Sunday, March 13, 2022


I use the word “fine” a lot. I like that it can be used both to indicate something is better than good, but also merely satisfactory, almost sarcastically so: “And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was fine.”

For me, I have become conscious enough of how often I say “fine” that I felt compelled to look up its meaning to check I was using it correctly: having done that, it appears to be as pliant a word for use as a descriptor as “jigger” is to describe tools, measurements and people.

Outside of describing fine lines, cutting it fine, or fining someone for breaking the law, “fine” describes qualities that look impressive, or merely good, but of a level enough to say something about it. When you have to say something, this may be the point when it becomes easy to use a one-syllable word to bridge a gap of silence. You can “fine” when you want to agree, or when you don’t want to say anything more. It definitely sounds better than saying “good” especially as, if you collect comic books, “fine” is a better condition than even “very good”, although no-one would use “near mint” when grading their interactions with someone.

What I realised is that “fine” is an adverb as well as a noun, because adverbs qualify a verb if placed after it, rather than replacing it – it’s fine, it works fine, that’s fine, I’m fine. It pleases me, it works well, it’s satisfactory, it’s fine... and that’s an end to it, just like the Latin verb “finire” intended.

In short, with the world as it is, “fine” is as much a word as anyone should really expect. Ask the “Goon Show” character Eccles to comprehend a situation, and the only possible answer is “fine, fine, fine,” and the appropriate title for Diane Williams’s 2016 collection of very short stories of discombobulating situations is “Fine Fine Fine Fine Fine” – you can’t get any better than that.

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