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Funky town! Words of the day: Funk and Funky

Posted on Posted in American English Grammar and Usage, Business English, English lessons in New York, ESL tips, Online English lessons, Tutoring

Are you tired of being cooped up? Has lockdown put you into a funk? Do you feel like you are under house arrest?  If so, maybe it’s time for a little English vocabulary lesson focusing on the words funk and funky. If you are having trouble with any other words in this post, don’t worry! There’s a short glossary at the bottom of the page! 

The noun funk is commonly used to describe a bad mood, or a sad feeling, even a slight depression. Often we use it when that mood is the result of following the same boring routine day after day. That is why it may be the perfect expression for how many of us are feeling during this endless quarantine!  You might hear this a lot!

Here are some examples in sentences:

I wouldn’t go into Bob’s office this morning. He got some bad news, and he’s in a bit of a funk.

I am okay, really. I’m just in a funk. It’s so tiring doing the same thing every day!

Sarah has been in a funk for a while. I’m starting to get worried. 

Notice in the above examples, funk is used almost as though it were a location.  A person is  “in a funk” in the same way one might be “in a closet.”

Funk also has some other completely different meanings. It is used to describe a type of music that is anything but  depressing.  Here is the definition of funk from Wikipedia:

Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B).”

Funk can be used as an adjective to describe this genre of music. For example:

James Brown is one of the best known practitioners of funk music though clearly funk influenced the music of other well-known performers such as Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone. 

Notice in the above example, funk is used as both an adjective to describe the genre: funk music, and a noun — the name of the genre. 

Now let’s move on to the adjective funky. Here is where things might get a little confusing. Remember how we use “funk” as a noun to describe a depressed mood? The confusing part is that we don’t usually use “funky” as an adjective to mean depressed!. We might  be in a funk, but we would describe our feeling as sad. For example:

I’ve been in a funk for days. I feel so terribly sad and I don’t have the energy to do anything that would help me feel better.

The adjective funky does NOT describe being in a funk.The adjective funky usually means off-beat or eccentric (in a good way) but  it can also mean weird, strange, or peculiar — not in a good way.  Funky can be used in either a positive or negative way. 

You can be in a “funky mood” but this indicates a “strange mood” not necessarily a “depressed mood.”  Someone can have a “funky sense of style,” which indicates a distinct, probably original sense of style. However, a “funky odor” is almost always peculiar or weird and NOT in a good way. Our use of funky is idiomatic, and you have to pay attention to context. 

Here are various examples of funky. In each case, funky has a slightly different meaning. I’ll give you some context clues. Can you think of replacement words for funky in each sentence?

My sister likes wearing lots of bright colors and different patterns. She has a funky sense of style.

I’ve got to clean out my refrigerator. Something in there smells funky!

Let’s not make a plan to do anything outdoors tomorrow. The weather has been really funky, and I don’t want to have to cancel.

Jenna loves wearing funky costume jewelry. The bigger and shinier the better!

I’ve been in a funky mood lately. I don’t know what I want to do later, but I wouldn’t mind doing something a little different, maybe even a little dangerous.

Let’s take a deep dive into those sentences. Shall we?

My sister likes wearing lots of bright colors and different patterns. She has a funky sense of style.  An easy replacement for funky  here  off-beat or eccentric. Other possibilities that might require more context include: unique, brilliant, interesting, etc.

I’ve got to clean out my refrigerator. Something in there smells funky!  Here funky means peculiar in a bad way! You could also use “spoiled” or “rotten.”

Let’s not make a plan to do anything outdoors tomorrow. The weather has been really funky, and I don’t want to have to cancel.  We don’t have a lot of context here, but we can guess that the weather has either been bad or frequently changing so that it might be bad and therefore planning an outdoor activity would not be wise. “Strange” can substitute for funky.

Jenna loves wearing funky costume jewelry. The bigger and shinier the better! Strange would be an easy substitute here. Based on context we could use other adjectives: gauche, loud, gaudy, etc.

I’ve been in a funky mood lately. I don’t know what I want to do later, but I wouldn’t mind doing something a little different, maybe even a little dangerous.  Good replacement choices include: strange, peculiar, weird.

Funky can also refer to funk music. There is a difference between using “funk” and “funky” as adjectives to describe this  type of music.  When we use “funk” as an adjective we are describing the genre of music. For example:

James Brown practically invented funk music

Stevie Wonder’s music shows both funk and jazz influences.

Funky music” can simply mean “cool” music, though this usage is a little out of date . It can also describe music that has some funk elements but isn’t pure funk. It’s more about describing a funk-like attribute or quality of the music rather than the genre. For example:

The band that played at Ella’s wedding had a good funky beat that made it fun to dance.

Some people might argue that the song Play that Funky Music is not an authentic example of funk music, but more a funky rock and roll song. 

I hope that clears up how to use both funk and funky in conversation or when talking about a type of music.  If you have any questions or comments, you are welcome to post a comment! If you are interested in taking private one to one lessons, please contact me! Here is the glossary with some other words and phrases that might be new to you:

Cooped up: a coop is a pen or “house” for domesticated birds such as chickens. To feel “cooped up” is to feel as though you are stuck in a cage. Example: After being cooped up in the house for two weeks, due to the quarantine, Bob was thrilled to go outside for a walk.

Lockdown: To be “under lockdown” or “in lockdown” means you are under orders not to leave your facility or home either as a punishment or because of dangers inside or outside of the facility. Nobody can get in or out of a facility while it is under lockdown.  Examples:  (1) The elementary school was placed under lockdown after the prisoners in the nearby jail escaped. The authorities thought that the children would be in danger if they left the building. (2) The prisoners were in lockdown because someone had stolen some supplies and the guards wanted to check each cell. 

Under house arrest: To be “under house arrest” is when you have been accused or convicted of a crime, but instead of being in jail or prison, you are able to reside in your home under restrictions. Example:  Because of his illness, John was able to leave prison and serve his sentence under house arrest.

Deep dive:  This is an expression using the verb or noun dive. It means to explore something deeply.

Anything but: The phrase “anything but” means “not at all.” Example: His business was anything but successful and closed within months of opening. 

Out of date: In its most literal sense, “out of date” can mean expired in the sense of something no longer being valid. For example: My passport is out of date. I need to get it renewed before I can leave the country. We also use “out of date” in general to mean something old-fashioned. For example: I understand our customs might seem out of date to you, but we don’t use that kind of vulgar language in my house.

 

 

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