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|GR: "Nice" conversation
Written by Elena
(4/10/2003 1:00 a.m.)
Cheryl's remark in the thread below - about translations of "nice" - reminded me of a passage in Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue: The English Language. "A word that shows just how wide-ranging these changes [in word usage] can be is nice, which is first recorded in 1290 with the meaning of stupid and foolish. Seventy-five years later Chaucer was using it to mean lascivious and wanton. Then at various times over the next 400 years it came to mean extravagant, elegant, strange, slothful, unmanly, luxurious, modest, slight, precise, thin, shy, discriminating, dainty, and - by 1769 - pleasant and agreeable. The meaning shifted so frequently and radically that it is often now impossible to tell in what sense it was intended, as when Jane Austen wrote to a friend, 'You scold me so much in a nice long letter... which I have received from you'." Unquote. I'm not sorry for a long quotation, as it shows that Henry Tilney, Dr Johnson and Hugh Blair had their work cut out for them. Let alone translators.
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