Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nice Through The Ages

Jasia of Creative Gene has honored me with the "Nice Matters Award." Coming from Jasia it really is an honor, as recently she has seen me at my not so nicest and still gave me the award. So thank you, Jasia.


The Nice Matters Award was created by Genevieve Olsen at Bella Enchanted.

The nice award piqued my curiosity - what has nice meant through recent time? Has the definition changed? I just received a lovely shipment of old dictionaries dating from 1913 through 1959, so I thought we'd look at how the definition of "nice" has progressed.

Nice comes from Middle English meaning stupid; Latin for nescius, ignorant; and Old French for simple. Not a good start.

1913
nice 1. Foolish. Obs. 2. Lewd. Obs. 3. Fastidious; in a derogatory sense, over dainty; finical; in a laudatory sense, refined, cultured; discriminating. 4. a Affecting coy reserve; also, modest; hence, reluctant. Obs. b Exacting; scrupulous; punctilious. 5. Demanding, or characterized by close discrimination, delicate, minute, or tactful treatment, etc.; subtle; fine. 6. Delicately sensitive or discriminative; hence, of instruments, methods, etc., minutely accurate, precise; exact. 7. a Fine. Obs. b Spare; meager. Obs. 8. Trivial. Obs. 9. Pleasing, kind, considerate, etc. Colloq.
Syn. Particular, discriminating, difficult, hypercritical, prudish, queasy.
1935
nice adj. fastidious; precise; squeamish; minutely discriminative; delicate; refined; socially agreeable; pleasing to the palate; scrupulously exact.
1942
nice Foolish or silly; unimportant; over-scrupulous; fastidious; punctilious; distinguishing minutely; made with scrupulous exactness; precise; pleasant to the senses, delicious; dainty; pleasing or agreeable in general: a modern sense.
1946
nice 1, precise; acute; as, nice judgment; 2, fine; subtle; delicate; as, nice discrimination; 3, fastidious; overparticular; 4, delicate; refined; as, to be nice in one's habits or dress; 5, delicately sensitive; carefully trained; as, nice ear for music: Colloq., 1, socially agreeable; pleasant; as, nice people; 2, pleasing to the senses; as nice taste; Obs., wicked; unrestrained; stupid; ignorant; of little consequence; unwilling.
1959
There was no nice in the Vest Pocket Dictionary for 1959. This must mean that the population in 1959 was very familiar with the definition of the word nice or it was unncessary to the language.
1985
nice 1. Pleasing and agreeable in nature; enjoyable: a nice time. 2. Having a pleasant or attractive appearance: a nice dress; a nice face. 3. Courteous and polite; considerate: a nice gesture. 4. Of good character and reputation; respectable: a nice family. 5. Characterizeddd by sometines excessive delicacy or fastidiousness, fussy. 6. Showing or marked by great precision and sensitive discernment; subtle: a nice distinction. 7. Executed with delicacy, accuracy and skill: a nice bit of craftsmanship. 8. Used as an intensive with and: nice and warm. 9. Obs. a. Wanton; profligate. b. Affectedly modest; coy.

Definitions On The Web

nice pleasant or pleasing or agreeable in nature or appearance; "what a nice fellow you are and we all thought you so nasty"- George Meredith. "nice manners"; "a nice dress"; "a nice face"; "a nice day"; "had a nice time at the party"; "the corn and tomatoes are nice today." decent: socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous; "from a decent family"; "a nice girl." A city in southeastern France on the Mediterranean; the leading resort on the French Riviera. nice (pronounced nyce) is a command found on UNIX and other POSIX-like operating systems such as Linux. Nice is a biscuit, made by a company called Arnott's Biscuits Holdings. The biscuit is rectangular with bumpy edges and is fairly plain, with a scattering of large sugar crystals on top.

It seems "nice" has gotten "nicer" with age (like most of us). I need to purchase a few more dictionaries to fill in the gaps (1800, 1900, 1920, 1960, 1970, 1990, 2000) to more correctly display the evolution of the word nice. Although I never need a reason to buy another book, now I'm really curious.

And as to the "Nice Matters Award," I'll leave it up to you to determine which definition most closely describes the footnoteMaven. Hint: Look at 1935 and Arnott's Biscuits.

Now, I bestow the "Nice Matters Award" on:

Bill West of West in New England
Chery Kinnick of Nordic Blue
Nikki-Ann of Nikki-Ann's Journal
Nikki of Nikki's Genealogy Journal, and
Taneya of Taneya's Genealogy Blog

The five of you may question my definition of "nice" in awarding this distinction to you, but I mean it in the "nicest" possible way.
_______________
Obs. - Obsolete
Colloq - Colloquial 1. Characteristic of or appropriate to the spoken language or to writing that seeks the effect of speech; informal. 2. Relating to conversation.

Bibliography

American Heritage Dictionary
. College edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Follett Vest-Pocket Webster Dictionary. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1959.

New Universities Webster Dictionary. New York: The World Syndicate Publishing Co., 1937.

Webster's Home Reference Dictionary Of The English Language. Third edition. Chicago: Columbia Educational Books, Inc., 1942.

Webster's Secondary-School Dictionary. New York: American Book Company, 1913.

Winston Dictionary. College edition. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1946.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Chery said...

Maven - I think I'm turning red, slapping my knee and saying, "Oh, shoot!" like one of my Norwegian great uncles used to do. Gee, how durned NICE of you!!!

August 30, 2007 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger The footnoteMaven said...

Yah, sure, you betcha!

fM

August 30, 2007 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

Wow. Did I convey all that when I gave you that award? That's a complicated mess of definitions. Allow me to explain what I meant to convey... you're kind, supportive, loyal, funny, pleasant, witty, charming, cheerful, brave, friendly, encouraging, honest, warm, and giving.

I don't think you're going to find that definition in any of your dictionaries. But that's what I meant.

August 30, 2007 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger The footnoteMaven said...

Jasia:

You're a honey and I like your personal dictionary entry the best.

What I'm doing is justifying to my husband all the money I spent on those old dictionaries.

I do like the evolution of words (I know there's a name for it). I found Nike in the 1913 dictionary and it didn't mean shoes!

I do sincerely appreciate the nomination and will do my best to warrant it.

fM

August 30, 2007 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Janice said...

fM,

I'll go with the kindest meaning of nice. You are indeed. Congrats on your award.

And did this post manage to justify having all those dictionaries? :D

Janice

August 31, 2007 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Bill West said...

fm,
Congrats on your award, and thank
you for thinking of me as nice!

It's much appreciated.

Bill

September 1, 2007 at 9:38 PM  

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