I hear people say this all the time:
“Oh, she’s such a nice person.”
Or, my favorite:
“He’s really a nice guy once you get to know him.”
I just don’t understand what it means to be “nice.”
So I looked it up.
According to Merriam-Webster online, “nice” means a lot of things. And the one we’re most familiar with — “pleasing, agreeable” — is actually the fifth definition. (The first is “wanton, dissolute” and “coy, reticent.”)
“Nice” can also mean “appropriate, fitting” and “socially acceptable” and “virtuous, respectable,” too.
When you look at the spectrum of meanings, I think we all tend to throw around the word “nice” a little too carelessly.
I say this because I hear people call other people “nice” when they’re just shy or quiet or smiley. I’ve always felt “nice” was something deeper — more along the lines of virtuous and respectable, I supposed.
And maybe that’s OK to call someone you don’t know “nice” if you mean they’re “agreeable” or “socially acceptable.” But we put a lot of weight into whether a person is nice to not. We date “nice” people. We hire “nice” people. We set up our friends with “nice” people. We rent parts of our homes to “nice” people. We entrust our children’s (and dogs’) safety with “nice” people.
When maybe we should look a little deeper.
I don’t know why I started thinking about this, except I’ve heard people toss around this descriptor so often it’s a little annoying. I mean, if all you can say about someone is that he’s “nice,” either you don’t know the person that well or you don’t know what the word really means.
Anyone got a thought on this?
Oh, and have a socially acceptable day! (smile)