Well, here's a challenge for us all on Christmas Day: avoiding the use of the word nice.
Mnd you, the great Henry Tilney, of Northanger Abbey, has a lot of fun with it.
'But now really, [Catherine asks him] do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?'
'The nicest - by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon the binding.'
'Henry,' said Miss Tilney [that's Henry's sister], 'you are very impertinent'...
'I am sure,' cried Catherine, 'I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?'
'Very true,' said Henry, 'and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! - It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement - people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.'
'While, in fact,' cried his sister, 'it ought only to be applied to you, without any commendation at all. You are more nice than wise.'
Now, Isabella was of course quite right to tell Henry he is impertinent, but Henry was also right to point out that the poor word nice does for everything. It must be one of the laziest words in the language, and today of all days, which will see the results of a great deal of effort, it should be very firmly banned.
The potatoes, pudding, pies and presents are not nice. Neither is the cake, the sherry, or the paper hat.
So just make a bit of an effort, okay? The parsnips are admirable, excellent, first-class, perfect, fabulous, splendid, magnificent, marvellous, sensational, superb, wonderful, gorgeous, lovely, heavenly, capital or possibly even top-notch.
Anything, almost anything, but nice.
Word Not To Use Today: nice. This word arrived in English in the 1200s, when it meant foolish. It comes from the Old French nice, simple or silly, from the Latin nescius, ignorant.