And why you should work to use the word less...
We have all heard the old adage — be it from a parent, teacher or other role model — that “hate is a strong word.” It is true. The word hate expresses an extreme disdain towards an object, person or idea; such contempt distances yourself from said subject, only further extending the hatred. As Martin Luther King said, in one of his numerous famous quotes, “hate begets hate.”
Well, in the framework of this piece, my response to this Dr. King quote would be one simple word: Perfect.
Because right now, that is my exact intention.
I HATE the word ‘fine’.
I can not stand it. I admonish it. I bash it. I am actively working reduce my usage of it every day. I HATE the word ‘fine’. And you should too.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Settle down Jacob, why don’t you meditate on it and chill out, it’s not that big of a deal.” Maybe you are right in the grand scheme of things, but it matters to me. Thus, I will attempt to convince and align you with my disposition towards the word ‘fine’.
Before I delve into the reasons behind my hatred for this destructive word, I would be remiss not to identify a couple of valid use cases, ones in which I have no issues with you using the word.
The standard Merriam-Webster definition of the word ‘Fine’ states:
"Fine, adj, of high quality."
i.e. Beatrice, this is quite a fine meal we are having, or, I would make a fine catch for some lucky lady.
Self-promotion and jokes aside, I am perfectly ok with the adjective form of the word ‘fine’. It is a use case that is far less common in today’s Modern English than it once was in old, proper English. In fact, if you know someone who speaks like this with regularity, good for you.
However, it is when the collective we venture into the adverbial tense of the word ‘fine’ — the most commonly spoken tense in today’s society — where my feathers begin to ruffle and the knots in my stomach start to turn. In a vast and complete language like English — the ‘universal language’ nonetheless — with a plethora of appropriate syntax available to convey any meaning, sentiment or situation, we all settle for the word ‘fine’ far too often.
“How are you?” His parents asked. “Fine,” he replied.
“How was your day?” Her roommate inquired. “Fine,” she responded.
“How is work?” Their grandma asked. “Fine,” they both admitted.
I could go on.
Before I do go on, I want to be clear in admitting that I, too, am not immune from falling into the trap of using the word ‘fine’. Despite a conscious effort, I still find myself saying it almost every day. Yet, instead of accepting ‘fine’ as part of my daily speech, I have started the habit of correcting myself in instances where I use the word. With this approach, I have ultimately seen my daily usage drop; if I can do it, so can you.
The Argument Against ‘Fine’
‘Fine’ is a nondescript crutch of word that has nestled its way into the nucleus of our daily vernacular. And I am not ‘fine’ with that. Interactions like the ones above are far too commonplace in our instant gratification society; they embody the laziness that our culture, and others, propagate. The word ‘fine’ is a symbol of the downfall of the English language, both oral and written, where emojis have replaced words and abbreviations have replaced emotions.
Often, we settle for using the word ‘fine’ because it is easily available to us at the tip of our tongue. As hatred begets hate, laziness begets laziness. Yet, this act is most threatening not because it is lazy, but because we have conditioned ourselves to accept it as the norm. And in doing so, we are rejecting the notion of speaking with our true emotions as an appropriate, applaudable way of communicating. In refusing to stretch ourselves in this — perhaps, seemingly insignificant — sphere of life, we deny ourselves the opportunity to use words and details that paint an accurate picture of our current condition.
“So what?” You are probably asking. Well, I’ll tell you.
Meaningful relationships are built upon transparency and vulnerability. In settling to describe ourselves, our experiences, and our emotions as ‘fine’, we hinder ourselves from deeper connection with one another. Believe it or not, majority of the time when someone asks “How are you?” — hold for the occasional shallow interaction — they actually want to know the truth. Gasp! Shocking, I know, but it’s the truth. Responding with the neutral ‘fine’ stunts the growth of our relationships and limits the maximum depth of our connections.
Furthermore, what the hell does ‘fine’ even mean!? I mean seriously, take a second and think about that moment today in which you responded with ‘fine’, (I’m sure it happened, as I said, despite my efforts it still happens to me almost every day) how did you actually feel in that moment? In all seriousness, when we respond to a question with ‘fine’, what do we mean? I proclaim and exclaim: enough is enough! Whether you are good, great, elated, sad, depressed, overworked, exhausted, or ecstatic, the unspoken truth is that it is ‘fine’ to not be ‘fine!’.
For a word that means and embodies so little, we use it far too frequently. Now, I’m not saying, “henceforth from this moment I command you never to utter ‘fine’ again or else face unbearable punishment”. No. That is not realistic nor fair, but there are simple, small changes you can make to start speaking from a place of deeper meaning and illuminate the threads of your life.
‘Fine’, I’ll stop! But how?
Apart from wiring yourself to receive a small shock each time you use the word — do not do this — there is no one stop solution to eliminate the word from you vocabulary. ‘Fine’ is so deeply ingrained in the way we communicate that it takes small, conscious efforts to change the tide. The great part, however, is that they are so simple you can start now/today/this afternoon/tonight/tomorrow/whenever is applicable to the time you are reading this!
First and most simply, start conditioning yourself to speak in relative, comparable terms. When someone asks, “How was your day” or “How are you,” try one of these responses: “I’m more feeling more good than bad” or “It was more difficult than easy.” Not only will this actually give the asker a relatable concept of your day, but you open up the conversation to go deeper, to dive into the good, or bad, aspects of your day. In turn, you will inspire a more meaningful response out of the asker when you inevitably reciprocate the question.
Next, in reprogramming yourself to speak in this way, you will notice that you become more mindful to the good, bad, great and horrible (hopefully not too often) moments that occur in your daily life. Once your awareness level rises, before you know it, you will naturally respond with descriptive, colorful portraits of your day.
For example, when someone asks you “How was your day?”
You might find yourself responding with, “I had a few great moments today, but you know, I got really worn out towards the end of the day because I was working really hard."
Isn’t it easier to relate to a response of that nature? And easier to converse with someone who speaks in this way?
By conditioning ourselves to eliminate the word ‘fine’, we challenge our mind and willpower to strive for what lies beyond our immediate grasp. We create the opportunity to engage in more meaningful conversations with others and thus form deeper connections. We take back control over the English language and our own semantic mastery of it. We appear intelligent and can impress others with our eloquence. Each step in this process builds upon the last and this change will not happen overnight. With a conscious effort though, you will find the winds of change blowing stronger over time.
A painter can only create a masterpiece as beautiful as the colors on their palette. A painter who only has access to black and white can create something great, this is true, but a painter who wields a palette with an abundance of colors holds a definitive advantage in the artwork they can create. Leaning and relying on the word ‘fine’ is akin to being the painter who only has access to black and white; you can no doubt create a beautiful work of art, but you are inherently limited. Stop choosing to the be the painter with only black and white. Take the steps to limit your usage of the world ‘fine’. Add the colors of life to your palette day by day. And behold the masterpieces you will create.