Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nice . . . not just another four-letter word

Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice.

I'm not sure why the word "nice" fell out of favor. Perhaps it's because it has a vagueness to it. Maybe it's all my years as an English teacher and writer, urging my students and myself to choose the exact right word. I was all about diction then--strong verbs, precise nouns.

"Nice" just seemed a bit, well, vanilla.

It's what you'd say when you got a gift you knew you'd never use or wear, you know, "Oh, my, how nice." And it was the kiss of death for a date, "Well, he's nice, but . . . "

It actually became a word that was often followed by a big "but"--almost like a disclaimer . . . "she's nice enough and everything, but . . . "

Who would want to be NICE?

But I'm beginning to think we need more nice. Vanilla and all. Not that I'm turning all Pollyanna or anything, but I'm beginning to see that nice is, well, NICE.

It means kindness and compassion. It means we can disagree calmly and politely. And without calling people names. It's holding doors and carrying packages and thinking of others. It's getting off the cell phone when you're checking out of the grocery store. It's being patient even when you don't want to be. It's saying hi to the person at the customer service desk before launching in to your complaint.

And here's something else that's nice . . . the overwhelming comments and attagirls and shout-outs I've been getting ever since starting this little blog.

We really do want nice. And I have a hunch we're going to make sure that NICE HAPPENS.


  1. My first husband had this sort of weird vibe that he wasn't going to take anything "off anybody", and because of that he often came off as belligerent. I think that's partly what's been happening over the years--people don't want to get taken advantage of, so they preemptively take advantage of others, or at least act so obnoxious that no one wants to mess with them.

    My second husband was so nice, so kind to me when I met him that he stood out among all the other yoyos I'd been meeting. And here we are, 31 years later, still together. Nice can be good. ;-)

  2. You make a good point, Karen--it's like wearing armor or something.

    Yes, nice can be good.

  3. Nice is a lovely four letter word and whenever I use it something or someone qualifies as REALLY nice!

  4. I read this today & thought you'd appreciate it.

  5. I was inspired by you today! In the airport I gave someone a bag of mini Fig Newtons because I overheard that he wouldn't have time to get food before his flight. All due to Judy, the Nice Lady! :)

  6. Aw, Carleen, I love it . . . good for you. Yesterday and adorable elderly man winked at me when I let him go in front of me at the grocery store--I loved it.

    Larramie, you, my dear, definitely qualify as really nice!

    Wendi--That column will be showing up tomorrow . . . right here.

  7. Funny how we so often encourage our kids to be nice, then turn around and say something snarky about someone else! (Er, maybe I'm the only one who has done this? :)

    When Nora and I were in MA to look at her new college last spring, the man in the car in front of us bought our coffee at McDonald's. He didn't even wave. So a couple weeks ago, with P and the boy in the car, I bought lunch for the woman and kids in the car behind us at Taco Bell. (Seriously--It was the only drive-thru I'd gone to since March!!)I think it scared my husband. He thought I'd gone mad and that the woman was going to call the police, LOL!

    Great idea, Carleen and Judy. Looking forward to Tuesday already.