Thursday, January 25, 2024



            I heard this joke somewhere:


            Do you know how the same word can mean something entirely different to different people? Take, for example, the word “fine.” When a woman says the word, as in “Go ahead, watch your stupid football game! Fine!” the word means something like “Fuck you.” But when you ask a man to describe how he feels about something, and he says, “I feel fine,” the word means “I don’t understand the question.” (OK, ha-ha – we men are not in touch with our feelings.)


            But a bit more seriously, how is the word “fine” used these days?


            Ask your kid how school went today, the answer is usually, “Fine,” which means “I don’t want to talk about it, especially with you.”


            Or, when you ask your spouse how his or her day went, and the answer is “Fine.” What is that supposed to mean? “I have plenty to complain about, especially concerning you, but there is no point bringing it up.”


            Similarly, when one of Kim’s friends or family members asks her how she is feeling, she usually says, “Fine,” because she does not want to impose complaints about her pain and fatigue on people who can’t do anything about it. And she does not want to see herself as a “pain and fatigue person,” but rather as an artist, as Mama Kim, as my caretaker, as a seeker of our next adventure. Her answering “fine” allows her to move into those other roles.


            There are, of course, other meanings of the word “fine.” We’ve heard of “fine wines,” which to me means one that costs more than $25 a bottle. I’m not sure what “fine wine” means to other people. Is it a simple measure of quality, or is it something more descriptive, something to do with the complexity of the experience? Something that only refined people can appreciate?


            I suppose the same questions surround “fine art.” Does the term simply mean “good art,” or “art that I happen to like”? Does it refer to subtlety or complexity, as it does, I think, with wine? Is “fine,” in this context, a way of saying “refined?” And what’s the opposite of “fine art” – commercial art? But fine art can sell for more than commercial art . . ..


            The word “fine,” on the other hand, may simply mean “Just O.K.” as in:

            “How was your flight?”

            “Fine.” This means the plane didn’t crash.


            So, when you ask someone how they like the wine you served, and they say, “It’s fine,” they probably aren’t saying it’s a “fine wine.”


            On the other hand, when you see something that deserves high praise, you might say, “That’s really fine!” and if your tone of voice is right, it’s high praise. Or maybe: “That’s fi-i-i-ine!” after seeing a beautiful car (or woman).


            Then there is the fine line and the fine-toothed comb. I suppose artists use fine lines to create more expressive and sophisticated fine art. Not sure about the comb, unless it allows more expressive and sophisticated hair styles.


            As an experiment, you may want to notice when you hear the word “fine” in conversation or in a movie. See how much I missed here.


            And we are not even getting to noun and verb uses of “fine,” which, at this point, is probably fine with you.





  1. “a fine piece of writing”

  2. Sieve…you had some fine games in HS and college! #19 never scored on you in college…how fine was that …for you?

  3. What a fine piece of writing !