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.