good/fine as a fiddle

Bryan_K

Senior Member
Chinese
I just learn a phrase "as good/fine as a fiddle".
What I am confused about is why we use fiddle here as I checked it in the dictionary it is another word for violin?
 
  • Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    The idiom I am familiar with is 'fit as a fiddle'.

    The fiddle is a violin played, in folk tradition, in the 'first position', using only a two octave range of the instrument (as if it were an Erhu). It refers to the same instrument but played in this particular way.
     
    Last edited:

    losilmer

    Senior Member
    Because a fiddle (kind of violin) has to be fit, well accorded, to play fine melodies.
    If not, it sounds very badly.
    So, the fiddler has to adjust the cords before playing. Then, the instrument will be "fit, good, or fine as a fiddle" should be.

    A fiddle is the violin that the country musicians play, not necessarily the Stradivarius violin.
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Hi BryanK, and welcome to the forums!

    As you can see, we native speakers are only familiar with "fit as a fiddle". Can you please tell us where you have seen or heard "as good/fine as a fiddle"?
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I think we have to go back to the origins of "fit". Its' original meaning was closer to seemly, so the expression would have meant as "suitable, or appropriate, as a fiddle". Over the centuries meanings change.
     

    losilmer

    Senior Member
    As gasman says, fit means something like adjustment of one thing to another (the vibration or sound of the fiddle's cords adjusted to what must be the proper sounds). What is adjusted is seemly. So, "fit as a fiddle" would be as saying "adjusted or proper as a fiddle has to be." The idiom sounds well too, because of the sucession of the two syllables beginning with "fi".
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Ah, it is a test commonly required for non-native English speakers prior to their acceptance (or as part of the acceptance process) at many/most US universities. It has frequently come under fire for asking grammar questions that few native speakers would understand (even though they may answer them correctly, due to familiarity with the language). It has also been criticized for testing students on idiomatic phrases that are used incorrectly.
    It would seem that "as good/fine as a fiddle" is an excellent example of this last category, since none of us seem to recognize it.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I just learn a phrase "as good/fine as a fiddle".
    What I am confused about is why we use fiddle here as I checked it in the dictionary it is another word for violin?
    There are two reasons for using 'fiddle' instead of 'violin' here. The first is repetition of the 'f' - which is called 'alliteration' - Cool as a Cucumber, Silly old Sausage...

    Given the extended version provided by Natkretep - 'Fit/Fine as a Farthing Fiddle' the second reason is identified. The fiddle is a 'cheap' or 'basic' violin.

    I do know some expert fiddlers who play very expensive violins, but the quality of 'fiddle' music does not lie in the tone or range. A violin has over three octaves (from the bottom note: G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G = one octave) but a cheap one may not stay in tune above the second octave. When played as a fiddle only the lower two octaves are used (called playing in "the first position").
    What is important is that a fiddle can be played very fast. Fiddle music is lively music.

    Thus, if one is 'fit as a fiddle', one may not have much subtlety or even a full range of movement, but can move well enough to do the simple or basic things in life, and do them in a bright, lively manner:

    She's 15 years old and is going blind and deaf but is otherwise fit as a fiddle.
     
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