Daily Archives: July 10, 2009

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Do You Want To Be Nice?

July 10, 2009 by in category Archives tagged as

My daughters and I love words. When one of us comes across an unusual word we share it with the others, often taking the time to look up the meaning in the dictionary. A friend and fellow author on Facebook, Brandilyn Collins, always posts a word of the day, many of them ones we’ve never heard before. My girl’s favorite so far is “tenebrific.” The meaning is gloomy or dark, which describes one of their “emo” friends at college. We always have a lot of fun rolling new words around on our tongue and trying to think how they would be used in a sentence.

In our quest to look up words, we discovered that some commonly used words have changed drastically over the years. For instance, when we use the word “nice” to describe someone, we have visions of a person who treats us with kindness. Perhaps we use “nice” to tell a friend about a dress or pair of shoes we found at a store and would like to purchase. Those definitions are listed in the dictionary, but they are not the first or even second definition. Instead, “nice” as we know it today is listed as number six in my Webster’s College Dictionary.

We found that the original meaning of “nice” came from words that meant strange, lazy, stupid, or foolish. The first definition for “nice” is difficult to please. In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the first definition is obsolete, but means “wanton or coy.” Nice can also mean “picky, or difficult to please.” This puts a whole new slant on referring to a person as “nice.”

As writers words are our business. I love to use less common words throughout my writing. I don’t mind if a reader has to grasp the meaning from the context, or even take the time to look it up in the dictionary. Often, I will stop in the middle of a book to look up a word, and that never takes away from my pleasure in the story. In fact, it often increases my interest in that author’s work.

How about you? Have you come across words that you enjoy, but which aren’t commonly used? Care to share those with us? I’d love to see what words you might share with your family.

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