As feminists seek to reclaim the word ‘cunt’, I should like to reclaim ‘nice’. People kick off when they get called ‘nice’. ‘Nice’ is sometimes used absent-mindedly, to describe someone who hasn’t caused any offence but hasn’t made much of an impression either. My first thought is of that teen movie cliché, where awkward high school boys are called ‘nice’ by girls who don’t want to go to prom with them. These poor young men don’t want to be nice, they want to go out with Jennifer Love Hewitt, be the star quarter-back, drive a convertible sports car, stop masturbating in pies, and so on.
Etymologists might point out that the original meaning of ‘nice’ was not intended to be favourable at all. The first definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is “nice, adj. and adv. 1. Of a person: foolish, silly, simple; ignorant.” But language derives meaning from use, and the OED sometimes fails to capture how we put words into practice. For a start, words I thought indispensible to the English language, such as ‘buttaz’, ‘lashdown’, and ‘cockblocalypse’ don’t even get a mention. And their only definition of the word ‘wasteman’ is “n. Mining a man whose duty is to inspect the waste, and to secure the proper ventilation of the mine.” Common usage clearly indicates that ‘wasteman’ actually means ‘n. one who is indolent, most likely to spend their days smoking marijuana and playing CoD.’ But if our primary use of ‘nice’ is to characterise a good person, someone who is a decent human being, then surely it is a compliment of the highest order.
Perhaps it’s the cynic or mild misanthrope in me who holds niceness in such high esteem; I’ve taken thousands of years of acts of brutality, suffering, corruption, and My Super Sweet 16 as evidence for the need to cherish those who are nice. Humans can be irrational creatures, with wants, needs, hormones and neuroses flailing about wildly in all directions. To be a nice person is to be a considerate person, to recognise the humanity of others. Failure to do this is at the heart of all dickhead behaviour – from being rude to shop assistants, waiters, and taxi drivers, to having affairs with housekeepers, nannies, and ex-Big Brother contestants (especially if you defecate all over the civil liberties of the nation in the process). To push this example to the extreme, I’m pretty sure that a failure to recognise the humanity of others is at the heart of the atrocities committed by the likes of Gaddafi, Mladic, Pol Pot, and so on. ‘Dickhead’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
If a nice person is someone who acts with moral integrity, then it is one of the most – if not the most – admirable personality traits of them all. As feminists attempt to turn a certain four-letter word into a term of empowerment, so I also champion my own reclaimed use of the word ‘nice’. To put it simply, and to promote the reclamation of both words: the world would be a much better place if there were more nice cunts.
Note from the Editor-in-Chief – The Students’ Union censored the word ‘cunt’ from the print edition of this article on the grounds that the “broader audience” of the students’ union would find it offensive. Considering a few years ago we had a shorter-than-halfpage article approved for the magazine which included the word 11 times and finished with the statement “It’s time to call a cunt a cunt” (page 34), it is not my belief that the broad majority of students will be offended by its use in this article here. Certainly the nature of profanity on campus has not changed to the extent that students now need to be insulated from it, even when it used to refer to specific word-reclamation campaigns. I do not believe using the word ‘cunt’ is any worse than the implied (but apparently acceptable) offence that would be caused by using ‘the c word’ in its stead. It is my belief that the word is used appropriately to frame the subject talked about in this article, and it has been restored in this case. If the use of ‘cunt’ as opposed to ‘the c word’ (which, as already made clear, was deemed acceptable) is offensive to you, you are very much entitled to get in touch and make your views known. Or you can call me a dickhead, because apparently that’s fine.