Monday morning you sure look fine

With a shout out to Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, I will use a song lyric of his to start out the week. The whole lyric is “Monday morning, you sure look fine, but Friday I got travelin’ on my mind.”

The word “fine” has a many different uses. In one of my favorite movies about a Scottish hero, “Rob Roy,” played by Liam Neeson, he would tell his wife (played by Jessica Lange) that “you are fine to me, woman.” The meaning which she returned later is you are beautiful to me.

There is an old line that is used that reinforces this belief. “She is so fine, the fine folks call her fine!” I won’t repeat a Richard Pryor line which is quite vulgar, but he responded to a comment, “You wouldn’t know a fine woman if you tripped over her.” Pryor’s line offered a rebuttal to that phrase, but is too colorful for these pages.

Today, it seems when things are “fine,” it means they are OK or slightly better. The usage downplays the meaning, where in the Rob Roy and Lindsey Buckingham examples, they understate beauty or something equivalent. This is one more example where tone and context matter.

The colloquial word “dude” can have multiple meanings depending on the tone. There is cute TV commercial, for an unremembered product, that walks through the multiple definitions of dude ranging from “I can’t believe you just did that” to “That is awesome.” I mention these examples, as my guess is all languages have variable meanings for words depending on when, where and how they are used.

Translation of words and meanings is doubly hard. Slang words often will use an opposite word to mean the same thing. “Cool” is one of those words. “Bad” is another. So, when learning a new language, it makes it difficult. When reading translated text, some of the meaning may be lost.

David Brooks introduced me to a Greek word called “thumos,” which has no counterpart in the English language. It means a sense of recognition and belonging. His context is thumos is the reason kids in school join groups – band, chorus, sports, chess club, etc. It is more than just belonging, it is the recognition they belong. I think this is a key reason we like to learn our ancestry.

So, when a friend walks up to you at a coffee shop, and you say “dude, you look fine,” he may be diminished if you use a monotone, but if you say “Dude…you look fine!” he may be uplifted. The tone matters, but so does the context. If you are in the same group of friends, your language may take on its own meaning leaving others lost in the meaning.

Lindsey Buckingham’s use of “fine” may have altered from Monday to Friday. In other words, the dude was leaving by the end of the week.

9 thoughts on “Monday morning you sure look fine

  1. Of late, I’ve noticed a number of words seem to have taken on new meaning … depending on who says them. Words like … “great”, “genius”, “best”, and “helping” … much depends on who is uttering those words, eh? Good post, Keith!

    • Jill, true. There are very few experts and geniuses. I see many who confuse being well-read with being expert in rhe subject matter. In performance reviews, people tend to think they are above average, when that cannot be universally true. Keith

  2. I am fascinated by the morphing of words by various generations, or the different meanings in different cultures.
    Our eldest, daughter Meg tells us our oldest grandchild Kath (24) says that we are ‘cute’- which does not translate in her lexicon to sweet in a baby animal or little child way but as ‘kindly/nice’ Now I seem to recall in my teenage days and absorbing American culture that ‘cute’ would be mostly used in a sarcastic or ironic way.
    It also seems we USA/UK seem to have a knack of using the same word for quite different meanings one nation’s version being usually vulgar or offensive (unbeknown to the other).
    The mildest example being US armed forces stationed in the UK during WWII being told not to use the word ‘bum’ in public – in the UK it means ‘backside’

    • Roger, too true. The word for cigarette there is offensive here. It is funny, sometimes altered versions of language is more illuminating.

      On the South Carolina coast, the African heritage introduced a local English language called Gullah. In Gullah language, “he is coming” meant he is coming in the future. “He be coming” means he is coming right now.


  3. Note to Readers: I could not write about “dude” without thinking of my daughter’s friend. “Dude” is one of her favorite words. When we first met, she probably felt I was as conservative as I looked. But, when I surprised her with talk of addressing climate change, gun governance and civil rights, she kept saying dude! She said her family thinks she is off base believing what she does, so she was delighted this old fart was copasetic with her views.

  4. So much of what is meant by “fine” is contextual or based on how you use your voice. When irritably you say “I’m FINE” you are saying “Go AWAY already.” But when you say “Oh, he/she is so fine!” it’s admiration.

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