Where did “nice” come from?

Posted by  $  Solver 8 months, 4 weeks ago to Education
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nice (adj.)
late 13c., "foolish, stupid, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + stem of scire "to know" (see science). "The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj." [Weekley] -- from "timid" (pre-1300); to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14c.); to "dainty, delicate" (c. 1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830).


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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 8 months, 4 weeks ago
    One note -- writing tends to solidfy a language. I know that here we have counter-examples of that as in the "silly season" of news reporting and "knocked silly" as slang. Still, the fact remains that when languages change faster and looser by speaking than by writing. Also, the matter is somewhat complicated for English because of the continuous imports. We have lost all but the most basic pre-Briton words. We still have girl, boy, and dog. But children is a double plural because neighboring Germanic tribes had childer and childen as plurals. We still see those old plurals in archaisms such as oxen and brethren. Likewise fish is the plural of fish unless you mean different kinds of them, then it is fishes.

    Today at work, I was advocating for legally binding language that did not depend on "shall" versus "will." No one at the table -- all college educated and competent as business analysts -- realized that it goes:

    I will We will
    you shall. ya'll shall
    He, she, it shall they shall


    I shall We shall
    You will ya'll will
    He, she, it will. They will.

    "Thou shalt not have any God before me."
    OK, God, I got it: I will have no other God before You.

    Languages change. If you follow the manual, then you are not using the current version.
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    • Posted by  $  Olduglycarl 8 months, 4 weeks ago
      But, do you not think it a bit crazy when words are changed in intent, definition and in most cases to the opposite intent or definition?
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      • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 8 months, 3 weeks ago
        No. First of all, "crazy" is a word from ceramic technology. The industrial-age metaphors are "a screw loose" or "off the rocker." You just demonstrated that we use the language we are given. But, in addition, we change it and bequeath the new version.

        (2) As Sigmund Freud pointed out about dreams, symbols take their opposites. Prefixes HYPER and HYPO or SUB and SUPER show this growth by opposition. We could argue all day - and perhaps should - about what capitalism is because some libertarians say that the rule of society by those who lend money is just as wrong as any other arbitrary power. Look at what DO'Brien and others say about the Federal Reserve. To which, you will reply that that is not "true" capitalism.

        (3) In Orwell's 1984 the evil was not grown from the brutality - though there was that - but from Newspeak. As the products of public education we here all are victim to it. We want simple, short, declarative definitions. We want an authority -- "the dictionary says..." -- to define for us so that we can agree. And, I agree, if we do not agree on definitions, then discussion is impossible. But it is that discussion which leads to consensus that advances knowledge. You must explain what you mean by what you say.

        We think of "Boolean logic" as the Platonic reduction: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal. In fact, in his Laws of Thought George Boole showed how to expand statements in order to understand them. (https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2... )

        (4) I understand your concern. That conspiratorial cabal from the New York Times and New Yorker magazine use their Newspeak to control us. But we know that their "progressives" are our reactionaries. But that's the point here, is it not? We have a different community with a different language.

        (5) We are not alone in that. As an engineer, you know the differences between energy and power or speed and velocity. It is not from the operation of a conspiratorial cabal that most people are ignorant. Ignorance is the natural state. It needs no special explanation.
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    • Posted by CircuitGuy 8 months, 2 weeks ago
      "I was advocating for legally binding language that did not depend on "shall" versus "will."
      If I'm saying something happens in the future, I use:
      - I/we shall (always contracted when spoken, unless it's a question, "Shall I remove power when it's done?")
      -he/she/it/you/they will.

      If I'm referring to a promise, commitment, or requirement, it's reversed:
      -I / we will.
      -he/she/it/you/they shall.

      So I might say, "The agreement says they shall (promised) deliver it by close of business, and I will (promised) initiate a wire transfer for payment. I don't know if they will (not promised) send it UPS. Shall (not promised) I ask them for a tracking number?"

      I wouldn't be surprised if this changes with time and generations. Is that why you want to change the language?

      I have learned that some people under 25 have never heard of tapping on your wrist to indicate "be aware of the time". They also have never heard of putting your thumb to your ear and pinky to your mouth, is if it were a phone, to indicate I'm on an unmuted handsfree and not to speak.

      I have noticed my kids and their friends with their annoying expressions. The worse is saying something and then saying "what!?" for emphasis, as if implying everyone just reacted to an exciting unorthodox idea, even if no one reacted at all.

      I still use like as a filler word, something that annoyed my parents and teachers when I was a teenager.
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  • Posted by  $  allosaur 8 months, 3 weeks ago
    In ye olde Middle English, "knight" is pronounced something similar to "ka-neet".
    English is listed as a Germanic language. Wen the Brits sided with France and Belgium at the start of the First World War, Germans were outraged that their English racial cousins would turn on them.
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  • Posted by  $  Thoritsu 8 months, 3 weeks ago
    Interesting transition. “Sinister” is the Latin word for “left”, and it became synonymous with evil, when people believed certain features, including left handiness were “wrong” and evil.
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    • Posted by  $  puzzlelady 8 months, 3 weeks ago
      It ties in with sitting at the right hand of God, and being cast out towards the left. Consider that in Middle East cultures of water shortage and lack of good hygiene, people eat with the right hand (clean) and tend to their rear functions with the left (unclean). That right/good and left/bad meme is thoroughly embedded and passed on without question. And it carries through into languages. All the ones I know show a value tag of positive and negative besides direction.
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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 8 months, 4 weeks ago
    From the same source:
    silly (adj.)
    Old English gesælig "happy, fortuitous, prosperous" (related to sæl "happiness"), from Proto-Germanic *sæligas (source also of Old Norse sæll "happy," Old Saxon salig, Middle Dutch salich, Old High German salig, German selig "blessed, happy, blissful," Gothic sels "good, kindhearted").
    This is one of the few instances in which an original long e (ee) has become shortened to i. The same change occurs in breeches, and in the American pronunciation of been, with no change in spelling. [Century Dictionary]
    The word's considerable sense development moved from "happy" to "blessed" to "pious," to "innocent" (c. 1200), to "harmless," to "pitiable" (late 13c.), "weak" (c. 1300), to "feeble in mind, lacking in reason, foolish" (1570s). Further tendency toward "stunned, dazed as by a blow" (1886) in knocked silly, etc. Silly season in journalism slang is from 1861 (August and September, when newspapers compensate for a lack of hard news by filling up with trivial stories). Silly Putty trademark claims use from July 1949.
    It is a widespread phenomenon that the words for 'innocent', apart from their legal use, develop, through 'harmless, guileless', a disparaging sense 'credulous, naive, simple, foolish.' [Buck]

    I highlighted the German because that was how that etymology first came to me many centuries ago when I was in the ninth grade: "silly" from "soully" meaning "religious."
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  • Posted by  $  Olduglycarl 8 months, 4 weeks ago
    The confounding of our language. Not to be confuse with many languages, they already existed but a confounding of meanings, usage and translations.
    Admittedly yes, history, time passed alone, will confound a language and it's words...but it is obvious, much has been done on purpose...thanks a lot mr progressive...

    The word cute is another example: Once defined as: being so Ugly but in a very strange way...kind of interesting.

    Greed is another: originally just to note a persons predilection to collecting a thing...until the French got a hold of the word and applied it to fat people.

    The worst confoundation of words is "Hate" once only to denote "Physical Animosity" Not a simple dislike.
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  • Posted by Abaco 8 months, 3 weeks ago
    Hmmmm...some in my past have mistaken my kindness for weakness. I ended up greasing the treads of my tank with their guts...
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  • Posted by mccannon01 8 months, 3 weeks ago
    Interesting! Here's what I get from my online (iMac) dictionary:

    1 pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory: we had a nice time | that wasn't very nice of him | Jeremy had been very nice to her.
    • (of a person) pleasant in manner; good-natured; kind: he's a really nice guy.
    2 fine or subtle: a nice distinction.
    • requiring careful thought or attention: a nice point.

    When I use the word "nice" my meaning is along these lines.
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  • Posted by bsmith51 8 months, 3 weeks ago
    Interesting. Our local car dealer recently built a 15,000 sq. ft., single level house on the Columbia Riverfront. His dealership motto is: "Believe in Nice." "Yeah," I say, "Nice house." Silly, but true.
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  • Posted by BCRinFremont 8 months, 3 weeks ago
    I remain puzzled as to how we communicate as well as we do. Mathematics, legalese, and scientific method may be the languages digitized on our modern Rosetta Stone. Very few people are able to read any of these base languages, or care to.
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