Overheard last week at the Coffee Bean in Studio City:
Male barista (early 20’s): Good morning!
Female customer (with baby in stroller): Hi, how are you?
Barista: I’m doing well, thanks.
Customer: Oh! I love that you said “well!” You know the difference between and adjective and an adverb!
Molly (putting sugar in iced coffee): I feel sorry for your baby.
(Ok, that’s an alternate ending featured in the director’s cut.)
Now aside from the troubling condescension of the woman in our little vignette, this struck a nerve with me because of the whole “well vs. good” issue. Now, in the case I am 100% sure that “I’m doing well” is the proper grammatical response because he’s describing how he’s doing, thus requiring the adverb “well.” But I have always been bothered by the response “I’m well” to the question “How are you?”. Why? I’ve always been a stickler for grammar myself, but something about “I’m well” has always made me cringe.
In my mind, using “well” is wrong because you’re using an adverb to describe an object. You wouldn’t say “I’m badly” or “I’m swimmingly.” I guess it works if you mean it as opposed to being sick, but that seems like the only appropriate use.
But before I go on about this anymore, I should admit that I did a little internet research and found a solid argument for “I’m well.” According to some etiquette lady…
Realize that when you respond “I’m good” to the question “How are you?” you are telling the person that you are beneficial, kind, favorable or perhaps virtuous (depending on how the listener interprets your answer).
Ok. I get that. The problem is, I still hate “I’m well.” And I’ll continue to refuse to say it, instead saying “I’m doing well” or “Do you really care or can I just order my coffee?”. But if I just held a door open for someone I’ll enjoy a well-earned “I’m good.”