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I've seen a sentence construct in several places where something or someone is said to "enjoy" a status or position, but said status doesn't imply any pleasure or joy.

Due to her visa conditions, our cleaner enjoys temporary residency status.

I doubt the cleaner actually derives any pleasure from the temporary nature of her situation, so why do we describe her as 'enjoying' it?

Some real-world examples:

The data is for your general information and enjoys indicative status only. (BBC News market data)

[...] the film enjoys temporary status as a new release. (British Film Institute)

My organization enjoys consultative status with ECOSOC. (United Nations)

[...] they are recognized as a "refugee" and enjoy refugee status. (Amnesty International)

I could understand the use of enjoy in cases where the status is clearly something to be enjoyed, e.g.

Our high-rollers enjoy VIP status for the duration of their visit

but in the examples above there is arguably no pleasure or benefit to be 'enjoyed' in the usual sense, and in some cases the subject is not capable of enjoyment.

So what is the definition of 'enjoy' when used in this context?

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All the answers so far indicate how we are stuck with the more conventional/ popular meaning of 'enjoy' associated with deriving a pleasurable experience. We just seem to refuse to see that the word has another unrelated sense and usage that is perfectly legal. –  Kris May 10 '12 at 1:55
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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Enjoy: To have the use or benefit of; to have something as a benefit or advantage; to benefit from.

Those meanings of enjoy answer your primary question, and show how the word can be applied in several generic situations. Still, you've done a great job of digging up some quotes that use the word in a rather odd sense (most especially, "enjoy refugee status" – that sounds like an oxymoron!).

While I acknowledge there's no grammatical error, I examined your quotes, and wondered how I might reword them. The best substitute for enjoy that I could come up with was benefit from, i.e.:

[...] the film enjoys temporary status as a new release.
[...] they are recognized as a "refugee" and enjoy refugee status.

become:

[...] the film benefits from temporary status as a new release.
[...] they are recognized as a "refugee" and benefit from refugee status.

Maybe the authors simply preferred to use a single word? (Other than enjoys, what's a single-word verb that means benefits from?)

Again, there's obviously nothing wrong with it, but it's still a bit curious nonetheless.

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I thought perhaps they were trying to say "holds" or "assumes" (takes on) the status with no positive implications - ... and hold refugee status - or - the film assumes temporary status –  Widor May 10 '12 at 9:32
    
@Widor: I had a feeling that, if I expressed it in the form of a question, someone would come up with some fitting alternatives. Now that you've nudge my mind in that direction, retain would work, too. Great comment! –  J.R. May 10 '12 at 9:47
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To enjoy a status is to hold and benefit from it—we take pleasure in what’s good for us. The word has lost some of its original sense of benefit and pleasure, I think in part because it is so often used with status and position in a generic sense, but also thanks to advertising: Enjoy Coca-Cola!

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I'd give +1 for your first sentence and -1 for the last. 'Enjoy,' in the sense related to a certain status, as you correctly stated, is well-establised, and not a misuse in any way. –  Kris May 9 '12 at 18:44
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@Kris: With few exceptions (“enjoy poor health” as a regionalism) it’s a bit nonsensical to “enjoy” a status that isn’t somehow beneficial. –  Jon Purdy May 9 '12 at 19:20
    
See also my comment above @OP. –  Kris May 10 '12 at 1:56
    
It doesn't make sense to "enjoy temporary status" as opposed to getting permanent status. It does makes sense to "enjoy temporary status" as opposed to not getting the status you want at all. –  Jay May 10 '12 at 14:34
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We say that someone "enjoys" a status or position meaning that they find it desirable. I don't suppose that someone "enjoys temporary residency status" in the same sense that one "enjoys a candy bar", i.e. that it makes them feel good and they may sit back and savor it. But the ideas are clearly related: In both cases -- the privileged status or the candy bar -- the person gets some benefit that they are glad to have.

Note that if someone "enjoys temporary residency status", this implies that the alternative is being deported, or something else that is less desirable. If you expected to obtain citizenship but were turned down and told the best you could get was temporary residency, you wouldn't describe yourself as "enjoying" that. You'd say that you were disappointed that that was all you could get. (Well, you might say you enjoyed it in the sense of making the best out of what you got, like, "I applied for citizenship and was turned down, but at least I can continue to enjoy my temporary residency status.")

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What about the 'market data' example - market data isn't capable of enjoying anything, surely? –  Widor May 10 '12 at 9:25
    
That's personification: attributing human feelings to an animal or even an inanimate object. People often say things like, "Your car will love regular oil changes". I don't suppose my car really feels the emotion of love; what the speaker means is that it will perform better. It's just a more poetic way to say it. –  Jay May 10 '12 at 14:28
    
BTW, I read a history book once that discussed how the Catholic church came to have great political power in Medieval Europe, that included a statement that (not an exact quote) "Christianity enjoyed many years of persecution that strengthened it ..." Well, I know what they meant, but "enjoyed" was a rather jarring word in context. I'm sure they didn't "enjoy" being imprisoned, burned alive, etc. –  Jay May 10 '12 at 14:32
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