[This essay originally appeared in It’s Nice That, issue 1]

I think I am glad the word “nice” exists. It allows people who “like” certain things to abstractly describe those things without using the word “good.” I feel that using the word “nice” to describe something can imply “I like it but it is not wrong to dislike it” whereas using the word “good” can imply “I like it and therefore it is wrong to dislike it.” In conclusion of this paragraph I think the existence of the word “nice” allows people who think “there is no good or bad in art” to say things about art while still feeling like “there is no good or bad in art.”

In terms of abstractions I mostly associate the word “nice” with calmness, detachment, cleanliness, denying one’s urges to allow others more opportunities to satisfy their urges. My strongest, concrete association with the word “nice” is maybe a situation in which a 15-45 year old male walks in on a sexual act between a male friend and a female (that he and his male friend earlier discussed) and says or thinks “nice.”

My main usage of the word “nice” is maybe thinking “nice” to myself whenever my reflexes are shown to be effective, impressive, recently successful. For example if I am walking to a table and a muffin unexpectedly falls from my hand and me or someone else catches the muffin before it touches the ground I will automatically and immediately think “nice.” The more perilous the situation, like if the ground is dirty or the muffin is “heavily frosted,” the more intensely I will think “nice.”

But I feel that no matter how intensely I think “nice” I will always think it in a calm, detached manner. If my head is about to be severed by a guillotine in 18th-century France and people are spitting at me and calling me a traitor, and I am thinking hard about how to escape the situation, and I see someone in the crowd accidentally drop an ear of corn then catch it less than 12 inches from the ground with their foot, I honestly feel that I would stop thinking about how to escape from the situation in order to focus all my energy on thinking “nice” in a calm, detached manner.

The word “nice” makes me feel more meaningless and accepting of death maybe. If “there is no good or bad in art (or, viewing ‘everything’ as art, no good or bad in anything)” then it is neither good nor bad if I die (or something like that).

In conclusion I like the word “nice.” If there are ten people in a room and one person says “[a painting or book or something] is good” a certain conversation will occur; if one person says “[a painting or book or something] is nice” a certain different conversation will occur. I currently prefer participating in and listening to the second kind of conversation. I would like to add that I usually do not think that something is “nice” or “not nice.” I usually think things like “wow,” “damn,” “jesus,” “lol,” “haha,” “hehe,” “sweet,” “[nothing],” or combinations of those like “jesus/lol” or “sweet/lol.” But I feel maybe that most or all of those could replace “nice” in this essay and not change the essay. TC mark

image – Nicola since 1972


More From Thought Catalog

  • cecile


  • Cameron


  • loo

    poststructuralism is liek so kewl. it rly opens up new realmz of observashun and contemplashun

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505759069 Julian Tully Alexander

    feel like I am going to compulsively start saying or thinking nice so thanks for that. 

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao


    • cecile


  • Anonymous

    This sounds like something Joel Barish would write. 

  • JMCD

    My experience with the word “nice” is that it is used to describe someone who has no there distinguishing personality traits, either negative or positive. “That’s so sad that Mary is sick. She’s so Nice.” 

    • cecile

      My 8th grade English teacher always said “nice” is an ice cream word.. Never quite understood what she meant by that.

    • http://www.nintendojo.com/ Andrew Hsieh

      It’s even more amusing when you note that “nice” comes from the Latin “nescius,” which can mean “unaware” or “ignorant”– it’s become a lot more positive through the past two thousand years but since now it’s used when you don’t have anything better to say about someone, it’s pretty much come full circle.
      Oh, who am I kidding, that’s not amusing at all. Somebody shoot me.

      • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao


      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carlos-Ortiz/1279921705 Carlos Ortiz

        nice, seems like “necio”(spanish for foolish/stubborn) would come from “nescius”
        it’s like “nice” and “necio” are related by a common ancestor

      • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao


  • Anonymous

    Please do another essay about your thoughts on the word “damn.” Thanks.

    • GVEST

      the word “damn” is used by “people in conversation” “who” “feel” liek they are “above” replying with only “lol” because “”lol”  “seems like” an unsatisfactory reply” to people who have recently” become self-aware” re their “interactions on the internet.” however, they “eventually realize” that their “new use” of “damn” as a “one-word reply” is “just as bad”  as it was with “lol” but with the “added pretense” of “being better than” “lol.” “damn” is eventually “phased out” and “lol” becomes “accepted again,” “perhaps” with a “new appreciation”

      this is not to “imply” that “damn” and “lol” are used as replies with “the same meaning,” just that a new “one word reply” is “bound to slip in” “somewhere or another” in an “individuals” “internet vernacular”

  • Anonymous


    I don’t usually like Tao Lin or Thought Catalog but this piece was clever and interesting and I liked it so I’ll keep an open mind in the future.

  • Anonymous

    to nice or to sweet, that is the question

  • http://typewriterpoetry.wordpress.com b r



    “i” “um” “eugh” “wait” “what”

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    When “nice” is used to describe a person, it is taken as a negative, I feel.

    • beatrice

      not a negative but rather a ‘I don’t know you well enough to have had encountered any of your negative qualities, but you don’t seem to have any striking positive qualities either’

      • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

        or, “you are boring.”

      • http://nonegenuine.blogspot.com/ Scott

        Absolutely. It’s generally a way to describe someone that has no redeeming qualities but no overly-negative qualities either. To say someone is nice is a pretty hollow compliment at best.

    • http://twitter.com/taylortsides Taylor K. Long

      Oh, totally. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing word – it seems like a compliment, but it always feels like a bit of a back-handed one. Like they’re saying you’re kind, but also a boring doormat.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottJJLewis Scott Lewis

    When I hear “nice” I think “a kind person”.

    • Anonymous


  • http://www.everythingisfantastic.com Jackson Nieuwland


    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao


  • jesus

    tao is ‘nice’

    • fhp143


  • beatrice

    Good article…
    Appropriate examples on the usage of nice but I also use the word in other contexts. Like, if you see me exuberantly saying, “She’s a REALLY REALLY NICE person.” I would mean really kind, friendly and other pleasant qualities.

  • Vianca Pandit

    I hate it when people say ‘nice’. Its annoying. Imagine this;
    “I’m pregant!”

    “I’m getting published!!”

    I’d wanted strangle the person who used nice here.

  • Anton

    Not managing to name the speciality of his desire for the loved being, the amorous subject falls back on this rather stupid word: adorable!

  • Julian Assange


    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao


  • http://puzzlingcreativity.blogspot.com/ puzzlingcreativity

    Nice-ness, following from this article, is the embodiment of that calm objectivity of liking without judging the righteousness of not-liking. Nice-ness, however, fails to capture the cruelty we are capable of, the feeling inside of wanting to definitely better than “that,” that “thing” so beneath us. We hear nice but do not accept it: we can rarely remain detached because we wish to feel solidly in one category: the rights. We can only haphazardly see between the rights and the wrongs. 

  • http://twitter.com/niceflying Emma

    Nice unite!

  • lex

    “nice” is the new “cool”.

  • Karina

    Nice is my mother’s favorite word. Nice is what my aunt always says she hopes I stay. The niceties of niceness are nothing. Why didn’t Dr. Seuss write this book?

  • http://mrianmbelcurry.tumblr.com/ Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

    similar to the stoner-ellongated “nice.” nice

blog comments powered by Disqus