Nothing wrong with being nice

48

Were you told at school , as I was, that the word ‘nice’ should never be used? Its use was deemed lazy, its user lacking the vocabulary or creativity to think of a more fitting adjective.  Today, describing someone as nice is considered almost derogatory as though one is suggesting that the person has no remarkable quality. Is this really such a bad thing? Who makes these decisions?

I recently described a husband and wife that I know like this: “They’re such a nice couple”. What should I have said instead?  Let’s look at what the thesaurus has to offer: Pleasant, good, polite,  kind, agreeable, attractive, pleasurable.  Whilst politeness is an admirable quality, I know people who, whilst perfectly polite, are not actually very nice at all so I don’t think the two are interchangeable. If someone told me that my acquaintances were ‘good’, I’d ask, “Good at what?” Attractive? Surely that relates to the physical, and if I told you someone was attractive it would give you no insight at all to their personality.  So what is it that makes this couple nice? Well, they’re considerate of others, have a gentle manner, are generous with their time, offer help where they can, and are thoughtful … I could go on but isn’t it a lot easier to find an all encompassing adjective to sum up their qualities? The nearest synonym I can come up with is ‘pleasant’.  But the trouble with synonyms (useful as they are to any writer), is that whilst the general sentiment can be conveyed, too often the subtleties of language and nuance of meaning mean that the word used doesn’t quite hit the mark.  Personally I think ‘pleasant’ akin to ‘ok, but nothing to write home about.’

So I shall continue to use the word ‘nice’ when I feel it appropriate to the subject matter and if anyone chooses to describe me as a nice person, then I shall take it at face value and be flattered. And I shall thank them.. … … nicely.

 

16 comments

  1. Oh yes, we were simply not allowed to use “nice” by our English teacher! Another word we could not use was “got” (that’s “gotten” to you in the USA) as that was considered lazy, too. And I agree, synonyms seldom have the same meaning or are even close, and ‘pleasant’ is bland in the utmost. And I hate the word ‘plump’, too (see Sue Goodall’s comment) as if it’s a plum with its skin about to split!
    Margaret P

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    • I don’t remember anything relating to ‘got’ but the many lessons learned from the marvellous Miss Templeman, with whom I credit my love of language, have stayed with me for decades. We all have certain words which offend or irritate us, don’t we?

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  2. I don’t think I was ever told not to use the word, “nice”, but, that could be because I learned English as a second language. Personally, I think we could all do with a little more “nice” in our lives! It seems to be sadly lacking, at the moment.

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  3. I, too, was told at school to avoid the word ‘nice’ at all costs. However, there are times when only ‘nice’ will do. I’m conscious that I tend to overuse the word ‘lovely’ and try to find alternatives – especially when I’m writing my blog! Dare I say ‘nice post’… No, great post!

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    • Haha June. Ditto! I also use ‘lovely’ too often, but these little quirks are part of us. We’re not hurting anyone so let’s just be who we are and say it how we want to. X

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  4. Spot on, thank you I will feel much better about using ‘nice’ now. BTW I’m also in the same age bracket and was told the same about nice usage.

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  5. I also remember being told not to use the word ‘nice’ at school, and I also have no problem at all with it. It sometimes depends on the intonation though – if my husband describes dinner as ‘nice’ in a particularly flat tone, I know he hates it! Have a nice weekend. xx

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    • Of course intonation plays a big part in whatever we say. A sarcastic tone can turn a word or phrase completely on its head! When my children say, “Yes Mum, ” in a certain way, what they really mean is that they have no intention of taking any notice of me and are simply humouring their annoying mother! Enjoy your weekend too.

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  6. I use the word ‘nice’ a lot too and really mean it. You are right, it is sometimes difficult to think of an appropriate alternative. Good post.

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  7. Oh, I totally agree. Personally, I’ve always thought ‘pleasant’ sounds nondescript, unremarkable, forgettable even. Another example – I have no problem with people describing me as ‘fat’ (not that they do – well, not in my hearing) as that’s what I am! However, I hate the word ‘plump’.

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