Cornball and corny

Cornball and corny are two terms used in American English to refer to something old-fashioned, sentimental, treacly. A corn ball, two words, is an American snack made from popcorn mixed with a hard syrup and fashioned into a ball. Corny may also may be used to mean something that is full of corn, the vegetable. The terms cornball and corny arose in America in the early 1930s to mean something old-fashioned, something sentimental, something that appeals to plain country folk. At that time, country people were referred to as corn-fed, therefore something that appeals to plain-thinking people would be corny or cornball. Related words are cornily and corniness.



At public functions and fundraisers, Arizona’s most venal Italian often breaks into his own cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” the cornball serenade of masculine neurosis. (The Phoenix New Times)

It is cornball as all get out, formulaic and wonderfully, amazingly delicious. (The Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Basically, the show follows the journey of a nameless black youth, who turns his back on the church and his stifling home life and heads to Europe to become an artist — art, according the show’s cornball attempts at philosophy, being more real than life itself. (The Providence Journal)

The Meredith Willson musical based on the 1947 movie of the same title celebrates the holiday season at Northport’s Engeman Theater with a corny fantasy. (Newsday)

She started the recording with a disclaimer: “I know you’re gonna think this is so corny, but I’m going to read it anyway.” (The Columbus Dispatch)

hey’re corny and seldom improve with the telling, but Christmas lunch wouldn’t be complete without the chorus of groans that corny cracker jokes always provoke. (The Telegraph)


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  1. Hmmm…I’ve always thought the sweet treat was called ‘Popcorn Ball’, and the term cornball described a ‘corny’ type of humor – goofy, slapstick – a la the tv show

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