0

middling

[...]

1.1 Neither very good nor very bad.

(from here)

fair-to-middling

Slightly above average.

(from here)

Lexico didn't help me, though it kinda suggests that 'middling' means "average", whereas 'fair-to-middling' means "slightly better than average". How are they ranked in relation to each other?

2

I'm going to have to disagree with your source about the definition of fair-to-middling. I can't imagine anyone thinking it means "above average." Webster definitions:

  1. of middle, medium, or moderate size, degree, or quality
  2. MEDIOCRE, SECOND-RATE
  3. of, relating to, or being a middle class

On a five point scale, middling is a 3. Fair is a 2. Fair to middling is 2.5. I've often seen rating systems like this:

Poor - Fair - Acceptable - Good - Excellent

Middling would be a substitute for "Acceptable" in this context ("OK" would also work). Middling isn't that common of a word in spoken English. It's slightly archaic and often used playfully or ironically.

Of course, these are not very technical terms, so people may disagree on how they should be ranked. It could also be that British people use this word more and understand it differently. I speak American English.

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