Now, before I decided to do this, I did a little online research hoping to learn some more on this most interesting phrase, its origins, its etymology and such. What I learned is that though most online sources can express what the phrase means, most have no idea where it started nor when. And all of the sites I visited missed the pun entirely. (As for origins, one site did mention that it must have come from the south, so I'll go with that.)
What amazes me is that all of the sites gave essentially the same information or misinformation. They state that the fact that frog hair is not existent means that something is good. (What?) Example: "Since frogs do not have hair, something that is "finer than frog hair" means something that is as thin/fine/excellent as possible." I don't get how something thin is excellent. Witness, for example, thin paper is not as good as thicker linen paper. To say something is excellent merely because it is thin (or nonexistent) is a misnomer. In this way, the meaning of the phrase (and the joke) is lost.
That's right, the joke. In every example I found none of them went into the fact that the phrase makes use of a pun in the form of a homophone using just about every single definition of the word 'fine.'
- Fine as to make or become thinner.
- Fine as an adverb, meaning in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well.
- Fine as in very small particles found in mining, milling, etc.
- Fine to describe a thread, filament, or person's (or a frog's) hair as thin.
- Fine as of high quality.
So, the next time someone asks how you are, tell them you're 'finer than frog hair' and then laugh loud and long at your terrific pun. One of the most incredible puns of all time, and its southern in origin...or at least I'm going to say that.
So, there you are.