Words have been pivotal in making up phrases which facilitate language. It is worth noting that word is the least unit of meaning; however, it does not necessarily stand on its own. Throughout history, words have been used to have some sense which when constructed together they form language which facilitates communication amongst people in the society. Over the years, some words have changed their meaning, to the extent that their previous implication might shock many people in the community. Nonetheless, it is worrying regarding the way words are shifting their purpose since it may tamper with the communication process.
Several words such as nice have undergone some drastic changes over the years, which has foreseen the word changing its whole meaning. This paper deliberates on the change that has undertaken on the word nice over the years.
The word “nice” is among the most popular words across the globe. The word originated from classical Latin nescius and became an English word via the Anglo-man over five hundred years ago (Herman).
Historically, the word was an old French word which meant silly or simple. The word can be traced from the word skei that originated in Proto-Indo-European over 5,000 years ago, which was used in Latin to create the word scius (Coffey). Later, the word was combined with the prefix ne to form nescius. During this period the word meant being ignorant and later changed the meaning to not knowing where ne meant not and scius knowing (Herman).
It is worth noting that the first time the word was used in print was in 1290 (Barber). Therefore, all through the era of the 1300s to 1600s, the word has undergone some transformation; however, it had a negative meaning.
Transformation of the Word over the Years
It is worth noting that words change their meaning over time. Most experts in the field of language call the ideology as semantic shift, where they claim that social, political, religion, technology, and economic forces (Clark). The word nice is one of the words that have undergone drastic changes over the years. In the 12th century, the word emanated from the Latin language where it had the meaning of being ignorant or not knowing. In the 13th century, the word changed its meaning and people used the term to connote foolish, stupid, and senseless (Harper). It is during this era that the word was carried into the English language to refer to a silly, foolish, or ignorant person. People rarely used the word to describe a person face to face since it made them feel downgraded.
In the late 1300s, the word nice began to refer to expensive clothing, conduct, or a person. In the 14th century, the word started getting a neutral sense. At this particular era, the word developed the meaning of an individual dressed elegantly, a shy or reserved person (Herman). Later, in the 15th century, the word underwent some drastic changes to develop the meaning of delicate, dainty, timid, or cowardly (Pope). Further, in the late 1500s, the word was used to refer to polite society. In the 16th century, the word started to be defined as precise or careful which is seen in most of the dictionary. In the 18th century, the word nice began having a positive meaning. Various authors started using the word in their writing which foresaw its proliferation. For instance, in this era, Jane Austen used the word several times in his book Northanger Abbey through her character (Henry Tilney) where he jokes:
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 (Austen 42).
Notably, it is at this era (18th century) that the phrase Mr. nice, which was foreshadowed by the popular pop-culture tone nice guy (Pope). The phrase meant individuals who put across a show and after making it a harmonious version of themselves.
In the 19th century, the word nice started to mean pleasant or agreeable, which presented the current meaning of the word (Pope). In the contemporary world, the word has used to refer to nice guys meaning people whom they can friend zone, especially when talking about dating matters (Clark). However, the word can also be used ironically in writing when placed in quotes to mean a non-genuine person. In the present world, the word nice means pleasant, attractive or giving pleasure or satisfaction (Pope).
Impact of the Culture towards Changing the Word for Future
The concept plays an integral role in the drastic change of words. It is worth noting that words have some sense or connotations that can change over time since they are used culturally to present a high ground in an argument, policy or spreading some propaganda (Clark). Culture is also pivotal in translation, where people tend to have a different meaning in some words. Therefore, this difference amongst people of the same culture might influence changing the word in the future, since they intend to develop a meaning that will facilitate their communication process. As time elapses, the culture will impact significantly on the word change for the future since the concept is pivotal in ensuring the community share universal norms and have a similar lifestyle as well as language for better comprehension of each other.
There is a high likelihood that the meaning of the word will change over time. Consequently, it will be influenced by culture, social and some political factors through the use of the word to spread propaganda. For instance, continuous use of the word nice in quotes, especially in politics to tarnish other aspirants might change the meaning of the word amongst different cultures. Henceforth, the word might start having its olden days meaning to refer to people who cannot accomplish or keep their promises.
Conclusively, words have been used to make sentences that have influenced the communication process. However, some words such as “nice” have drastically changed their meaning over the years. The word originated from the Latin word nescius which meant ignorant. Nevertheless, the word had its traces from the old French word which referred to as silly. Noteworthy, since the 12th century, the word nice has undergone some changes in its meaning to the present connotation of being pleasant or attractive. Nonetheless, with the influence that culture has on language, there is a likelihood of the word changing its meaning shortly.
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. London: John Murray, 1817. Print.
Barber, Laurie. Laurie Barber’s My Word: the origin of the word nice. 2017. Website. 7 5 2019. .
Clark, Roy Peter. Change in the Meaning of Words Demands Care in the Use of Language. n.d. 7 5 2019. .
Coffey, Neil. What are the origins of the word nice? 2011. Website. 7 5 2019. .
Harper, Douglas. Nice (adj.). 2019. Website. 7 5 2019. .
Herman, Judith. 11 Words With Meanings That Have Changed Drastically Over Time. 2015. Website. 7 5 2019. .
Pope, Charles. The Not-so-Nice Origins and Meanings of the Word Nice. 2015. Website. 7 5 2019. .