All's sub-par in love and war.
May 25, 2011 4:44 PM Subscribe
Why is fair considered to be lesser than good, very good or excellent?
posted by eschatfische to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fair is a funny word.
As an adjective, fair indicates that something is free from bias, dishonesty or injustice -- which would seem to be an excellent state for something to be in. Fair weather implies clear skies. Fair can also be synonymous with ample, favorable, or free of barriers (fair game), all of which seem to be enormously positive.
But there it is, nestled as an adjective between poor and good in any given survey, and commonly taken to mean "only just acceptable". If something is fair in that context, it's not quite good, or worse than average. This would seem to directly contrast with the other uses of fair.
Online dictionaries and etymology sites don't seem to explain the apparent contradiction of the use of fair as an adjective. How did these two uses come about?