Am I ‘nice’ or not? Is ‘nice’ something a human being should even aspire to being?!

These days the word ‘nice’ is so ill-defined that it means everything and nothing. “Have a nice day!” “Be nice to other children, boys!!”

Where does the word ‘nice’ come from? I decided to do some research and made a surprising discovery! The word ‘nice’ wasn’t always a very nice word at all….


nice (adj.) Look up nice at Dictionary.comlate 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” (see un-) + 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).

“In many examples from the 16th and 17th centuries it is difficult to say in what particular sense the writer intended it to be taken.” [OED]

By 1926, it was pronounced “too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness.” [Fowler]

“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.” [Jane Austen, “Northanger Abbey,” 1803]

nicety (n.) Look up nicety at Dictionary.commid-14c., “folly, stupidity,” from Old French niceté “foolishness, childishness, simplicity,” from nice “silly” (see nice). Underwent sense evolution parallel to nice, arriving at “minute, subtle point” 1580s and “exactitude” in 1650s. Phrase to a nicety “exactly” is attested from 1795.niceness (n.) Look up niceness at Dictionary.com1520s, “folly, foolish behavior,” from nice + -ness. Meaning “exactness” is from 1670s; that of “pleasantness” is from 1809.nicely (adv.) Look up nicely at Dictionary.comearly 14c., “foolishly,” from nice + -ly (2). From c.1600 as “scrupulously;” 1714 as “in an agreeable fashion.”

From:  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=nice&searchmode=none

Having read all that my ambition to be ‘ nice’ (if any) has evaporated already!

Having reflected on the matter this week I arrived at the conclusion that the word ‘nice’ as we use it relates to manners. If everyone makes an effort to be ‘nice’ our manners act as a lubricant that oil the wheels and cogs that keep society turning. As such the word nice has its uses as a kind of ‘motor oil’.

However, in shamanism we are not concerned with being ‘nice’. Our ambition is to drop masks and shed skins (as well as layers of conditioning) to unveil and embody our authentic selves.

My authentic self isn’t all that ‘nice’ really! She has already jettisoned the following things and intends to drop many more:

Dinner parties

House guests

Coffee mornings


Watching TV

Unscheduled  phone calls

All these things act as glue that weave our culture together but I have decided that I can live without them. I don’t watch TV, I keep my phone on vibrate. I hate cooking and don’t like crowds, what do you mean, dinner parties?!!

So basically I am not a very ‘nice’ person!

However, what IS ‘nice’ for me is that all these choices free up time and energy for me to be who I truly am and do the things that make my heart sing, or the things that I feel so passionate about that I cannot possibly NOT do them.

The on-line dictionary gives us  today’s meaning of the word ‘nice’:


 [nahys]  Show IPA

adjective, nic·er, nic·est.

pleasing; agreeable; delightful: a nice visit.

amiably pleasant; kind: They are always nice to strangers.

characterized by, showing, or requiring great accuracy, precision, skill, tact, care, or delicacy: niceworkmanship; a nice shot; a nice handling of a crisis.

showing or indicating very small differences; minutely accurate, as instruments: a job that requires nicemeasurements.

minute, fine, or subtlea nice distinction.


And did you know that ‘overniceness‘ is a noun in English? I think I can safely say that I am not at risk of that…

So what happens if you forget all about being  ‘nice’ for a day – please try and let me know…


Imelda Almqvist