I'm reading the famous question XKCD #936: Short complex password, or long dictionary passphrase? on Security.SE. The last sentence confuses me:

Am I missing something or is this armchair analysis sound?

It seems that OP meant "XKCD's analysis might be flawed", but I wonder how the phrase "armchair analysis sound" can express this meaning.

  • armchair is a noun used as an adjective, and its colloquial meaning is "lacking in procedural rigor, informal". Is this informal (not in any way rigorous) analysis on a firm foundation? sound =possessing integrity, not shaky, not falling apart.
    – TimR
    Feb 18, 2017 at 16:52
  • @TRomano Gotcha! Is analysis used as adjective, too? I suppose there can be only one noun in this three-word phrase.
    – nalzok
    Feb 18, 2017 at 16:56
  • analysis is the (noun) subject of the predicate is. armchair is a modifier of analysis (the kind of analysis) and sound is another adjective. sound does not refer to the auditory phenomenon, but is related to German "Gesundheit" and the English word "asunder". it means "possessing (physical) integrity, healthy, not feeble or coming apart in some way". The opposite is unsound.
    – TimR
    Feb 18, 2017 at 16:57
  • @TRomano WOW what a weird phrase it is! I've been learning English for over 15 years, and have never seen anything like this before. Are such expressions common in everyday English? (BTW: why not make your comments an answer?)
    – nalzok
    Feb 18, 2017 at 17:03
  • 1
    I didn't make it an answer because your question is based on a misunderstanding; it looks like three nouns in a row, but it is really {adjective}{noun}{adjective}. I am sure you have seen many things analogous but did not recognize the similarity to this phrase.
    – TimR
    Feb 18, 2017 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


Armchair is used as an adjective (modifies "Analysis"). Analysis is a noun. Sound is an adjective here (modifies "Armchair Analysis").

"Is this armchair analysis sound?"

Can also be written as....

"Is this amateur analysis reasonable?"

"Armchair Analysis" refers to an analysis coming from an onlooker observing from an armchair instead of someone actually involved in the field with real experience or expertise. "Sound" has many dictionary definitions related to whole, healthy, reasonable, fair, or good. I think of it as meaning "solid". I didn't find an etymology for it, but I believe it's related to the fact that broken items make a different sound when you hit them, especially if they are made of metal, glass or ceramics. If it has a nice sound you know it is sound (not broken).

  • 1
    Here’s your etymology: "free from special defect or injury," c. 1200, from Old English gesund "sound, safe, having the organs and faculties complete and in perfect action," from Proto-Germanic *sunda-, from Germanic root *swen-to- "healthy, strong" (source also of Old Saxon gisund, Old Frisian sund, Dutch gezond, with connections in Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic. Meaning "right, correct, free from error" is from mid-15c._
    – J.R.
    Feb 19, 2017 at 1:20
  • Also note that "armchair" (as an idiom to mean something done from an armchair instead of doing the actual work) is used in more phrases than just this one. "Armchair referee" springs to mind, for someone judging a football match on TV.
    – Mr Lister
    Feb 19, 2017 at 7:40

Your phrase

is this armchair analysis sound?


does this armchair analysis make sense?

sound = based in scholarly thought or theory

as in

He has sound judgement in deciding things
He has good and fair judgment in deciding things

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