“I thought that was a very interesting thing to say.”
– Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
This past weekend, I powered through Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and have been singing its praises nonstop.
The book is told from Aristotle’s point of view, and one thing I noticed throughout was how Ari often labeled things people said as “interesting.” The word has morphed a bit, in my mind, as a filler response like “yeah” or “cool,” something people say just to fill the gaps of conversation. “Oh, that’s interesting.” Yet Ari genuinely finds interest and uses the word with its intended meaning. It got me to thinking how language changes through different periods or generations, and how refreshing it is to restore a word that’s lost its luster.
I once had an English teacher who hated the word “nice.” She encouraged her students to use words that were more specific, words that meant more and had more direction. I do agree with her standpoint as far as writing papers goes. It’s far more effective to call Atticus Finch “fatherly,” “compassionate,” or “morally upright” than it is to say he’s “nice.” Yet for years I allowed that “no ‘nice'” policy to permeate my creative writing as well, and even how I spoke.
The word “nice” doesn’t mean much in a critical paper, but it means a lot in daily life.
Within the past few years, I have re-embraced “nice.” It is a general term, but it can only mean good things. It’s nice to be with friends and family; it’s nice to hang out in sweatpants and watch movies; it’s nice to compliment people or ask them how they’re doing. These are all positive experiences, things that make me smile, and they are all nice.
I want to re-embrace “interesting,” too, because I so liked how Ari used it in earnest. I want to tell people that they are interesting and mean that what they think and say interests me and that I want to hear more. When I call a piece of art or writing interesting, I want to mean that I’d like to learn more about it or think more about it long after I’ve first laid eyes on it. “Interesting” is a good word. I don’t want it to be a placeholder anymore.
What are some words you want to bring back, or restore to their former glory? Be sure to leave your nice & interesting ideas in the comments below. :-)