When I was in grade school, I remember people accusing each other of being “prejudice”. None of us knew what the word meant, which was perfect, because if you denied or didn’t deny it, that was reason to be mocked. Children are especially good at using any word to insult their peers. Adults have the advantage of many years of experience, though, so we don’t want to declare a winner too soon.
Today’s word is pretty insulting, at least in one sense. We can use it to mean “incapable of being refined, clarified, or purified”, which might normally be used to describe really bad wine. But if someone called you unfineable, then it would mean you not only have no class and will never have class but you couldn’t have class if you tried. Pretty harsh. Anyone who remembers “Ma and Pa Kettle” from the days of black and white TV and movies might agree that they were unfineable. Not that they were unkind or rude, but just the type of people who insist that you sit down in the kitchen, even though you have to shoo away the barnyard animals to free up the seat.
There are other meanings, which hang on “fine” as a financial penalty. So either an offense or a person may not be fineable. An unfineable offense could be something that is too minor to be punished. Maybe in a library, where there is a fine for keeping a book longer than prescribed has no fine if something other than a book is borrowed, such as a newspaper from weeks ago. Just bring it back when you remember. Or never. We won’t even notice.
Celebrities would be the first folks I’d describe as unfineable in this sense, and I can’t imagine how many celebrities get by with a mild warning for speeding, running a red light, and even DUI. We only hear about the ones that don’t get away with it, but they always act surprised, as though not getting away with it is a totally new experience. Or athletes who are given a free pass because the team is winning, and when they finally get to college or even the pros, somebody decides to end the string of unpaid sins. Again, there is a sense of injustice from the (alleged) criminal athlete, and you can almost hear their lawyer whispering, “please don’t say you’ve done this for years without a problem”…
But I think the example I have seen the most would be girls getting away with a warning for speeding. It doesn’t happen every time, but I guarantee that my wife and daughters have a huge advantage over myself and my sons when it comes to speeding tickets. Often, just a smile or a few tears from them is all that is needed. But I had a friend who claimed to have dated most of the NJ State Troopers. According to her, once they know that you’d trade a date to get a warning, you get stopped all the time. So, clearly not an option (or issue) for me. I just get the ticket and pay the fine. In this sense, I am about 90% fineable.
As for the first meaning I mentioned, I remember an experience while substitute teaching in my own high school. I knew many of the teachers, and had a mostly pleasant experience with the ones I’d had for classes. But in the teachers’ lunch room, they are not always the same as in the classroom. One teacher that was mostly liked by his students spent the entire lunch period talking about every kid who did anything wrong. In contrast, there was a teacher who was not one of my favorites who was gracious and kind in the lunchroom, and who never joined in any criticism or negative talk. My opinion of her changed drastically from that experience, and I wonder if I’d have found her less annoying as a teacher if I’d known how gracious she was as a person back when I was in her class.
We all have our issues, and some more than others, and some bigger than others. But there is the saying that “while there is life, there is hope”, and I think that applies here. We may not be the best we can be, but we can keep improving. We may lack in one area but excel in another. We may even be horrible in every way, but then there’s no where to go but up! I just don’t want to declare someone a loser too soon. I don’t want to think of anyone as unfineable. It’s harsh. It’s too harsh.