a good/bad nervous

Caught on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning, in the story “Tyler Saladino’s Quest to Play Major League Baseball”, Saladino admits to being nervous in his quest, but added that “it’s a good nervous”.

A nouning of the adjective nervous, used to convey, roughly, ‘nervousness’.

Plenty of examples of good/bad nervous. Here are a few:

She says she is extremely excited but also a little nervous, but she says it’s a good nervous. (link)

“We’ve been practicing since like October for this so we’re very confident coming into this and we’re nervous but it’s a good nervous,” said Student Meagan Davis. “It’s not like we’re going to do bad nervous.” (link) [note bad nervous as the object of do]

That was certainly one of the most 
nervous performances I’ve ever had because I kept thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to physically get through this with this possibly broken
finger?’ It’s always nervous, sometimes it’s a good nervous, sometimes it’s a bad nervous.” (link)

She is nervous. But I don’t think it’s a bad nervous, it’s the butterflies in your stomach kind of nervous. The kind of nervous I am feeling right now. (link)

Nouning rolls on.


2 Responses to “a good/bad nervous”

  1. Julian C. Lander Says:

    I don’t interpret that as the nouning of an adjective, but rather as using the adjective to modify the word “nervous” as a word–a thing, which therefore takes an adjective. Another way to phrase it, which is much more formal in tone, would be as, “the word ‘nervous’ is used here in a positive sense,” or, I suppose, “it’s a good ‘nervous’,” which makes the problem one of punctuation rather than of nouning.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      So your proposal is that nervous is being mentioned rather than used — or, putting it another way, it’s being used metalinguistically rather than straightforwardly — in these examples. Certainly such things do occur, but it seems unlikely to me that the many examples of “a good/bad nervous” are mostly of this type. Possibly mention/metalinguistic use was a stage on the way to the bulk of the current examples, where nervous looks like it’s been conventionalized as a short synonym of nervousness.

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