Personal blog of Alicia Fowler, aka @aliciaef, senior strategist at FutureBrand. Topics covered include brands, branding, technology, and space, and more!

Mental workout

Some words I try not to use. Two words in particular, while real, are the wet blanket trophy winners of the adjective kingdom. (Side note, if ever an award did exist, I hope words would flatten under the weight of such prestige. Perhaps a change of shape will inspire new use.)


What on EARTH could be more dull than "interesting"? I use this word more than I'm proud to admit. When I read an article online, I sometimes share it with the caveat, "I think you'll find this interesting" or "I thought this was interesting". Luckily, I'm usually typing and have the chance to correct myself without sounding like a babbling fool. What did I find interesting? Why do I think my friend will be interested? Answering these questions usually leads me to a more interesting fitting description. 


This word has a fantastic trajectory; one definitely worth sharing. 

nice etymology.png

Its lineage can be traced from Old French "nice = silly/simple", derived from Latin's "nescius = ignorant", itself a combination of "ne-" (no) and "scīre" (know). 

The next time you want to describe "John" as "nice", imagine you were calling him "wanton". Hopefully, the mental image will ward off its use. If not, then pause to consider that unless we mean "kind", our use of "nice" generally is at its height when we have nothing else to say. A notch above "okay", nice is our adjective of mediocrity, both in terms of its current meaning and its over use. (I'm avoiding the other use of "nice" as an exclamation, usually to mean "sweet!". That use is okay in my book.)

Now, the problem with both "interesting" and "nice" as I can identify is a fear of work and a shyness to offend.  

By saying "interesting" and "nice" I avoid having to analyze what is that I like, what piques my fancy, what offends my senses, and so forth. I force you to figure out my intentions and my interpretations. In so doing, I avoid all mental exercise and let you offend yourself. I guess I am being nice, in the fifteenth century sense.