I came across a peculiar (to me) usage of the word, “sunshine” that was placed at the end of sentence in the short story, “High Heels,” written by Jeffrey Archer.
“Sunshine” appears in the following exchange of words at the last scene where the shoes trading company owner, Des Lomax who seemingly set fire to his building and Alan Penfold, training actuary of the fire insurance company who suspects him as the arsonist confront for showdown:
“I will be recommending that my client settles for two million, but it will be up to you to make the final decision, sunshine,” said Alan.
“I don’t give a damn about your recommendation, sunshine.” said Lomax.
What does “sunshine” mean in the above context? Is it an addressing word or interjection?
Is “Sunshine” casually used in this way in both British and American English, or is it peculiar to British English? And, what is the origin of this usage?
In this case, “sunshine” is a fairly condescending term of reference for the other person. This slang dictionary writes:
form of address for a person, usually female.
As this forum adds, calling someone sunshine is usually part of giving a threat. This is the context in which your examples use it–each man is threatening the other, so they are referring to each other as “sunshine”.
It is difficult to find exact origins for many slang terms, but one possibility is that it is simply a term of endearment being applied sarcastically. This appears with other words, such as “princess”.
You can use sunshine as a nickname for people in a positive sense, too. It can often mean that a person is always smiling and happy, warm like a ray of sun.
It can also be used fairly sarcastically, to mean someone who isn’t warm and happy. For example, if you wake someone up in the morning and they’re grumpy, you could say:
Good morning, Sunshine!