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I saw a status message that said Depressingly Happy, that makes no sense whatsoever to me. Are they happy or depressed? Being happy surely can't ever be depressing?

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    To me that means that the person is so happy they make others depressed.
    – James
    Oct 25, 2015 at 3:16
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    Where did you see this status message? It's likely facetious, but more context would be helpful.
    – deadrat
    Oct 25, 2015 at 3:18
  • As James said, Someone that is depressingly happy is so happy that makes others depressed. Something (a situation, a song, etc) that is depressingly happy is supposed to make you feel good, but actually depresses you.
    – Færd
    Oct 25, 2015 at 3:26
  • @Claire - What James said may quite possibly be the case, but an example would help us confirm that.
    – user109263
    Oct 25, 2015 at 3:28

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This particular confusion has nothing to do with the English language. "Depressingly happy" isn't an idiomatic expression you've never heard before; it does in fact mean (at least grammatically) that this particular happiness is causing depression.

There are two general senses I have seen this used:

  • Describing conflicting emotions. "I thought I'd be sad when my children moved out, but I find myself depressingly happy." Here the speaker is disappointed in herself for not feeling a loss to the degree she expected to.
  • Depression at another's happiness. "My ex and his new girlfriend are depressingly happy." Here the speaker is grieved because her ex's happiness implies there is no longer hope of reunion.
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  • I think I understand now, It was a status message on my sons facebook page, someone who had gone to work in the Caribbean last year, he was supposedly going to be away for 3 years but has recently moved back to his home town, after reading the two examples, I would think he means depressed for whatever reason his employment in the Caribbean ended early, but happy to be home.
    – Claire
    Oct 26, 2015 at 20:21

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