Did "fair to middling" originate with cotton?

Michael Quinion michael.quinion at BTINTERNET.COM
Thu Nov 8 09:10:35 UTC 2001

> A while back there was an ads-l discussion on "fair to middling,"
> with attribution of the expression to the grades of cotton: good,
> middling, fair, poor.

I'm sure, from checking nineteenth-century citation material, that
there is an explicit link between the phrase and grades of cotton.
See my piece at


Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
<editor at worldwidewords.org>

More information about the Ads-l mailing list