An excerpt from ''Northanger Abbey,'' by Jane Austen

Catherine -- the heroine -- has just praised a novel of romance and terror, ''The Mysteries of Udolpho,'' by calling it ''the nicest book in the world.'' Henry, with whom she falls in love, immediately makes fun of her use of the word ''nicest,'' being older, more sophisticated, and an Oxford-educated man.

'I am sure,' cried Catherine, 'I did not mean to say any thing wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?'

'Very true,' said Henry, 'and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! it is a very nice word indeed! -- it does for every thing. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; -- people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.'

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