We’re going to play word games today. All definitions are courtesy of merriam-webster.com

KindPoliteRespectNice
sympathetic or helpful natureof, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced cultureto consider worthy of high regardpolite, kind
of a forbearing nature/gentlemarked by refined cultural interests and pursuits especially in arts and bell lettresto refrain from interfering withpleasing, agreeable
arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearanceshowing or characterized by correct social usageto have reference to: concernappropriate, fitting
of a kind to give pleasure or reliefmarked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesywell executed
affectionate/lovingmarked by a lack of roughness or cruditiessocially acceptable: well bred
virtuous, respectable
possessing, marked by or demanding great or excessive precision and delicacy
showing fastidious or finicky tastes: particular
exacting in requirements or standards: punctilious

So…now that you’ve seen how the words are thought to be used, do you use the words as intended, or do you sometimes substitute one word for another?

What do you think of as the main differences between these words are?

Do you think these words are interchangable?

Obviously, the first definition of the word NICE includes two of the other words. But…neither of those two words ever uses NICE in the definition. Is nice too generic a word? Should we stop using the word NICE because it’s too boring and really doesn’t do a good job of describing anything?

Let’s look at POLITE for a second. When I read the definition, I couldn’t help but think of when one of my southern friends said that if someone says “Well Bless Your Heart” to me, I should really run the other way, because that’s as close to calling out someone for a duel as actually calling one out for a duel, but all sorts of sugar coated…polite maybe, but not kind or respectful or nice.

When you write or speak, how do you use these words?

Examples please:

51 thoughts on “Semantics

  1. Coming from the land of “Minnesota Nice” (which usually translates as passive-aggressiveness), I rarely use the words “nice” or “polite”. These days I am more likely to use “respectful” because manners or civility are with respect to someone else’s sensibilities or culture and not necessarily what one personally would think of as being “nice”. When I hear people wail “I was just being nice” without any self-reflection at all, I’m guessing they weren’t being respectful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. That respectful wins out. However, I will add that people take offense very quickly to things, and can be quite sensitive, so I foresee going back to a sort of Victorian sense of code with regards to dealing with one another. We’ve gone past the point of discourse

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I often hear that “people are too sensitive” and I see it more as a learning curve. We’re going to make mistakes, but we can keep learning and much of that is through listening to what others are telling us about their lived experiences. It’s often hard to see beyond our own horizons.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Learning curve yes, but I don’t think peoples reaction often fit the bill. I saw someone berate someone the other day, loudly and rudely, e cause they used the wrong pronoun when addressing them. While I agree we have to learn about this, do you really berate someone who was trying to be polite?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ve been doing some DEI work and it’s tough. I’ve gotten some of that kind of feedback. I try to remind myself that I can’t control other people’s reaction and to also be curious about it. Some of us are just recently digging into these issues, but there are people who are exhausted and have been living/doing it for years. I understand the frustration and impatience. Big topic for comment section!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I just thought about a blog I wrote a few months ago. My topic was that I don’t like people who use being busy as an excuse, because really…we are all busy. One commenter lashed out at me, told me to stop following her and she was unfollowing me because I wasn’t a positive person and she has a right to be busy and blah blah blah, and I thought her reaction to my post was just way over the top, and she was lashing out at me because of her own insecurities. When we explode at someone, we have to be able to look inside ourselves and say why did I explode, which is a learning curve, but we all need to be aware of our actions and reactions

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My answer: lock yourself away from the world and only communicate with your pets or inanimate objects. Speaking to people can literally get you killed these days so why bother?
    Someone, somewhere will take offense for just about anything another person does. I can try to be educated, respectful and aware of how I use language, but I’m not perfect and I will make mistakes. I run that risk every time I walk out the door and attempt to interact with another human- or even write on WP. Most days I manage quite well and consider myself lucky, but not always. I just have to hope that the majority of people I encounter can forgive my human flaws.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s really hard not to feel overwhelmed by most anything you do these days. You know deep down that you’re trying to be a good person while also knowing you are setting yourself up for possible insult and retaliation. It really is easier to simply avoid people…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like to use words and definitions with their traditional, classic meaning. I like what words were originally created to mean.
    I find language beautiful, and therefore the classic definition works best for me. I’m not southern so bless your heart truly means something kind. Polite is being courteous. Perhaps it’s because I love the writers of yesteryear and find them far better than contemporary writers. I still use and write old school, outdated words like aghast. It’s a wonderful sounding word. When I taught Language Arts the vast amount of words and synonyms I taught opened up a whole new world of expression and was one of the reasons my students scored top in the state on writing tests. Because their vocabulary was extensive. And words meant what they originally were designed to mean.

    I like original meanings and definitions. I’m old enough to remember the changing words of the decade.. Those cool words change every decade and become popular with the youth in society . What was cool became groovy, bitchin, awesome, neat, boss, far out, fab, swell, etc. However, those words soon become outdated. So I stick to original definitions. They endure.

    Every ethnic word becomes neutralized . I watch a lot of European mystery shows with English subtitles. In French, German, Chinese etc. they all say Hi instead of hello now. Everyone of these languages says bingo, cool, wow. American culture has affected the entire world. So it’s interesting to hear French, which to my ear is a gorgeous language, and it’s filled with American slang. We have affected the world.
    So I stick to the classical meanings. Because a popular definition changes quite often. And I’m not going to understand the meaning of words or phrases in every part of the country or world.
    And I’m not going to dumb down beautiful words. Language is too precious to bastardize it. Perhaps that’s why I’ll reread Austen and Shakespeare hundreds of times. It’s beautiful. ( of course Shakespeare sounds gorgeous but is actually bawdy… however, it’s original version was more like a spoken word poem. By the time it was published it was cleaned up).
    I know I’m unusual and a dying breed. I don’t expect people to bow and curtsy when they greet each other. But beautiful language is polite, sexy, and so pleasant to the ear. Even insults like “Get thee to a Nunnery” sound lovely.
    One of my favorite quotes is from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes… “The game’s a foot!” At the end of every school year I had students quoting literature and teachers the next year would come to me to tell me that my students always had a mastery of language, and ask how I accomplished that.
    It’s simply well written literature. If they read the classics, hear and use. Those words, understand those definitions, their skills are timeless.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s for sure. And with texting the amount of abbreviations is annoying and sad to me. Ever is in a hurry. I heard two young people joking about how older folks write paragraphs in texts. It was hilarious to them. What will they contribute to society? Lol BRB? That’s scary to think about.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. My daughter good her brother he was “such a millenial” because he posted a picture on Instagram with a full description instead of the typical one word/emoji type post that is the norm these days.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Gee, LA, that’s “nice” of you. Hahaha sorry, I couldn’t help myself.( Or refrain from being silly). But it was not from a lack of respect. I was just realizing how ridiculous modern society sounds. . I think about the glorious letters Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John. Or letters written by simple soldiers during war time and how lovely their language was during horrific moments in battle. Simple people sounding like geniuses compared to today’s young people.
        To quote Abigail Adams,
        “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I think a lot of times people are “acting” the part instead of actually purposefully carrying out these words. Such as people who do things to be perceived as nice or respectful but their intentions may be different than what they portray. Such as the “Bless your heart” example.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just don’t like the word “nice.” It just sounds iffy. Out of all of them I guess respectful says it best because it sounds kind of classy and a very often forgot root word. I never thought about how interchangeable they could be so it would be kind of me to politely beg off and respectfully not comment on that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like to stick commonly overused words in new contexts. For example: The polite puddle stayed in its lane. My mint floss has no respect for the hardiness of tartar. It was a nice statue but it was the kindness of birds that covered his bare parts in a garment of poo. I might need more coffee. Hugs, C

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Cheryl and LA, you are both my heroes! Cheryl for her creativity and LA the introvert who puts herself out here for our thoughts and comments without taking offense when we don’t agree with her!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting. I feel that each of those words are in their own lane. I also wouldn’t use kind and polite as suitable descriptors for nice. While polite can mean simply well-mannered, I also get the varying undertones of politeness – although I generally find the way to handle those it via the use of adverbs, those much maligned tools 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny how polite has changed tone in recent years. I think I’m going to do these four words as my journal prompts for the next four weeks….see how they’re used in books

      Liked by 1 person

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