Blog: How Are You

Burt Ross

People have a tendency to ask me deep philosophical questions such as “how are you?” Often this question assaults me early in the day, and means that simply to respond, I have to burn up the few remaining brain cells which still reside upstairs. Occasionally the question comes in different forms, such as “how you doin?” or “how is everything?”

Now just think about the question “how is everything?” How can an individual possibly answer that question? Everything encompasses a whole lot of territory.  Everything most assuredly includes my stock portfolio, my next column, the status of my home rebuild, to say nothing of my weight.  I don’t have the time or the inclination to do a self analysis in order to answer such a demanding question, especially before I have had my first cup of coffee.

Most of the time I answer such questions with a simple “fair to midland.” I have a pretty good idea what “fair” means, but not a clue what “midland” is all about. So I do what I always do when I need some knowledge, I contact my good friends at Google.

Apparently “midland” is the mispronunciation of the word “middling” which often is shortened in the South to “middlin.” This, of course, tells me absolutely nothing until I discover what “middling” is all about. 

The word was and is a term used by farmers to describe the quality of their farm produce or stock, especially sheep of ordinary quality. There were several loosely defined grades of quality such as ‘good’,’fair’, ‘middling’, and ‘poor.’ In other words, when I have been telling people I feel “fair to midland”, I really mean “fair to middling,” which in turn means I am telling the world my sheep’s wool is not so good.

Around 1450 right before I was born, “middling” first made it into print in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue: “the ynch sulde be with the thoum off midling mane nother our mikil nor our litil bot be tuyx the twa.”  I could not have said it any better. My spell check just crashed. I never could understand the Scotts anyway. 

An acquaintance of mine at Diamond’s Gym when asked about her overall condition simply tells people, “Dokie.” Her name is Marguerite, and she grows the best tomatoes in Malibu, which has absolutely nothing to do with this column. 

I like the concept of describing my total life experience in just one simple word, but before I start saying “dokie” to one and all, I thought it wise to check with Google again.

Unfortunately, “dokie” by itself does not mean anything at all. Apparently you would never use it except as part of “okie dokie,” which means okay. Like Marguerite, I don’t have time for more than one word, so from here on in, “dokie” it is. If you don’t like that response, please don’t ask me how I am doing.