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:

  1. 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?

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

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  3. 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!

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

    GG

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

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  6. Nice is okay.

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

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  7. 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. ;)

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

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  9. 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.

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

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

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

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  13. Do I see a nice apple in your bowl?

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

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  15. 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.

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  16. The hallmark of a good word: Versatility.

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  17. 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.

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  18. 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.

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

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  20. Mister Earl, NICE one.

    WV: spitw. A nice way to spell spitz.

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  21. 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

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  22. 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?

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  23. You have nice tomatoes!

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

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  24. 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."

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

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  26. Never met a tomato I didn't like.

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  27. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  34. 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.

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  35. 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.

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  36. "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."

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

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

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  39. 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.

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

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

    Gunga Galunga...

    Nice, huh?

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  42. 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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