Let's suppose we're in 1940, and we see a woman calling a man by the expression "hey! sunny boy!". We know they never met before (so they're not friends, nor relatives, nothing). Also, we know the woman is happy and very kind and friendly, so she's not implying a second meaning nor a sarcasm with her expression.
What would be the accurate meaning for "sunny boy" there? Can you guess some reason for her calling him that way instead of, for example, "hey! sir!" ? Would it be possible to change it with another expression without losing any bit of meaning/flavour?

Btw, do you know of some English dictionary where you can find answers to questions like this? I usually understand most of the English language, but there're some constructs that require some contextual experience which I lack.
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Let's suppose we're in 1940, and we see a woman calling a man by the expression "hey! sunny boy!". We ... I usually understand most of the English language, but there're some constructs that require some contextual experience which I lack.

Don't you mean "sonny boy"?

Alec McKenzie
Let's suppose we're in 1940, and we see a woman calling a man by the expression "hey! sunny boy!". We ... boy" there? Can you guess some reason for her calling him that way instead of, for example, "hey! sir!" ?

Vaudeville singer Al Jolson was one of the most
famous entertainers in the (English-speaking) world in the 1930s because of his recordings and films,
one of which included the sentimental song "Sonny
Boy." This is the likeliest origin of the catchphrase.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
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Let's suppose we're in 1940, and we see a woman ... some constructs that require some contextual experience which I lack.

Don't you mean "sonny boy"?

Or "sunny jim"?

John Dean
Oxford
Don't you mean "sonny boy"?

Or "sunny jim"?

Over the fence leaps Sunny Jim:
Force is the food which raises him!
Mike.
Let's suppose we're in 1940, and we see a woman ... him that way instead of, for example, "hey! sir!" ?

Vaudeville singer Al Jolson was one of the most famous entertainers in the (English-speaking) world in the 1930s because of his recordings and films, one of which included the sentimental song "Sonny Boy." This is the likeliest origin of the catchphrase.

Surely it was the other way around. "Sonny boy" is probably a very old expression.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Surely it was the other way around. "Sonny boy" is probably a very old expression.

Merriam-Webster dates "sonny" to 1838. Meaning, "a young boy usually used in address." No record for "sonny boy."
The DigiTrad folk music collection has one hit for "sonny boy" in lyrics, in an Irish emigration song called "Goodbye Mick":

Now won't I come that Yankee chat, I guess I'm celebrating Come liquor up ole sonny Boy, while an old friend I am treating

So perhaps it was a common phrase in Ireland.

Best Donna Richoux
Or "sunny jim"?

Over the fence leaps Sunny Jim: Force is the food which raises him!

Jim Dumps was a most unfriendly man,
Who lived his life on a hermit plan.
He'd never stop for a friendly smile,
But trudged along in his moody style.
Till 'Force' one day was served to him.
Since then they call him Sunny Jim.

John Dean
Oxford
Merriam-Webster dates "sonny" to 1838. Meaning, "a young boy usually used in address." No record for "sonny boy." The ... that Yankee chat, I guess I'm celebrating Come liquor up ole sonny Boy, while an old friend I am treating

And, of course, the old Iraqi folk ballad 'Sunni Jim'
John Dean
Oxford
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