In the first episode of the TV series The Wonder Years Kevin, talking about his childhood, says:

There’s no pretty way to put this - I grew up in the suburbs.

I couldn't understand the meaning of the bold expression, because the definitions of pretty I've found in dictionaries, like The Free Dictionary don't seem to fit. I think Kevin was glad to have grown up in the suburbs. In fact, a bit later, he says:

But, in a way, those really were the wonder years for us there in the suburbs. It was kind of a golden age for kids.

Then, in the bold sentence, I guess he meant something as: "I cannot be more honest than saying that", but I'm confused. If someone could help me, I'd be grateful. Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    It means there's no "nice way" to put it.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 20:07
  • You should always consult several dictionaries. A good starting point is the aggregator called OneLook. In the vernacular, we use pretty in hundreds of ways, as adjective and adverb, even a quantifier. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 20:25
  • @Robusto Hum, I'm still confused. I know that there are "nice ways" and "bad ways" to say some things, especially the delicate ones. But what Kevin says doesn't seem this case to me...
    – rgm
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 20:26
  • 1
    If you want a pretty accurate synonym for "pretty" in that sentence, look up felicitous. To understand why he implies something negative about growing up in the suburbs, you would have to understand the complex socio-cultural background on which that judgment is based, and that far exceeds our scope here. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 20:29
  • 1
    @rgm: It's a formulaic phrase, a setup to breaking bad news to someone: "I hate to tell you, but ..." "There's no nice/pretty/good/easy way to say this, but ..."
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 3:01

1 Answer 1


The city is cool. New things happen in cities: Art, music, business. Cities are exciting.

The countryside is peaceful. Americans tend to idealise life in small towns, where everybody knows everybody.

The suburbs are frankly seen as being boring. The narrator is telling his own story as a child, and he is explaining, or apologising, for the setting.

I'm sorry that my childhood wasn't somewhere exciting, like Manhatten, nor somewhere beautiful, like the Appalachian Hills. I can't use clever or pretty language to make my hometown seem interesting, it was a very ordinary place.

He is apologising for being ordinary. There is an irony here, because we watch the Wonder Years to see the story of an ordinary boy.

  • And you wrote the answer without ever typing "socio-cultural"! Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 0:38
  • @P.E.Dant Yes, but I was thinking socio-cultural the whole time :)
    – James K
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:19

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