Saturday, June 02, 2012

Which Niche?

Judy from Beaver Island asked about the word niche. First, let’s tackle the pronunciation.

Since it came through the French language, Europeans tend to pronounce it as neesh. Americans favor nitch (rhymes with witch). A third pronunciation—possibly seen as a compromise by some—is nish (rhymes with wish). So where you live or to whom you are speaking can make a difference.

Originally, a niche was a recess in a wall designed to hold a statue, an urn, or some other decorative object. Later, it came to mean a natural hollow in a rock or a hill, and it was applied to an animal lair and, by extension, to a place of refuge for a human being.

These days, it is most often used figuratively to denote a position suitable for one’s talents, disposition, or status: she has finally found her niche in life. In ecology, it is applied to the natural position of an organism in its ecosystem. In business, it is applied to a specialized market.

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