Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good enough


My third grade teacher wrote “nice” on the blackboard. “Never use this word,” she said, or something to that effect. “It’s dull and vague. Always be precise.”

I wouldn’t have remembered this, except she accidentally wrote it in crayon instead of chalk. You can’t erase crayon from a blackboard, so I had a whole year to stare at and contemplate “nice.”

This “nice,” was in lower case, and looked plain. Not even a Greek E on the end, an affectation I have for some reason developed, don’t know where I got it. I also cross my 7’s. And somewhere along the way, I started saying eye-ther rather than ee-ther, and no one could change my mind.

I grew quite fond of “nice.” As one who doesn’t beg to differ but lives to differ, I’ve been its champion ever since. A home-grown tomato isn’t awesome; trust me. It’s ok, it’s a better than average; a tomato you grow, nurture, and pick from the backyard garden is, well, it's nice.

And the photos, books, and experiences I appreciate on a daily basis – nice.

No, something “nice” will not keep you up all night, nor lift a corner of the tent for a peek at heaven. The awesome and outrageous experiences happen now and again, and usually at some private place.

Nice means something has given you a small reward, a bit of pleasure. A smile.

Which is nice, and that's better than ok.

55 comments:

Banjo52 said...

Third grade seems awfully early to be pushing that lesson! But most of us probably get it at some point, so it's ironic that a commonly used teacher's note in the margin is "nice point" or other versions of Nice. I had an Uncle Roy Nice. And his wife was my Aunt Hattie (Nice). Should I stop now?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Who said "It's nice to be nice"? I worry your teacher would shame that person! (Would your teacher know how to be nice?)

Carolynn said...

I like nice. It's so much better than the alternative. I had to laugh at the irony of your teacher's illustration. Too funny!

Anonymous said...

I've been chastised for using nice. But nicely.

GG

Pat Tillett said...

Nice is a good word, I wish I knew what it meant as a kid...

Petrea Burchard said...

Nice is okay.

Mostly, though, I'm beginning to think I need this.

Desiree said...

I love your memory. By the way, the photo of your tomahtoes isn't nice, it's lovely. And they taste divine.
Okay, label me as a radical feminist, but I love deleting the word nice. Too many women use it to describe themselves as they turn themselves into doormats. Ooops, must be the bourbon speaking. ;)

altadenahiker said...

I think we should leave nice alone and set our sights on Like and Friend.

dbdubya said...

Your teacher was wrong. Nice is a nice word. There aren't enough nice people in the world and describing someone as a nice person is a genuine compliment.

Diana said...

I had a teacher with the same attitude about "nice." Like you, however, I find it quite useful. Nice post!

Mister Earl said...

Nice is better than Cannes.

Shell Sherree said...

I'm happy to use nice from time to time. Sometimes a rest from superlatives is a necessary thing.

Mister Earl said...

I all seriousness, I use "Nice!" - with emphasis - when I really like something.

Anonymous said...

Do I see a nice apple in your bowl?

Margaret said...

I knew Dez would take issue with nice. I like you my nice friend.

Katie said...

Nothing wrong with nice when used judiciously. And as Earl points out, you can change its meaning by how you say it. I've been accused of using nice sarcastically.

altadenahiker said...

The hallmark of a good word: Versatility.

bandit said...

This brings to mind the term "Minnesota Nice", referring to an alleged gentility of the population. I heard it again on the news last night regarding two presidential candidates from Minnesota who were going at each others throats in a debate.

In the past, it may have signaled a certain naivety to those who would take advantage of one's kindness. I think the term, and practice, may have gotten us into more trouble than its worth, but, it beats screaming at one another.

Marjie said...

I'm a fan of nice movies, and nice books. They're not heart stopping, nor adrenaline pumping, but those are the ones that linger and return to our brains, long after the others have left.

My lawyer daughter was taught in lawschool to use precise words. But sometimes "nice" is more than enough.

sonia a. mascaro said...

Very interesting post, Karin!
I don't use so much the word "nice"... but I like the meaning of "nice".

Brenda's Arizona said...

Mister Earl, NICE one.

WV: spitw. A nice way to spell spitz.

Virginia said...

GUILTY AS CHARGED YOUR HONOR. I was adamant about the use of nice. Come on Hiker. How do you ever help a third grader become more descriptive if you allow "Cute" and "nice" at every turn. I rest my case Your Honor.
V

Bellis said...

What an interesting discussion! There must have been a world-wide conspiracy to stamp out "nice." My teacher in England made a big deal of correcting us if we ever used it, and I just checked with my husband, from Wales, and he was taught the same. Even now, guilt makes me try to think up alternatives before I describe something as nice - do you do the same?

Birdman said...

Nice!

Mister Earl said...

You have nice tomatoes!

(That means much more than just "good enough.")

altadenahiker said...

Bellis, the conspiracy spread to Wales?

According to Webster's:

Five hundred years ago, it meant "foolish or stupid." By the 16th century, the sense of being "very particular" or "finicky" had developed. In the 19th century, nice came to mean "pleasant or agreeable" and then "respectable."

Pasadena Adjacent said...

ecin!

Mister Earl said...

OK, you have very respectable tomatoes... and they are nice!

altadenahiker said...

Agreeable tomatoes...

Mister Earl said...

if only...

bandit said...

Never met a tomato I didn't like.

Karen said...

nice came to mean "pleasant or agreeable" and then "respectable."

That explains it. Nobody values pleasant, respectable people anymore, so nice has been accordingly downgraded.

The new standard is sexy! As in "those are some sexy tomatoes!" Investments have to be sexy, businesses have to be sexy, apparently even cancer is now sexy

I have to say, when my aerobics instructor starts shouting, "Sexy, sexy, ladies!" in a class with the average age of about 63, the word seems a tad overused.

Susan C said...

I hated the "to a nice girl" inscriptions in high school yearbooks. How bland!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Karen@ I want to join your aerobics class. Nobody ever called me nice but I wouldn't refuse sexy

Bellis said...

Your tomatoes are stupid? They didn't run away when you came to pick them so yes, they're very dumb.

altadenahiker said...

See, you've just proven my point -- nice is anything but dull -- and that most definitely includes Susan.

altadenahiker said...

P.S. I don't think anyone can get away with saying "agreeable" unless they have a British accent.

Bec said...

"who lives to differ" - love it. And, I cross my 7s also.

Shrinky said...

I am completely with you on this, there is definitely a place for nice! I'm glad to have tripped in here, I'll look forward to coming back again.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Nice depends so much on context and inflection. "Nice!" said enthusiastically and elongated can be high praise. Said forcefully (and similarly to the above) but with a bit of a sneer has become a staple of the sarcastic crowd. "This is nice" said simply can indicate a wonderful state of contentment. But I get your teacher's point; "nice" is often a non-committal term when you've got nothing nice to say about something. Not unlike "interesting." It can even be dismissive: "That's nice, dear." Still, this was nice.

altadenahiker said...

...dear?

Ken Mac said...

apples or maters?

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

"Dear" is for when you're speaking to a child (or significant other, if you're living dangerously): "That's nice, dear. Now mommy and daddy are talking grown-up talk. Go play."

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

"That's nice, dear" when spoken to a significant other implies (correctly) that you're not really interested or even listening.

altadenahiker said...

That's a nice comment dear. Now you go back to stacking your pots and pans because Mommy's busy writing a article.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

I'm sorry, were you saying something?

altadenahiker said...

Dear, I was saying some people feel compelled to have the last word. I believe it's a disorder, and there might be a pill for it.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Let me know if it helps you, dear.

altadenahiker said...

Ach, it didn't help at all. Dear.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Uncle.

the good soup said...

how did I miss so many of your wonderful posts? Ah, that's right, I've been on holidays... in Barcelona! It was nice.

TheChieftess said...

Nice!!!!

Paula said...

I speed-dialed through the comments hoping I would find this:

Gunga Galunga...

Nice, huh?

Above the City said...

I grew those brown tomatoes this year too. And a bunch of cherry tomato flavors. Nothing better than a fresh summer tomato.

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