (sufficient, to the necessary or required degree) cannot be applied; at least, it wouldn't make any sense in my book.

Funny enough, for example, means that a fact is funny but not that there's a sufficient amount of fun.

So, again my question: what's the role of enough and why that word?


1For the sake of completeness I must mention that this statement is not really true. There's an adjective weise meaning wise (a wise old man) and a noun Weise meaning way as in a certain way or a mysterious way. When talking about the suffix -weise in adverbs, the latter meaning (the noun) can be taken as an indicator what -weise may mean; admittedly, I've never validated this from an etymological point of view.

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3 Answers 3

In my opinion, the adverb enough used in this sense creates a conversational rapport between the speaker/writer and listener/reader. In strangely enough, interestingly enough etc., the enough might mean "enough to go so far as to consider it such". The reason it's used is perhaps a fear that the addressee might not feel the described circumstances really warrant the qualification strangely/interestingly/etc. By using it, the speaker/writer acknowledges that their listener/reader is right to think that, but that the circumstances really can be considered such for the sake of their conversation.

In any case, this enough is not used in a formal register. When it is used in a formal setting, it signals a (temporary) lowering of the register.

Just my two cents.

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Yes – I think you're spot on with this, Talia. A hedging downtoner used after an evaluative pragmatic marker such as 'strangely' / 'interestingly'. (These latter are still / used to be called sentence adverbials; this kind function/ed like comment clauses.) With adjectives (He was funny enough, I suppose / The talk was interesting enough), the downtoner is equivalent to 'reasonably' and is a secondary (here, adjective-) modifier. –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 9 '13 at 14:15
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I agree; it's metalinguistic and refers to the topic under discussion. Strangely/Oddly/Interestingly.. enough says that the topic being introduced is interesting enough to talk about; it's a justification for bringing it up, and announces a tangential change of conversation vector. Not a reverse, like on the other hand, and not orthogonal, like by the way or while I think of it. –  John Lawler Oct 9 '13 at 14:57

This is a good question (and I think Talia Ford above answers it well). I only wanted to add that “enough” is one of those words that seems often used as rhythm more than providing any real meaning or service to the point. Like when people say “actually” or “well” whenever he or she speaks, regardless of the applicability.

It also seems (in my observation) to be employed as a kind of defensive word, like “kinda” or “or something.” When somebody says “funny enough you mention it,” it’s almost like the response is half expected to be “that wasn’t funny or relevant at all.” When “enough” is added in, it’s almost like saying “maybe this is relevant and maybe it isn’t, but I’m going to say it while acknowledging that you might not see things as I do.”

Maybe I’m reading too much into all of this, ha.

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"Enough" comes from Anglo-Saxon genög, meaning "sufficient (cf German genug); hence equivalent to "as required (quantity or quality)", "fairly", "adequately".

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That really doesn’t answer the question—the question is exactly why this word is used when the meanings you just gave do not seem to make any sense in the context. Also, Anglo-Saxon does not have ö; I think you mean that it’s from genōg (or ġenōg, to be phonetically preciser). –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 9 '13 at 10:43
    
@ Janus Bahs Jacquet. I have two keyboards, one English (QWERTY), and one French (AZERTY) ; have you a way to type for instance ō (picked from your text), or characters from the international alphabet, without painfully looking through the codes ("Alter and four digits") ? Thank you. –  ex-user2728 Oct 9 '13 at 10:55
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On my Mac, I do (I have made my own keyboard layout, tailored to my needs)—on a Windows machine, sadly no. There should be a possibility to add some kind of ‘Extended American’ (as I believe it’s usually called) input method, which contains shortcuts for many diacritics. And there is of course the Character Map, which allows you to pick and choose characters. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 9 '13 at 11:28

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