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Parent: The English Thread

  1. #834192014-10-09 13:06:39 *Slyter said:

    English etymology is a fun thing to read into as it takes a buttload from other languages. Also the meanings and uses change over the times. There is this particular book I've read that delves into the old meanings of everyday words. Some have quite different meanings from what they have today and some aren't surprising such as 'Battery' being an energy cell and also an artillery(because they batter they targets geddit?)

    Here's an exerpt:


    A word of warning. If you see or hear something too frequently, it begins to seem not familiar but alien, odd. So it will be the word noted in the heading above.

    Let's begin by looking at a few examples of using the flexible, complimentary, modern meaning of the word nice:

    She's nice. She makes cookies.

    That's a nice restaurant. Patrons must dress up to go there.

    Nice job! Adroitly accomplished, with panache.

    And you are nice. You put up with all these variations of the present use of the word nice.

    But let's revisit this word in the context of its origins and its changes in meaning over the years.

    You are nice. You're ignorant of the original meaning of nice. The source of English nice was an Old French word meaning "ignorant." Well, ignorance is too harsh a word. After all, the origin of nice is itself nice (as in, not obvious).

    Let's look at our other examples with similar historical synonymy:

    She's nice. She's screwing the neighbours. (Apparently luring them into her boudoir with those home-made cookies.) Nice in its earliest English meaning was "wanton."

    She's nice. She refuses to go to any restaurant except the finest ones. And she won't go unless she can dress nicely. She's being persnickety about her restaurant choice, and when she does go, she wants to dress a bit garishly.

    You're nice if you take her to that fine restaurant. She's going to order the most expensive dishes. Nice: stupid, foolish. And if she eats all she orders, she may not be nice anymore. Nice: "slender." But if you don't take her, she will be nice when considering your commitment to her. Nice: "doubtlful, critical."

    I know you want me to go on and on with such examples but I, too, am nice. Not nice: agreeable. but nice: unwilling.

    After all, as the saying doesn't go, "nice word, if you can get it."

    The book is "unfortunate english" by Bill Brohaugh and it's terrific (as in, remarkable not dreadful, terrifying).