Presenting Mr. Henry Tilney, snark master and Grammar Nazi.
In this passage, my favorite Austen hero teases our dim-witted heroine, Katherine Morland:
“But now, really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”
“The nicest; by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend on the binding.”
“Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “You are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is for ever finding fault with me for some incorrectness of language, and now he is taking the same liberty with you. The word ‘nicest,’ as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.”
“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I 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 everything. 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.”
— from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817)