Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mighty Fine

I believe that I have discovered the most versatile word in the English language. Now, this not just some sudden burst, I have been thinking about this for years. In my spare time, of course. Are you ready?


Not, “Fine, here we go”, but indeed the word “fine”. See this simple word can be used in a surprisingly diverse manner of ways, because it’s use is more often based on the tone of voice of the user. In fact, I believe that no one really thinks about the dictionary definition of this word any more, unless you are into fine dining or paying of fines or Fine, a French Brandy, it is simply a communication vehicle for the attitude of the moment.

Let me give you some examples…

When asked, “How are you feeling today?”

“Fine, How are you?” This use is very basic and said as if one is checking off something on a TO DO List.

Or, when asked, “How are you feeling today?” and the word is conveyed with a hint of suffering, “Oh, fine, I suppose.” That one is loaded; only ask for further information if you are saintly, otherwise, run.

Or the “fine” you use when your kids ask you if they can do something like borrow the car, and you say, slowly, “Fine”, usually beginning on a low note, sliding your voice up several notes and following with a slightly louder, “ BUT…” which means that there is about to follow a list of things that will make the request possible once completed.

Now I believe that teenagers have a way of making this word into a compliment, like “Girl, you are looking mighty fine today.” Alas, in my old age, that just makes me wince. Teenagers can also use this poor unsuspecting word so as to propel it straight to the list of Forbidden Four Letter Words in a single bound. This usually happens at the conclusion of an argument, once sentencing has been pronounced, and the offender is leaving, using this poor unsuspecting word along with a combination of stomping and slamming.

My own personal favorite is the fine said as the last word. Like when you are having an argument with your spouse and you realize there is just no winning and you concede with “fine”. That one means “I’m done talking but you better hide all the sharp objects and stay out of my line of vision for at least the next 6 hours.”

This list is not as thorough as the 19 links provided on Wikipedia, where it is actually discussed with some intelligence. This will do just fine for now.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah - and try teaching the nuances of THAT little pile of volatility to a non-native speaker. Yesterday, though, we talked to a guy who claimed to be from Zimbabwe—but who has been in the states for three years. His idiom and accent were TOTALLY spot on. Which makes me think, either he's doing fine, or he should be paying a fine for conning people.