May 29, 2010

Have a nice day…

If someone came up to you and said, “You are a nice person”, I suppose you would be flattered. You might even say, “Thank you!”. But you might want to think twice about that. If you lived in the fourteenth century, you might slug the person.


It is not too surprising that words change meaning over time. “Nice” is no exception. It comes from the Latin, “nescius” which literally means, “ignorant”. In fact the Merriam-Webster dictionary still includes the older meanings of some of these words. If you look up “Nice” you’ll find obsolete definitions such as “wanton, ignorant, coy, reticent, or trivial”. So if you came up to me after church and said, “Hey that was a nice sermon” I wouldn’t know if you liked it or thought it was trivial. I suppose it could be both. Hmmm.


Sometimes the original meaning of a word can be deciphered simply by looking at it. For example the word “awful” literally means, “full of awe”. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that the word took a sinister turn. The Merriam-Webster dictionary still includes the positive definitions of awful such as: 1. Inspiring Awe. 4. Exceedingly great. But most of us think of the negative one: 3. extremely disagreeable. So if you said, “I thought your sermon was awful”, don’t be surprised to hear me say, “Thank you”.


Speaking of sinister, it originally meant “left-handed”.


It’s really strange how so many words have flipped their meaning over time. “Manufacture” used to mean something made with your hands. “Girl” used to be a young person regardless of their sex. “Brave” used to mean cowardice. “Sophisticated” used to mean “corrupted”. I find it simply nice and awful.


But even though words change over time, there are some things that do not change. For example God loves you so much that He sent Jesus into the world to rescue you. His grace overwhelms you. His mercy is eternal. He graces people whether they are right or left handed. He loves the “brave” and the “brave”. He forgives the “nice” and the “nice”.




Pastor David Hook