June 3, 2017
He’s as fit as a fiddle.
Today, I decided to go with a phrase that uses alliteration. In this case, the saying we’re looking at uses consonance, or the repeat of a consonant sounds at the beginning of some words. Also, the F’s in this phrase are both followed by a short I sound, making for a bit of assonance.
When Was the Phrase ‘Fit As a Fiddle’ Coined?
The phrase “fit as a fiddle” may have originated in the 17th century, but not in the form we know it now. In The Batchelars banquet (1603), Thomas Dekker wrote:
Then comes downe mistresse Nurse as fine as a farthing fiddle, in her petticoat and kertle.
The phrase as we know it likely originated in 1616. That year, W. Haughton’s English-men for my money included this line:
This is excellent ynfayth as fit as a fiddle.
The word “ynfayth” means “in faith.”
What Does the Phrase Mean?
According to Martin, “Fit as a fiddle” means “very fit and well.” Also, the word “fit” was not originally used to describe a person with optimal health, but it meant, “suitable, seemly,” as one would be “right for the job.”
At Know Your Phrase.com, the page there explores why the word fiddle was chosen for the phrase and puts an emphasis on the modern usage of the word “fit.” Basically, the “health” of an instrument, like that of a violin, needs to be tended to for optimum sound. Users need to make sure the strings of a violin are tight and that they play the proper notes. The instrument needs to be cleaned occasionally and the bridge needs to be in its proper position.
On Disappearing Idioms, a post writer looked at two famous sayings, including “fit as a fiddle,” which used alliteration.
As Martin pointed out, the word “fit” in “fit as a fiddle” may have had a different meaning back then. Basically, something could “fit like a glove,” meaning that it was “suitable, appropriate for its usage.” The term developed the meaning we are familiar with shortly after the phrase was coined.
Why Was the Term ‘Fiddle’ Chosen for This Idiom?
As we all know, fiddle is just another term for a violin. Often, it depends on the type of music being played. For classical music, the instrument is referred to as a violin; but for music like bluegrass, the player of the instrument is using a fiddle ().
The writer of the post at Disappearing Idioms speculated that the term “fiddle,” A.K.A a violin, could have been chosen for a few reasons. While there is no clear reason for its usage, a violin may fit the phrase because of how it fits under the chin, how it is tightly crafted, or how the word “fiddle” completes the alliterative expression.
However, one commenter gave the following insight: The phrase may have been shorted from “fit as a fiddler,” because a fiddler would have to be in good shape to dancing around and singing while playing the instrument.
To that, enjoy this clip of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in “Singing in the Rain.”
“‘Dead as a Doornail,’ ‘Fit as a Fiddle.’” Disappearing Idioms. 22 June 2013. Web. Retrieved 2 June 2017. <http://disappearingidioms.com/dead-as-a-doornail-fit-as-a-fiddle/>.
“Fit as a Fiddle.” Know Your Phrase. Web. Retrieved 2 June 2017. <http://www.knowyourphrase.com/phrase-meanings/Fit-as-a-Fiddle.html>.
Martin, Gary. “Fit as a fiddle.” The Phrase Finder. Web. Retrieved 2 June 2017. <http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/40250.html>.