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According to the following dictionaries the expression nice and is an adverbial locution which is used to give more emphasis to the adjective that follows:

According to M-W nice and is synonym of very

very —used to emphasize a good or enjoyable quality

  • The soup is nice and hot. Make sure your room's nice and clean. The library is always nice and quiet.

and Collins suggests that the meaning is:

  • pleasingly, (altogether, in a pleasing way)

How did the above usage originate?

The conjunction and actually joins two adjectives, so how does and actually work here, changing the literal meaning of the expression?

Would I like the tea nice hot be unacceptable vs I like the tea nice and hot?

  • There is a similar construction with certain verbs: I will try and answer your question. This expresses both the meanings of try and answer; in analogy, nice and expresses a positive sentiment. So the soup is hot, but it's good that it's hot. But I have no idea where this usage originates from. – Oliver Mason Jun 12 '18 at 14:12
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    Also, nice hot won't work, as nice by itself is an adjective, and so it would have to be nicely hot. – Oliver Mason Jun 12 '18 at 14:17
  • @OliverMason - I am not sure the similar construction in “try and answer” you cite is in any way related to the use of “nice and”, but that's a good point to make. I know that the appropriate expression would be “nicely hot”, but given the idiomatic usage of nice, I just wonder why you need the conjunction and to make it an adverbial phrase. – user240918 Jun 12 '18 at 14:22
  • I was merely pointing out that a similar structure also occurs with some verbs. Calling it an adverbial phrase is one way of describing it, alternatively you could just say the whole phrase is two adjectives linked by a conjunction. AFAIK it only really occurs with nice, so traditional grammatical descriptions might not necessarily make sense. I would also not call it a synonym of very. It clearly is used for emphasis, but more subtly than that. I like my tea very hot is stronger than I like my tea nice and hot. – Oliver Mason Jun 12 '18 at 14:26
  • To generalize a bit, 'good and ADJ' also works and 'good ADJ' is awful. – Mitch Jun 12 '18 at 14:51

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