In many contexts of our life experience, "fine" sadly seems to have drifted toward embodying mediocrity.

Consider this all too common dialogue: "How are you?" "Oh, I’m fine."  Or, perhaps, "Just fine."

Translation: "O.K.," "average," "acceptable," "passable," "satisfactory," "I can’t complain," "I’ve been better," or maybe "could be much better" . . . .

After all, how interested or excited does someone sound with their "fine by me" response to your generous invitation or suggestion? Especially when accompanied by emoticons or real-life eye-rolling body language?

Whatever happened to the leading dictionary meanings of this orally over-used four-letter-word?:

"Of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade: fine wine."

"Choice, excellent, or admirable: a fine painting."

Outside the context of wine, art, food, china, jewelry, dining, and perhaps blogging, extolling fineness does nothing to draw me in.

Perhaps this recognition is consistent with why the term appears in less than 1,500 live marks on the USPTO database. In fact, there are more dead marks including this term than live ones. In addition, it appears less frequently in the USPTO database than other laudatory terms like "best" or "choice" — by considerable margins. And many of the live marks that do exist lead the adjective with another one (i.e., SuperFine Bakery, Veryfine Juice, or Damn Fine Tea) — futher evidence the f-word seems emotionally weak standing on its own.

I’m left wondering whether the term’s meaning decline began with Toni Basil’s "one hit wonder" from 1982 entitled "Mickey," with the ad nauseam lyrics: "Oh, Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey, hey Mickey." Just a thought.

Having said all that, I’ll have to admit, I’m still definitely a sucker for quaint red neon signs appearing in frost-paned country windows reading "Fine Dining," even when the exterior of the establishment might speak otherwise or even beg to differ. My family certainly can attest that these dining adventures have led to mixed reviews over the years.

In the distant world of comic book grading, a "fine" grade is only a 6.0 on a 10.0 scale, according to CGC. Worse yet, a "fine" designation using the Sheldon Scale of Coin Grading yields a meager 12 out of a possible 70 score.

I’d love to hear from our expert naming friends on the question of how and why the word "fine" has lost its "superior" meaning, at least in so much of our day-to-day common English usage.

Now, when it comes to the context of lawyering, "fine" can mean something much more negative than mediocre: As in, you better read the "fine print" in the contract!

References to "the fine print" also can have negative or controversial connotations in the world of advertising and marketing, as in the context of deceptive or misleading advertising.

So, in my humble effort to rejuvenate the "superior," "excellent," "highest grade," and "admirable" meanings behind the four-letter-word "fine," below the jump you’ll find twelve of my favorite and mighty fine guest posts from a diverse collection of our fine guest bloggers during 2011.


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by Randall Hull of The Br@nd Ranch®

AKA: "Oh What a feeling".

Unless you have been on a trek to one of the poles or living in a cabin deep in the woods somewhere, you have likely heard about the huge problem facing Toyota Motor Corporation and its U.S. organization Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.

It’s not every day you get a chance to use that phrase in a headline. But, what may become known as the "The Cayman Kerfuffle", presents the perfect opportunity.

Would a reasonable person find these confusingly similar?

         

$51,000 Blue Cayman                                                      $30 Blue Cayman

Let’s see, one is a sleek, pricey, well-engineered, high

Similar to the Hostess Brands, Inc. predicament, recently posted by Dan Kelly, Goodwill Industries International, Inc. (www.goodwill.org), the well-known and respected non-profit, didn’t own the one domain you would expect — Goodwill.com.

The domain went up for auction this past December after the original owner, a Japanese staffing company named Goodwill Group, Inc., changed

This may have gone largely unnoticed but it did catch my attention. Brink’s Home Security recently changed their brand name to Broadview Security and is spending $120 million to tell us about it, as discussed here, here, and here.

Broadview? Really? Is that the best the branding team at Landor Associates could come up with? Pardon

RadioShack recently introduced a new name, rebranding its stores "The Shack", which now adorns their retail environment and marketing efforts.

The change was prompted by a desire to update the 88-year-old brand as they transition to mobile phone and wireless products without losing brand equity and mind-share, according to RadioShack. As Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times mused, "For a company that wants to talk up its expertise in mobile phones, no one seems to have noticed that mobile phones are radios!"

To officially roll out the new, shortened, and supposedly hipper moniker, RadioShack staged "The Shack Summer Netogether" in NY and SF August 6 – 8, broadcasting the event live via "massive laptops" located in Times Square and Justin Herman Plaza, respectively. Video was streamed live on their Facebook page and their redesigned web site.

The current trend to truncate brand names is puzzling. Is this an attempt to beguile the text-message obsessed youth market, where everything is "abrv8d"? Or drive up sales through brand-brevity because we lack long attention spans?

I understand distilling a brand to its essence. Coke and FedEx are good examples, but Pizza Hut and Circuit City are not.


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