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Tone, context of word:[edit]

After reading a discussion among some non-native English speakers of a writing excerpt which was clearly intended as a humorous piece, I decided to amend the wiktionary def. of perky. None of the readers picked up on the mocking flavor of the word "perkiness", and the ensuing discussion, very solemn and earnest, pretty much missed the point the writer was trying to make.

I added definition #2 below, with { {context|disparaging} }...


perky (comparative perkier, superlative perkiest)

  1. Lively or enthusiastic.
    She answered with a perky smile and bounced off.
  2. (pejorative) Lively or enthusiastic in a pointed, deliberate, or exaggerated way, or to an annoying degree
    I'm sure he could be just as effective a motivational speaker without being so damn perky.
  3. Standing upright; firm.
    The plant looks much perkier since I watered it.

Almost immediately, the definition was removed by a senior editor. It's unclear whether this quick action had anything to do with the "damn" in the example sentence; I had misgivings about that when I put it in. In any case, the reason given for the removal was "Sarcastic or ironic uses of words do not get separate definitions. The same sentence you used for perky could be said with happy, cheerful, optimistic, and many other words. It is not a separate definition."

This seems to me to be penalizing a valid definition because it could not be exactly back-constructed from the example sentence. Many example sentences are like this; they demonstrate a usage rather than uniquely encapsulate it. You could say "I have a pet dog" in the definition for "dog", and it would not disallow the use of "I have a pet cat" in the definition for "cat". Both times it would be a crummy example sentence, but that's beside the point...

I'm aware that my example sentence may have had deficiencies; but I think it's important to note that perky as often as not has a negative connotation in usage. One can't say the same thing of the words happy, cheerful or optimistic.

What I'd like to record is not simply ironic or sarcastic usage; but rather, the way the word perky in itself is often used to connote a certain exaggerated or ridiculous quality, excessiveness or theatricality (the same applies to perkier and perkiness).

Since there's no way to understand a priori that perky has a particular flavor in practice, I think it's important to at least reference this flavor in the wiktionary definition. I'd like to hear other people's thoughts on this. --Krnntp 02:52, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

On reflection, I wonder if this might all boil down to a ambiguously written definition.

The pointedness, exaggeration, deliberateness I mentioned were not supposed to describe the intent of the speaker of the word "perky" (in which case the charge of irony, sarcasm etc would stick), but rather, to describe the intent or manner of conduct of the perky party in question.

Where I wrote Lively or enthusiastic in a pointed, deliberate, or exaggerated way, or to an annoying degree

...I should have written { { context|informal } } Unnaturally lively or enthusiastic, esp. as if undertaken by effort

...Which preserves exactly the meaning I was trying to describe. --Krnntp 06:37, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

I haven't come across the alternative meaning that you suggest, though the OED definition does include "(also) conceited, cocky" which is perhaps what was intended in the quotation? Dbfirs 13:54, 25 December 2009 (UTC)


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The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for verification.

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"Standing upright; firm. The plant looks much perkier since I watered it." To me, the usex appears to be for the other sense: "lively or enthusiastic". Equinox 11:39, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Actually I thought perky could also meet pert as in pert breasts. Just checked my New Oxford Dictionary of English, and it doesn't list it. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:10, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
google books:"perky breasts" has a lot of hits... seems I was actually right. Clearly perky breasts aren't enthusiastic breasts. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:26, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Clearly exists. Struck. - -sche (discuss) 22:37, 1 October 2012 (UTC)