Gadfly that I am, I recently butted into a discussion of grammar and said, "You know, it really is all right to say, `I feel well.' " My colleagues on the copy desk recoiled in horror at such a pronouncement. It was as if I had said, "Just between you and I, him and me isn't getting along real good no more."Like lightning, my fellow guardians of grammar invoked the AP stylebook entry on "good and well" and reminded me that "feeling well" means having a good sense of touch.
Well, the AP dictum on "good and well" is well and good. And I, like all well-instructed schoolchildren, was brought up to think "I don't feel good" was more likely than "I don't feel well" to convince my parents that I deserved a day off from school.
It is, of course, perfectly proper to say, "I feel good.But please don't equate my approval for "feeling well" with approval for "feeling badly," which is a giant grammar goof.
As a verb, the word "feel" has several meanings and can be either transitive or intransitive. For example:
-"I felt my glands to see if they were swollen." The transitive verb means "to touch."
-"It's so cold I can't feel my toes." The transitive verb means "to perceive through a physical sensation."
-"He feels crack cocaine is the nation's biggest problem." The transitive verb means "to think" or "to believe."
-"The water feels warm." The intransitive verb means "to appear to the senses."
-"I feel for you, pal." The intransitive verb means "to be moved to sympathy."
-"I feel sick." The intransitive verb means "to be" or "to be aware of being."
It's this last meaning I have in mind when I say, "I feel well."
Which brings me to the word "well." It, too, has several meanings, and can be used as a noun, adjective, adverb or interjection.
As an adverb, "well" can mean "properly," "satisfactorily," "competently," "thoroughly," "pleasingly," "skillfully," "advantageously," etc. As an adjective, "well" can mean "satisfactory" or "healthy."
When I say, "I feel well," I obviously mean "I feel healthy." And I feel good about saying it that way.
If you want to get technical, you can tell me that "feeling well" is a transitive verb meaning "to touch" followed by an adverb that means "capably" and makes me sound like an idiot. And you will be right.
But, by the same token, I can get technical and tell you that "feeling well" is an intransitive verb meaning "to be" followed by an adjective meaning "healthy." And I will be right, too.
I will also be exercising grammatical good faith and common sense about what "feeling well" really means.
After all, when you return to work after a bout of the flu and your co-workers ask if you're feeling better, they're not asking if your sense of touch has improved. They want to know how you feel - they want to know how you are.
By all means, feel good if you prefer, and feel safe in the knowledge that no one will ever tell you it is wrong to feel good. (Not in the grammatical sense, at least.)
But if you're a rabble-rouser like I am, feel well when you are healthy and feel good about your choice of words, no matter what anyone may say.