It’s Nice

I don’t like lackluster words. In fact, when asked a question, I pretty much forbade my family from the use of the words boring, interesting and fine as acceptable answers when given without a qualifier. To me, these words lack substance and don’t really explain the way that you feel. While I sometimes use these words myself, I do try to avoid as often as possible. But of all the words that people use and I hate, the number one word on my list is:


How was the show? It was nice.

What’s your kids new significant other like? They’re nice.

How’s the food. It’s nice

What does the responder mean by any of these statements? And I don’t mean NICE said with any inflection or said as NOYCE, which is a common phrase these days…

I mean the actual word NICE.

So I looked up the etymology of the word NICE:

Thank you Oxford Languages for the following:

Latin origin- Nescire- definition- NOT KNOW

which evolved to:

Latin- nescius- IGNORANT

which evolved to:

Old French-nice- STUPID

Archaic Meaning- Fastidious or scrupulous

Is a word that took it’s meaning from stupid and ignorant really the word that you want to use to say something good about something else?

How was the show? Stupid. How’s the new girlfriend? Ignorant.

Obviously, the word nice has transformed itself over the years to mean:

Pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory

My first question is: If you actually mean to say pleasant, agreeable or satisfactory, why wouldn’t you use those much better words? When someone says pleasant, I can conjure up a mind picture. I know exactly what they mean. Same with satisfactory and agreeable. Word pictures.

Let’s think on this for a moment: If you said your son’s new person was “satisfactory” what does that actually mean about your possible future in law?

So when you say something is nice…what do you really mean? Pleasant, agreeable or satisfactory? See how NICE becomes a non descript word? When you refer to someone/something as nice, I don’t know if you mean pleasant or satisfactory- and there is a world of difference between those two word choices. The only thing I do know is that I probably won’t see a show, eat a meal or expect much of a person when they are labeled as NICE.

With the plethora of gorgeous and explicit words in our lexicon, why do we overuse the same tired words?

Have we gotten lazy while we are speaking?

Let’s revitalize our conversations and word choice…

After all, we don’t want to be ignorant or stupid…

Oops- I meant NICE…

Choice v. Decision

When you reach a fork in the road, do you choose to turn left, or do you decide to turn left?

What is the difference between a choice and a decision?

I made Darjeeling tea this morning as opposed to making Assam. Did I choose Darjeeling or did I decide on Darjeeling?

On the surface, these two words appear to be interchangeable. I’m sure if we were writing a paper and noticed that we were overusing “choice” at some point we would change some of the words to “decision”. But are there subtle differences between the two words?

Do you put the same amount of thought into a choice as you would a decision?

I went out to eat with my daughter on Friday. She asked me if I wanted to split the onion soup and the corn ravioli. My options were:

  1. split the soup and ravioli
  2. get my own meal completely
  3. split the onion soup but not the ravioli
  4. split the ravioli but not the soup

My thought process:

  1. It’s over 80 degrees. I get that the onion soup is supposed to be amazing, but do I really want hot soup today?
  2. The burger is also supposed to be amazing, but it’s big and my daughter doesn’t eat meat, so do I want to carry around half a burger or throw away food? (sidenote- one of my biggest pet peeves is throwing away food)
  3. How easy is it to split a bowl of soup?
  4. Sweet corn ravioli is something I don’t often see on a menu and I know this place gets their stuff from the Farmer’s Market.

I know. All this from the simple question of do you want to do splitsys with dinner…

But really- this wasn’t a life altering trajectory. When faced with the four options, when it came down to it, I made a CHOICE to split the meal with my daughter. It might seem, on the surface, that I had four possibilities for an answer, and four possible reasons as to why I should or should not split the meal, but really, what I have for dinner on a random Friday is not really life altering. This was dinner with my daughter not Kool Aid with Jim Jones…

Therefore, I hereby decree that CHOICE is something we do when the situation is not life altering. A choice is simple- it ends after you choose. You go about your life as normal…

So if choice is non life altering, then decision would be…


Decision is life altering…

I decide where to live.

I decide how to take care of my health.

Decisions would require greater thought and perhaps a much greater pro/con list than a choice. Decision might be harder to reverse- if you decide to buy a car, if you don’t want it anymore you could lose money, etc… I’m assuming no one really wants to lose money…

The obvious next question is: Am I being pedantic?

While your obvious answer choice is probably YES, maybe you should give a little more thought to it…

Is there a difference between the words?

I love language, and I love all the words that come with it. With the plethora of words at our disposal, shouldn’t we try to find the word that best fits what we are doing.

When you face the fork in the road, how do you know which tine to meander down? How much thought do you give to left or right, forward or reverse…does everything you do require great contemplation, or do certain issues matter more?

Do you choose? Do you decide?

Is there a difference between decision and choice? Or does it just not matter?

Will, Want, Motivated

The following is an example of what it is like to be in my writing group, or to be my daughter when I am critiquing written work.  It is also what it is like to be my friend.  I can be quite pedantic…

The following definitions are brought to you by

Will- the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action

want-have a desire to possess or do

motivation- the reason one has for acting or behaving in a particular way

My friend SF and I recently got into an argument  discussion about the above mentioned words.  The specific topic was how you treat your partner:

  1. Are you WILLING to do something for your partner
  2. Do you WANT to do something for your partner
  3. Are you MOTIVATED to do something for your partner.

SF thinks that these are all saying the same thing.  I said the only one that matters is WANT.  Here’s my rationale:

To be willing to do something, or have the will means that you might act in a specific manner because you know that it is something your partner wants you to do.  You would not do this thing for any other reason than your partner desires it, and you might not be 100% on board with this idea.

To be motivated, or have motivation means it’s a quid quo pro sort of deal.  You are motivated to act in a certain way because you know that you will get something in return.

To want means you have absolutely no qualms about doing this for your partner, it is something you are 100% on board for, and you don’t expect anything in return.

Does anyone understand what I’m saying besides me?

I want you to think about relationships that you are in- they don’t have to be romantic.  Family or friendship works as well.  When you do something for someone else- what propels you to act in the way that you do?

Let’s give some examples.  I love all genres of film except gory horror,

  1. My husband is willing to go to the Quad Cinema with me and see an art house film because there is a good Italian restaurant across the street
  2. My Husband is motivated to go to the Upper West Side really good IMAX movie theater (hard to get to by mass transit from my apartment) because he knows there’s a good French dip place
  3. My Husband wants to see the new Avengers movie no matter where it’s playing because food is a non issue.

My Husband is all about the food- he begins his day by asking “What’s for breakfast” followed by “what’s for lunch” ending with “what’s for dinner”.  He is willing to do something or motivated to do something if there is a carrot (literally and figuratively) dangled in front of his nose.  Willing and motivated are conditional: you will not do them unless there is strong reason for you to do so.

Wanting is unconditional.  Wanting requires nothing in return. Wanting to do something comes from deep inside of you.  You want to do something because you love someone and the only thing you want is for them to be happy. And sure- you loving them is sort of a reward, but you shouldn’t need a reward to love or be loved.  Love is unconditional.

See- wanting and love are both unconditional.

So what’s the point? Words matter.  What you say, how you say it – it all matters. Think about the words you use when talking about the people in your life.  Are they unconditional words?  If they’re not unconditional, ask yourself why you are putting conditions on the people that you care about.

So- what do you think?  Are all these words the same, or are their subtle differences ad nuances?  Do you think the words that you choose matter?