"Fair-to-middling” is an expression for something that is about average (fair) or only slightly above average (middling). “Fair to Midland” is a pun on the expression, using the West Texas city of “Midland” to replace the word “middling.”
The Texas version “fair to Midland” has been cited in print since at least 1944. A progressive metal band called “Fair to Midland” formed in 1998. Dwight Yoakum’s song, “Fair to Midland,” was released in 2003.
Wikipedia: Midland, Texas
Midland is a city in and the county seat of Midland County, Texas, United States, on the Southern Plains of the state’s western area. A small portion of the city extends into Martin County. As of 2008, the population of Midland was 106,561. It is the principal city of the Midland, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Midland County. The metropolitan area is also a component of the larger Midland–Odessa, Texas Combined Statistical Area, which had an estimated population of 266,941 as of July 1, 2009. People in Midland are called Midlanders.
Midland was originally founded as the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881. The city has received national recognition as the hometown of former First Lady Laura Bush and the childhood home of former President George W. Bush.
Wikipedia: Fair to Midland
Fair to Midland is an American progressive metal band formed in 1998. They are currently signed to Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike label. According to the band’s official website, their name comes from “...an old Texan play on the term ‘fair to middling’.” The band produced two self-released albums and one album and an EP under Serjical Strike. They are currently working on their untitled fourth studio album.
World Wide Words
FAIR TO MIDDLING
From John Rupp, Dallas, Texas: I have often heard the phrase fair to Midland (middlin’?) in response to the inquiry ‘How are you doing?’ Any ideas on the origins of this phrase?
A: As you hint, the phrase is correctly fair to middling, common enough — in Britain as well as North America — for something that’s moderate to merely average in quality, sometimes written the way people say it, as fair to middlin’.
With an initial capital letter, fair to Midland is a Texas version of the phrase, a joke on the name of the city of Midland in that state. A Texas rock band called themselves Fair to Midland after what they described as “an old Texan play on the term ‘fair to middling’”. American researcher Barry Popik has traced it to May 1935 in a report in the New York Times, “Dr. William Tweddell ... is what might be called a fair-to-Midland golfer.”
But we do occasionally see examples of fair to midland in American contexts without a capital letter and without any suggestion of humour: ...
(Oxford English Dictionary)
fair-to-middling a. (also adv.), slightly above average
1865 ‘A. WARD’ A. Ward: His Travels 41 The men are *fair to middling.
1884 A. DOHERTY N. Barlow xi. 66, I guess my wallet’s fair-to-middling fat.
1900 H. GARLAND Eagle’s Heart 223 ‘How’d they feed ye back there?’..‘Oh, fair to middlin’.’
25 May 1935, New York (NY) Times, “Two Up and One to Go” (British Amateur golf—ed.) by John Kieran, pg. 9, col. 5:
There’s still an opportunity to lose it because the carefree clouter from California has thirty-six holes (or less) to play with Dr. William Tweddell, who is what might be called a fair-to-Midland golfer himself. He’s a neat little middle-aged player from Birmingham ...
Tall Talk from Texas
By Boyce House
San Antonio, TX: The Naylor Company
A West Texan’s response to a greeting as to how he is feeling: “Fair to Midland.”
OCLC WorldCat record
Author: Dwight Yoakam
Publisher: Nashville, TN : Koch Records/Audium Records/Electrodisc Records, 2003.
Edition/Format: Musical CD : Country music : English
The Late great Golden State --
No such thing --
Fair to Midland—
“Fair to Midland” lyrics
Now to make myself west Texas bound
The fare to Midland is all I need
The Curio Hut and Mystery Emporium
Fair to Midland
What a blast from the past. I’m sitting here, blogging, not working, minding my own business, listening online to Americana Roots Radio, and this Dwight Yoakum song called Fair to Midland comes on. (Get it? “fair to middling” + West Texas story = “fair to Midland”…)
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006 at 1:25 am
The Concrete Cowboy (Vol. III)
By Stephan R Hutchinson
He nodded to him, which brought on a slight smile to Bobby Joe‟s face, as he asked, “You doing all right?”
Hutch replied, “Oh, fair to Midland,” which was a very common response in East Texas.
I try to live life in the gray, or, as they say in West Texas, “Fair to Midland.”