I often use the expression “I’m fine” or “that’ll be fine” to mean “I’m ok”, “no worries” etc.
But today it struck me, while reading a comment on my latest article, that ‘fine’ has been devalued in many contexts from “pure, unblemished, perfect, complete” down to merely “satisfactory, acceptable”.
Its etymology is in Old French ‘fin’ as in ‘finished’ but with the positive sense of perfection, acme, or end. Fine art, fine wine, a fine thread; they all connote quality, ‘finish’ in the most creative sense – the same sense that gives us a finish in the sense of a veneer or lacquer, the finishing touches.
Fine is therefore suggestive of a teleology or purpose, a direction, not a merely arbitrary ending but a meaningful one, completion in accordance with a goal or plan, the complete instantiation of the essence of a thing.
To be fine is therefore a wonderful state to inhabit. I hope I can achieve it one day!
In the meantime I need to find an alternative way of saying “I’m sufficiently good, thankyou.”