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According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, in British English the word soppy means:

showing or feeling too much of emotions such as love or sympathy, rather than being reasonable or practical: a film with a soppy ending

That's one of the soppiest stories I've ever heard! Some people are really soppy about their pets.

Or as an alternative definition, the OED offers:

Full of mawkish sentiment; foolishly affectionate; inane, indulgent; occas. used affectionately.

Is there an equivalent US English word?


The story so far...

It seems that the usage of soppy to describe a person is that one that is hardest to translate to US English. Would a US English person understand "She is very soppy when it comes to her children." and if not, is there a US English equivalent? It seems so far that you can't say "She is very sappy/saccharine when it comes to her children." and have a similar meaning.

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    Please supply source attributions for those citations. Why would soppy be restricted to Britain? Also, do you consider soppy and sappy as meaning two different things? – tchrist Jul 25 '15 at 18:19
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    So, what's wrong with "soppy", or one of the synonyms listed above??? – Hot Licks Jul 25 '15 at 18:21
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    chocolate-box, cloying, drippy, fruity, gooey, lovey-dovey, maudlin, corny, mushy, novelettish, saccharine, sappy, schmaltzy, sentimental, sloppy, slushy, soppy, soupy, spoony (or spooney), sticky, sugarcoated, sugary, wet (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mawkish) – Hot Licks Jul 25 '15 at 18:22
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    @tchrist My American friends don't recognise the use of soppy in, for example, "She is much soppier than her friends when it comes to children.". And, I do regard sappy and soppy as words with quite different meaning/usage. It is worth adding that sappy doesn't exist in British English except maybe in the context of trees :) – juniper Jul 25 '15 at 18:23
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    I think most Americans are familiar with the term soppy stories. But to describe someone as soppy might be lost on them. – Mazura Jul 25 '15 at 18:36
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Initially, I assumed that the AmE sappy was merely a varied spelling of the BrE soppy. However, tchrist alerted me to some difficulties with that assumption and, in fact, according to etymonline, soppy (originally) was in reference to the quality of excessive wetness (and in AmE: sopping or soaking wet), while sappy appears to be a reference to tree sap. Despite their disparate origins, it seems the two words have evolved to share the sense of excessive sentimentality.

sappy adjective

3a: overly sweet or sentimental

3b: lacking in good sense: silly

(Merriam-Webster online)

soppy (adj.) "very wet," 1823, from sop + -y (2). Meaning "sentimental" first recorded 1918. Related: Soppiness.

sappy (adj.) "full of sap," Late Old English sæpig, from sæp (see sap (n.1)). Figurative sense of "foolishly sentimental" (1660s) may have developed from an intermediate sense of "wet, sodden" (late 15c.). Earlier, now obsolete, figurative senses were "full of vitality" (1550s) and "immature" (1620s). (etymonline)

sap (n.2) "simpleton," 1815, originally especially in Scottish and English schoolboy slang, probably from earlier sapskull (1735), saphead (1798), from sap as a shortened form of sapwood "soft wood between the inner bark and the heartwood" (late 14c.), from sap (n.1) + wood (n.); so called because it conducts the sap; compare sappy. (etymonline)

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    @LittleEva I don’t think they’re two different spellings for the same word, but rather two different but closely allied words. The OED says they come from different starting points: sop versus sap. But those aren’t all that far apart. – tchrist Jul 25 '15 at 18:22
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    @Juniper Yes, sappy isn’t usually used with affection. – tchrist Jul 25 '15 at 18:23
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    None of these terms tend to be used without some note of derision. – Hot Licks Jul 25 '15 at 18:24
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    @HotLicks That's universally not true with respect to soppy in my experience. – juniper Jul 25 '15 at 18:25
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    See, I would consider both of those to describe qualities that the speaker doesn’t find desirable. Not necessarily derisive or pejorative as such, that’s too strong a word—but definitely not neutral, either. Sappy ending is the standard American English term for the movie ending, and the connotation is precisely the same to me: it’s sentimental to a point where it’s too much of a good thing. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 25 '15 at 19:02
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I think you are looking for the word saccharine which is defined below:

excessively sweet or sentimental.

  • Thank you but I am not sure you can describe a person as saccharine can you? – juniper Jul 26 '15 at 6:14
  • Yes, you most certainly can :] – Kevin Behan Jul 26 '15 at 6:28
  • OK. How would you compare the meaning of "She is very soppy when it comes to her children." and "She is very saccharine when it comes to her children." ? – juniper Jul 26 '15 at 7:02
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I hesitated to post but decided to. If this is an honest forum to consider even constructions which are not PC, then here you go.

This is used ALL the time in speech. It’s too “gay”. It’s never written but is the common man’s tongue for sappy.

Please direct all hate mail to op.

Update.

I just know I'm in trouble, but here it goes again. Sappy definitely doesn't mean gay, but gay can mean sappy. Doesn't make sense does it. While “gay”, generally, is used to indicate effeminate behavior, it’s not always so.

With Yankee “recreational” colloquial speech an analogy/term/phrase (the excessive use of which a British speaker would describe as “you know, the way Americans speak”) can mean a 100 things. It is SO contextual. If you were in a conversation with a Yankee, and he said, “Oh that’s just too gay”, it could mean: it’s outrageously colorful, the wrist is too limp, the product is flimsy, the hair style is over-the-top, excessive whimpering … and on forever. It'not generally a plus.

For example; I’m in bar and a friend orders a drink with a parasol stuck in the ice cubes. I guarantee you someone would say, “Man, that’s just too gay!” (in this case he’s saying it’s effeminate). And it’s just as likely, if we are with the girls, a female would say it. Many times when the phrase is used “man up” is sure to follow. And if a woman orders that same drink, she too might be subject to the same quip.

Or let’s say we’re discussing a friend that is too emotional or “sappy”. I might reply that, “Yah, he’s just too gay.”

The use of the word gay in the contexts described has nothing directly to do with homosexuality, even thou it is commonly used to describe a male homosexual. (If you do want to be insulting years ago you would have used gay, but now one would use the word “fag” or “faggot” (which, when I was in England, meant cigarette).

Is the word pejorative? I find it’s usually used in teasing one’s friends. But like all this kind of nonsense it can mean anything. You really have to be THERE; in other words you can't really use it in prose... unless you are a really good writer.

The Flintstones used to own this word, then the homosexuals did, but now the common man does again, albeit with a different meaning. (It doesn't mean happy anymore - and is never used that old way.)

Again, all hate mail to the OP.

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    I'm quite familiar with sappy meaning 'overly emotional or sentimental,' but I've never heard sappy used to mean gay? Can you find some examples and post them in your answer? – user98990 Jul 25 '15 at 19:32
  • I just know I'm in trouble. – user116032 Jul 25 '15 at 19:56
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    No, you're not in trouble here. EL&U does ask users to be respectful when expressing themselves, and in discussing topics that are (or should be) academic subjects. Here we're focused on English language usage and etymology, not politics or religion (and definitely not cultural alienation). Can you abide by these slight limitations? If so, post. – user98990 Jul 25 '15 at 20:18
  • Slang use of "gay" seems a lot more generic to me. I'd say "gay"usually just means "lame" or "stupid" rather than "soppy" in particular. Looking at Urban Dictionary, I find "gay" defined as something bad, that someone doesn't like, or something stupid or boring, but not "sentimental" (i.e. "soppy"). – sumelic Jul 25 '15 at 20:31
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    Up until about 1970, "gay" (to all but a very few) meant "happy", carrying no negative connotation. But somewhere before 1980 the use of the term to mean "homosexual" became sufficiently common that it "forced out" the prior meaning. I can't say for sure, but it seems like the idiom "too gay" or "so gay" (to mean "soppy" or whatever) came into use somewhat later, in a rather sarcastic recombination of the two distinct meanings, and not (strongly) implying that the party discussed was really homosexual. – Hot Licks Jul 25 '15 at 22:24

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