November 21: nice, interesting and weird.

They were talking about the word nice on Radio 5 Live the other day. The presenters didn’t approve of it as it didn’t seem to communicate much, and I suppose this is the common position of English teachers up and down the land. I have never subscribed to this view. For me, nice comminunicastes very adequately and modestly a general sense of non-analytical approval. It does its job neatly and with minimum fuss.

The word I do have issues with is interesting. How many times have I been in art gallery watching someone looking at a piece of contemporary art and heard their reaction to it as communicated through the word interesting? Interesting is the real confidence-trickster because it sets itself up as an analytical reaction but when you inquire there is rarely an explanation given as to why whatever it is evokes interest in the commentator. Nice is no such upstart.

A new and pernicious infiltrator into the world of insidious vocabulary is the word weird. Much used by younger people – not to sound ageist – weird has the unpleasant connotation of ‘the thing I am commenting on is out of my range and so I won’t be bothered seeing what it’s all abou’. It is off my radar.’ It denotes a lack of curiosity. If it were the departure point for an investigation, fine, but often it’s just a depressing full stop.

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