Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No More Mr. Nice Guy

It's good to be a nice person--to say nice things, to do nice things, to write nice things--but I declare an end to the use of the word nice.

Nice is what you say when you can't think of any other adjective. Someone shows you a picture of their back yard--that's nice. Someone tells you about their afternoon adventure--that's nice. Or someone describes their childhood in great detail and sometimes with painstaking effort--that's nice. It's a lazy word, and it's non-descriptive.

Nice is like mashed potatoes with noodles and chicken gravy all in a big pile on one plate with some canned corn for garnish. Everything is the same color and texture and base substance--starch (this is a favorite Amish dish). Nice is like a partly cloudy day in April when outside feels like inside, and you can't tell a difference between the lighting and the temperature of your living room and the lighting and temperature of your front yard. Nice is a glass of lukewarm water.

I had a roommate in college for a few months who was from Niceville, Florida, but I didn't think she was very nice. She complained that I slept in a bed full of books, and she cried on the phone for hours with her boyfriend back in Niceville--the diamond in her engagement ring wasn't as large as she was hoping for and didn't demonstrate the amount of love she felt she deserved.

Merriam-Webster's Thesaurus suggests some alternatives to the word nice--alluring, inviting, enchanting, blissful, intoxicating, luscious, harmonious, exhilarating. I may try some of these out the next time I read someone's post about the history of their town or a description of their favorite movie or why they vote the way they do. Show me a picture you've taken of your mailbox, if you want, and I'll tell you it's charmingly utilitarian. Post a paragraph or two about your ride to work, and I'll comment about how industrious you are, and what an inspiring work ethic you possess. But I will not say anything about nice.

20 comments:

dive said...

Good morning, cute girl full of eggy-breakfast.
Your lazy and non-descriptive blogpal writes: That's nice, Robyn.
Hey! Nice is still nice over here (sorry).
And the population of Nice in southern France may well take issue with you (but then they're French, so you can ignore them).
There's really a Niceville in Florida? Eew! Tacky!
That's a lovely description of your roommate. I hope for his sake her fiancé called it off.
I'm afraid my mailbox is less than charmingly utilitarian (or even nice), as we don't have them over here. We make our postmen walk all the way up the drive and put stuff through the letterbox. It keeps them fit.

Robyn said...

I don't know what happened to my roommate--we each asked for a different roommate after one semester, and then I never saw her again. I assume she went back to Florida and married somebody and got the big diamond ring of her dreams.

We have to have mail boxes in our neighborhood because we are considered rural, so some lady in her minivan drives up and delivers the mail. If she had to walk all the hills with no sidewalks, she'd be dead in a week.

dive said...

My postie has a nice red all-terrain bicycle. They put all the village mail in a big metal shed up near the main road and he then cycles round the farms and houses (stopping at several for a cuppa and a chat).
When I'm working from home we'll sometimes stand at the corner with John (one of my neighbours) and chew the fat for ages.
Which is why he usually gets to my house around two in the afternoon when we're supposed to have our mail first thing in the morning.
Nice …

Robyn said...

I have a work pal who lives somewhere east of London, and we developed a children's story book character who would be a cross between Miss Marple and Postman Pat. She would ride a red scooter, and in one side bag would be a kitty cat, and in the other would be her jumble of knitting, with the yarn trailing behind as she sped off to solve another mystery. I never wrote the stories, but it does sound like fun.

dive said...

Hee hee. You could have a hit on your hands there, Robyn.

dive said...

I just realised I wrote "My postie has a nice red all-terrain bicycle" without realising I had written the "n" word (not THAT "n" word; the other one).
I suppose it must be that "nice" to me still means something that brings a smile to my face, so I'm afraid I'll probably continue to use it. You'll just have to translate it from "Brit-nice" into something more appropriate.

Robyn said...

Then let's call the all-terrain bicycle functional.

On another note, I would like to know who is voting on First Chapters and bringing my score down without leaving a comment as to why they are voting as they do. Jerks.

dive said...

Do they allow multiple votes from individuals?
If so, I know what I'll be doing tonight.

Robyn said...

I believe they monitor the voting for anything unseemly, so we should probably just let it go. Still, the voters who vote low for no reason are jerks. At least tell me why you don't like it.

dive said...

Jerks indeed. Though I'm certain Mister K would find an even more descriptive term for them.

Gina said...

Hmmm, errr. Sometimes I use the word nice in a comment when I am in a hurry because Mr. P needs something/is doing something and I want to leave something on there. I'll try to stop.

Ms Mac said...

Ewwww! Mashed potatoes and noodles on the same plate makes me feel sick. That's definitely not nice.

I think that say you met someone who was nice is a compliment. Nice doesn't have to be boring. It's all in the delivery.

Now you've gone and done that thing where you look at a word for too long and it starts to look funny.

Robyn said...

Gina, I do the same thing. I won't mind if you use the word "nice" here. I just want to think of other words to use instead.

Ms Mac, I hate that thing, when you look at a single word for so long that it doesn't look like a word anymore.

lynn said...

Agreed. Nice is well it's so... nice isn't it. Pleasant is better but there are myriad other adjectives to use. It has its uses though, meaning a very mild version of pleasant, nothing to rave about, but nothing bad. Nice. Doesn't it have a place, or am i just being too nice about it?

RICH said...

Did I ever tell you that I came from the "Fine" Family who lived in "Nice" town?

So I guess you will NEVER say I'm a NICE guy huh?

Robyn said...

Lynn, "nice" does defintely have a place, unless it's just used as filler because you can't think of anything else.

Rich, I think I remember reading something about the Fine Family and thinking it was pretty funny.

dive said...

Rich; you are the nicest of Nice guys.

Sassy Sundry said...

I never think to say "nice" when I mean "alluring."

This little boy I used to babysit for would nonchalantly say "that's neat" when his cute little self meant "that's bullshit." It made me laugh everytime.

Molly said...

Hey! During my teenage years, I lived in the next town over from Niceville, Florida! I lived in Crestview. Niceville was rather boring and ordinary, so I think it was aptly-named in alot of ways. But it was also full of ignorant bigots so it was most certainly not nice in every way.

lynn said...

Robyn that's really awful about the vote thing. That's why they should only allow one per person.