Blog: Fiddle/Fettle

Burt Ross

I wish I could say it weren’t so, but I am still having trouble with my native tongue. I just don’t understand half the expressions out there. 

I recently saw a doctor (that is what people my age do most of the time) and he said I was “fit as a fiddle.” Now, to be perfectly frank, I didn’t know fiddles came in degrees of fitness. I like string instruments as much as the next person, but why didn’t the doctor say “you are as fit as a tuba” or “a drum?” What does he have against wind or percussion instruments? The language simply perplexes me.

Another doctor (yes, I just said that is what people my age do most of the time) told me I was in fine fettle. I naturally corrected him, “Doctor, you mean fine fiddle.” “No,” he responded, “You are in fine fettle.” 

I immediately turned to my good friends at Google to find out what all this fettle stuff was about. They were not much help. Apparently “fine fettle” is an obscure term in old English. Why my doctor is speaking old English when I am having trouble with new English is beyond my comprehension. 

These doctors are causing me endless stress, which cannot possibly be good for my health. Just maybe they are doing this to generate more business.

English is not the only language which has given me trouble. I took French for three years in high school. I still don’t have a clue why every noun needs a gender. Why should a toaster be a male or a female appliance? When I learned the French word for brassiere was preceded by “le” (masculine), not “la” (feminine), I gave up on French altogether like I sometimes would like to do with English.

As for this “fit as a fiddle” or “in fine fettle,” let me suggest a combination. All one has to say is, “You are in fine fiddle/fettle.”