Have a nice weekend!

Well, what a nice thing to say, yeah? Of course. It’s affable, amiable, courteous, well-meaning and all round nice. But is it really the right word? And would I be asking you that question if the answer were a resounding ‘yes’?


The nice person that resides within the grouchy ogre of an English teacher that I appear to be ( I know, it’s Friday evening and I’m coming at you with this) is a nice person who totally understands why people use and/or overuse the word.

Nice day, nice shoes, nice view, nice song, nice haircut, nice weather, nice cup of tea*… The thing is ‘nice’ seems to apply to everything so means pretty much nothing in particular. So you won’t be doing yourself any favours by using it in writing tasks, exams and so on.

Now for the peculiar and really rather interesting thing about the word. Fans of weird etymology will already know this, but just in case that’s not your cup of tea*, here’s the thing. This word has made an incredible journey from its origins:  «careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish,» from Latin nescius** «ignorant, unaware,» literally «not-knowing,» from ne- «not» (from PIE root «not») + stem of scire «to know».


«The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj.» – from «timid, faint-hearted» (pre-1300); to «fussy, fastidious» (late 14c.); to «dainty, delicate» (c. 1400); to «precise, careful» (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to «agreeable, delightful» (1769); to «kind, thoughtful» (1830).

Who knew?

So if there’s anything that’s going to shock people (not you, I know it’s not you) into avoiding this word, it’s the idea that when calling someone ‘nice’, you’re actually calling them stupid or ignorant. But, evidently, only in a parallel universe where the word hasn’t been on this amazing voyage of meaning. Or if you have a really wild weekend and for some reason wake up on a Sunday morning in the 13th century.

So have a delectable, delicious, delightful, delightsome and dreamy (and that’s just the ‘d’s 🙂 weekend!

Here’s a song. Choose your own adjective. Just don’t say ‘nice’,

* OK, I’ll admit that the best adjective to describe a cup of tea is ‘nice’.

* If you say that something is ‘not your cup of tea’, you mean you don’t like it or are not interested in it.

** So originally it was like ‘necio’ in Spanish.

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