"fair to middlin'"

Bonnie Osborn Briggs BBriggs at LATTE.MEMPHIS.EDU
Mon Feb 7 14:58:46 UTC 2000

It's actually a grade of cotton.  This is also were the term "strictly
middlin'" comes from.  If your cotton got a grade of fair or middling -
it was OK.  If it got a grade of strict middling or strict low middling
- that was better.  When I was growing up, every time we ginned a bale
of cotton, we would get a card through the mail and it would have the
grade as well as some other information on it.  I believe the card was
sent out by the cotton company who did the grading.  This grade of
course drove the price that you got for your cotton.

Bonnie Briggs
The University of Memphis

Gerald Cohen wrote:
>     The following origin of "fair to middlin'" was passed along to me today
> by a man who grew up on a cotton farm in the bootheel of Missouri.  He
> tells me that  "fair to middlin'" probably has its origin in the speech of
> people who work with cotton.  I have not yet had a chance to check this in
> the reference works.
>     He points out that there are four rankings of cotton according to the
> length of the fibers:
> 1) good, 2) middlin', 3) fair, 4) poor.  Hence: "fair to middlin'."
>      Sounds plausible.
> ----Gerald Cohen
> gcohen at umr.edu

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