Really, really ridiculously goodlooking
February 8, 2009 5:16 AM   Subscribe

A questioning concerning Derek Zoolander's pronunciation of the term "good looking"...

I've always been amused by the way Zoolander says "goodlooking" (as if it's one word and with a comically heavy stress on "good"). But recently I swear I've heard other people in US media say the phrase with a stress on "good" (rather than with a light stress on "looking" or with an equal stress on both words), in seemingly non-Zoolander-quoting contexts. (I am English.)

Have I been hearing a joke that isn't there for all these years? Do American-English speakers, or a sizeable proportion thereof, say "goodlooking"?
posted by Mocata to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
I stress either half of the adjective, depending on whether the noun it modifies comes before or after it. And it's not one word, it's hyphenated. Good-looking.

"That's a good-looking shirt" vs. "That shirt is good-looking"
posted by emelenjr at 5:34 AM on February 8, 2009

American English speaker here. I usually say "good looking." Like emelenjr, there are times when I put the emphasis on looking but it's rare.
posted by lysistrata at 5:48 AM on February 8, 2009

Zoolander came out while I was in high school, and I've seen it approximately 300 times (plus or minus 5).

I would go so far as to say that when the stress is on good, and not on looking, then the comment is facetious. While when there is no stress on either word then the speaker is being sincere.
posted by pwally at 6:07 AM on February 8, 2009

I would go so far as to say that when the stress is on good, and not on looking, then the comment is facetious.

When I say good looking and the stress is on good I am usually not being facetious. That's just the way I usually pronounce it.
posted by lysistrata at 6:19 AM on February 8, 2009

I think—and I might be way off—that the reason Zoolander sounds funny is that he tries to de-emphasize everything in the word "looking." When I say, most of the emphasis is on "good," but there's also more emphasis on "look" than "ing." When Stiller delivers the line he tries to put all of the stress on "good" and also rushes "looking."
posted by synecdoche at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2009

I have a female friend who uses 'good looking' to mean 'drunk' .

As in, "Maaaan, I was good looking last night!"
posted by unSane at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2009

Ridiculously, ridiculously good question.
posted by zpousman at 12:55 PM on February 8, 2009

The phrase is an interesting compound modifier, because while you would say "good girl," you wouldn't say "looking girl," and "looking" is a verb, not an adjective. Moreover, there aren't really any other similar usages (e.g. you wouldn't say it's a "good-running car"). So, unlike a lot of compound modifiers, this one really is treated as one word with a totally unique meaning. It doesn't surprise me that people slur the two halves together and stress different parts.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:26 PM on February 8, 2009

I'm from California and I always accented the second syllable, but my roommate in college (early 90's) was from Maryland and did it the Zoolander way.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:53 PM on February 8, 2009

I think this might be question where audio samples would be useful. I for one can't make myself always stress looking, regardless of where the word comes in a sentence.
posted by emelenjr at 7:56 AM on February 9, 2009

Thanks for all the answers. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.
posted by Mocata at 2:08 PM on February 10, 2009

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