Fine. What a diverse word. Fine can be used to describe so many things and in so many contexts, I bet you don’t even realize just how very versatile fine actually is. Don’t fret though, because today is your day. Miss Sassy is going to learn you all about it!
There are 15 found definitions of the word “fine” on Google (criteria = define: fine). That’s quite a lot. Let’s begin with some obvious definitions.
1) Fine: money extracted as a penalty. E.g. I was fined 10% when I failed to pay my cell phone bill on time. Of course this has never happened to Miss Sassy herself, because she/I have auto-pay for all my bills, including my automobills. 10 points to whoever caught that reference.
2) Fine: of textures that are smooth to the touch or substances consisting of relatively small particles. E.g. finely powdery snow, wood with a fine grain, etc. A quick guesstimation tells me that I used this instance in my every day speech pretty much never.
3) Fine: A song by Whitney Houston on her 2000 album, during the peak of her struggles with finely ground drugs (see above entry) and Bobby. No one cares about Whitney Houston anymore because she crack-piped her voice into oblivion. Moving on.
4) Fine: free of impurities; having a high or specified degree of purity. E.g. like the 21 carats fine pink diamond Miss Sassy will one day sport on her left hand ring finger and/or in the dreams she currently entertains. Apparently pink diamonds are ridic expensive. Maybe I’ll marry a billionaire with secret discressionary funds the government doesn’t know about to tax outrageously. Next.
5) Fine: in a delicate manner. E.g. that girl is fiiiiiiine, dayum. Or, she has a fine figure. Or, more appropriately for me, that man has a fine tush. Right!? We all know I have an eye for these things.
6) And I believe we have finally come to the point. Fine: all right; being satisfactory or in a satisfactory condition. E.g. How are you today, Miss Sassy? Oh, I am fine thank you for asking. Ah, but am I really fine? Let’s say my lunch date ditches me last minute for the new cute chick in our office. He says, Miss Sassy is it ok if we just get lunch tomorrow? Sure, I say, it’s fine. But is it really fine?
7) A continuation of the point of this post. Fine: very well; an expression of agreement normally occurring at the beginning of a sentence. E.g. Fine, I will go out with you even though you ditched me 20 times already. Or, as in response to a directive. Miss Sassy, clean the floors before you leave! I’d probably sarcastically respond, FINE I’ll do it. But really it’s not fine, only a necessary concession to demands made on me.
Fine is such a powerful word as well. It is probably the passive aggressive person’s most valuable weapon. Think about all the times you’ve used “fine” in a sentence in cases 6 and 7 above. Were you really fine? Or were you subtly trying to portray your not-fine-ness? I love when people use this. How was your date? It was fine. How can a date merely be fine, unLESS it was actually a pretty crappy date and a) the guy you went with is around or b) you don’t necessarily want to come right out and say it was the worst date of your life. Right? Typically if a friend responds with “fine” to any question, you poke and prod until you break her (usually a her) and she busts out with something extreme like “it was HORRIBLE” or “Ok FINE it was NOT fine!” (see the double usage there…tricky). And then you get down to business.
Why do we do this? And why, now that I think about it, is it only women who do this? I suppose some men use it on occasion, but when for example, my father Poppa Pants uses fine in a sentence, he actually means everything is just fine. Things may not be grand, but they are just fine and he’s just fine. That’s because Poppa Pants does not mess around with word games, and I would argue that most men who are manly do not mess around with word games either. My boss is the same. He tells me something I wrote up is fine, he means just that. It’s not the best, but it’s ok. If I ask him to take off work and he says that’s fine, he means truly it’s ok that I take off work. This is when it gets tricky though! My woman brain (I know I’m way cool but I still have an over-reacting over-analyzing woman brain like every other lady on the planet) will analyze this to the nth degree. Is it really fine that I take Friday off? Is he just saying that because he doesn’t feel he can say no?? Would he say the same thing to other team members??? Should I work half a day??!?! What if he fires me if I don’t come in on Friday?!?!???! See how that escalated so quickly? All because of the word fine. It’s like magic!
Or maybe it’s a generational thing. I know some guys my age who are equally skilled in the fine uses of fine to express feelings that are not actually fine. Maybe it’s just an everyone thing, and only some people feel the need to passively aggressively portray that what they say is fine is actually not. And if this is so, what does it say about someone who uses this technique all the time versus someone who just comes right out and speaks the truth? Personally I think it’s more sassy to speak the truth rather than make people guess and drag stories and whatnot out of you. Having said that, I can think of plenty of times when I, queen of sass, have used this less-than-sassy and super irritating technique myself, albeit successfully. And I think I could never vow to not use fine sarcastically ever again because it’s just to0 darn effective.
Case in point: Let’s say you and me have a date. Then for some reason you have to cancel or reschedule our date for another day and time. Later, you text me and say something like, you’re really sorry and please don’t be mad. It’s fine, I say, don’t worry about it. You’re super worried now though because there was no smiley in my text! And what if I’m actually super mad! So you schmooze more, maybe compliment me a couple times or something cheesy, but the “it’s fine” is stuck in your head until the next time you see me. See how I did that? Really it was actually fine that you can canceled because Miss Sassy always has a plan B and never cries over a man or missed date. But you don’t know that. To you, what I really said was, “I’m annoyed that you canceled on me and am not sure how I will punish you to make up for it.” You have no idea how long this pouty or passive aggressive mood will stick around. (Lucky for you in this hypothetical situation, you chose Miss Sassy and she doesn’t do super long guilt trips.) And it totally sucks doesn’t it!
So next time you’re asked a question, and your initial reaction is to say “it’s fine,” or “I’m fine,” really think. I dare all of you to come out and say what you’re really feeling, and am also challenging myself to put an end to the sarcastic and passive aggressive use of “fine.” Maybe not an end, but perhaps a decrease in usage is more appropriate. Can we do it? I shall report back next week on my findings.