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I came across a peculiar (to me) usage of the word, “sunshine” that was placed at the end of sentence in the short story, “High Heels,” written by Jeffrey Archer.

“Sunshine” appears in the following exchange of words at the last scene where the shoes trading company owner, Des Lomax who seemingly set fire to his building and Alan Penfold, training actuary of the fire insurance company who suspects him as the arsonist confront for showdown:

“I will be recommending that my client settles for two million, but it will be up to you to make the final decision, sunshine,” said Alan.

“I don’t give a damn about your recommendation, sunshine.” said Lomax.

What does “sunshine” mean in the above context? Is it an addressing word or interjection? Is “Sunshine” casually used in this way in both British and American English, or is it peculiar to British English? And, what is the origin of this usage?

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3  
And should we capitalize Sunshine when used like this? –  GEdgar Aug 26 '11 at 0:33
    
It is technically a 'vocative'. –  jjnguy Aug 26 '11 at 14:46

6 Answers 6

In this case, "sunshine" is a fairly condescending term of reference for the other person. This slang dictionary writes:

form of address for a person, usually female.

As this forum adds, calling someone sunshine is usually part of giving a threat. This is the context in which your examples use it--each man is threatening the other, so they are referring to each other as "sunshine".

It is difficult to find exact origins for many slang terms, but one possibility is that it is simply a term of endearment being applied sarcastically. This appears with other words, such as "princess".


You can use sunshine as a nickname for people in a positive sense, too. It can often mean that a person is always smiling and happy, warm like a ray of sun.

It can also be used fairly sarcastically, to mean someone who isn't warm and happy. For example, if you wake someone up in the morning and they're grumpy, you could say:

Good morning, Sunshine!

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Either US/UK usage differs, or that online slang dictionary is talking tosh. I'd bet my life that in the UK, sunshine is used more towards males than females. If only because the alliteration with sonny, and Sunny Jim will often cause overlapping usage, though it's not used so often as those in contexts implying condescension or beligerence. But I'm still upvoting because I agree with everything apart from that "usually female". –  FumbleFingers Aug 25 '11 at 21:55
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I call my children "sunshine" all the time - not because of how I perceive their mood (or, I hasten to add, that I'm threatening them.) –  Grant Thomas Aug 25 '11 at 23:07
    
It's definitely used to convey a threat in UK usage although its use in the OP's quoted passage sounds stilted and unnatural, as if the protagonists are attempting to sound hard but failing. –  tinyd Aug 26 '11 at 8:32

The characters are being sardonic, so sunshine becomes a disparaging statement. It is also a term of endearment. Under normal circumstances, if you refer to someone as 'sunshine', then that person is special to you. This expression also gains added currency in places like England, where the weather is usually cold, grey and generally, 'bereft of sun'.

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Do you mean you can address yourself to your buddy ‘bereft of sun,’ as an alternative to ‘sunshine’ or ‘Hey, man.’? –  Yoichi Oishi Aug 26 '11 at 7:50
    
Not quite. What i meant is, addressing your buddy as 'sunshine', has a lot more significance as a term of endearment in a cold place such as England, whereas if you lived in the middle of the Sahara, and addressed your friend thus, I'm not sure it would be a term of endearment, given the harsh cimate! –  Autoresponder Aug 26 '11 at 8:22

In Australia, we (as in myself and others I know and have known in the past - in particular, one of my high school teachers) use it as a condescending way of saying 'mate'. Though the older folk may use it as a term of endearment. But personally, amongst friends, we sometimes call each other "sunshine" pronounced with a bit of a twang for the full effect.

The connotation of the word depends on the speaker's tone. So "Good morning, sunshine." could have two different meanings.

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It's often directed ironically at a "source of joy."

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Sunshine can be used as a sarcastic vocative and is usually, at least in the UK, directed towards a male. The sarcasm comes from the negative allusion to bright and the lack of intelligence of the target, in general or for a specific occasion. Other uses are less defamatory and it can be heard in light-hearted arguments, or simply as a term of comic endearment.

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In my experience it means the person thinks the sun shines out of their arse in Australia. This comes from talking to old country men about why they called me and my mates "sunshine" when I was younger, in the 1970s.

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I'm not convinced by that explanation. Sounds like them rationalising it rather than knowing the actual meaning. –  deadly Oct 9 '12 at 15:21

protected by RegDwigнt Oct 9 '12 at 10:28

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