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“Nice” Isn’t as Nice as I Thought

Just when I think I really know a word, along comes a TV show to correct me.

In this case, it’s the first episode of the eight season of “Criminal Minds,” in which Dr. Alex Blake (Jeanne Tripplehorn) says the origin of the word nice is 12th century Middle English meaning “foolish” or “stupid.” She then acknowledges the more modern use of the adjective, which means “pleasing” and “agreeable.”

So, of course, I had to look it up for myself. My dictionary says the word indeed derived from Middle English but lists the 14th century instead of the 12th. The meaning “foolish,” appears in my dictionary, but instead of “stupid,” it lists “wanton” as another meaning. Wanton in the 14th century meant “hard to control, undisciplined, unruly” (today, it usually refers to “having no just foundation or provocation; malicious”).

But there were so many other definitions of nice I did not know existed, many of which have different connotations: “showing finicky tastes,” “exacting in requirements or standards,” “possessing, marked by,or demanding greater excessive definition and delicacy,” “trivial,” “most inappropriate” and “well-executed.”

In other words, not always as nice as I thought. How nice.

Props to Erica Messer, the episode’s writer.

Until next time! Use the right words!


June 1, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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