Friday, February 11, 2011


A former colleague of mine, Harold Henderson (whose permission to name him I'm going to get after I post this), used to answer "I'm tolerable" when people asked how he was. To which I used to reply "yeah, right, if you think so." I miss Harold, and conceivably one of the reasons for posting this--a reason I dare not speculate on even to myself--is that it gives me an excuse to contact him to get his permission to mention him here.

Lately--which means over the last few years, but since I'm old I have a long perspective, and anything a few years ago is recent to me--and where was I? Right. I remember now. Lately, I've been noticing that some people say "I'm awesome" or "I'm good" or the like when you ask how they are. Which used to sound weird to me. I mean, we're not asking their opinions of themselves or asking them to do a self-esteem exercise. It no longer sounds weird to me because I've heard it so often. (Actually, it still does. I'm still getting used to "into" meaning "interested in," which I first noticed around forty years ago.) But anyhow, nowadays "tolerable" seems like a suitable answer to the question, especially if, like me, you have terrific self-esteem but don't want to brag about your sheer (as opposed to opaque) awesomeness.

Point is, from now on I'm going to say that I'm tolerable when people ask how I am. If I remember. Thank you, Harold Henderson.


Lisa said...

Harold can correct me if he likes, but I suspect "I'm tolerable" was a verbal shorthand for "I'm doing tolerably well." Just as "I'm awesome!" is probably short for "I'm doing awesomely!"

The Ridger, FCD said...

I grew up hearing "Tolerable" as the answer to "How you doin'?" And I'm almost 60.

Michael Koplow said...

I'm almost sixty, too. I don't think I ever heard it when I was growing up. I just assumed it was one of Harold's many goofinesses, and that he wanted people to question his tolerability. Live and learn.