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Imagine you meet someone and expected him too look not like other men. For example, to have a tail or feathers or celtic tattoos all over the face. And when you see him, he looks quite like ordinary / common people.

Take into account, that I do NOT want to say that he is bland and uninteresting, just that he has not unusual features. He may have a vivid appearance.

There stood a quite common, lively boy.

If there are better options, I would like to hear them too.

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  • "stand common" is not idiomatic at all.
    – Lambie
    Aug 21, 2022 at 17:31

1 Answer 1

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Unfortunately, to my knowledge every word which means "not very different from most people/the average person" also has a somewhat negative connotation: they suggest the person is mediocre or uninteresting.

Your best options are probably ordinary, or normal. Ordinary is more precise, because it specifically means "having no unusual features." Normal is more general, so you might consider saying he was "normal looking" to clarify. "Ordinary looking" is also a common phrase. You might also want to follow up this description by clarifying that he wasn't bland (unless you want to suggest that)--just that he didn't have whatever exceptional feature you expect. In novels this is a common construction. You often hear things like "I went into the room terrified, but in the end he seemed quite ordinary. Not to say he was boring to look at--his eyes were wide and very blue, and [...]"

Other options and their problems include:

Common: has a strongly negative connotation, especially when applied to a person. It suggests they are cheap or uninteresting. It can also mean 'lower-class', and so it can sound snooty unless used carefully.
Regular: not usually applied to people, and even then doesn't suggest 'unexceptional', merely 'uniform'
Conventional: technically this works, though it usually refers to a person's interests or manners. A 'conventional' person might be someone who follows mainstream trends, or does not wear interesting clothes.
Unexceptional: fine literally, but strongly suggests a lack of intelligence or skill.

And, just to nitpick, the sentence you provide needs an article and another comma

There stood (a/the) quiet, common, lively boy.

and the construction is somewhat old-fashioned (if you are trying to say that there is a quiet, common, lively boy standing). It's not unusual, but it is literary.

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  • Oh, that was a typo. I meant 'There stood quite common, lively boy.' But thanks for the article, I needed it. Also I meant bland or something close to that. And great answer. I think, normal looking is just what I need. Aug 21, 2022 at 17:18
  • The thing is, I am writing it down into a story. Is it okay then or too literary? I am trying to say that there is a quite normal looking, lively boy standing, as you say. Better ways to say that? Aug 21, 2022 at 17:26
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    @Tuffling_Tony I don't think there's anything wrong with it in the context of a story. Nothing wrong with being literary in literature :) One way to make it slightly more standard might be to include where he's standing, for example "Near the corner stood a quite normal looking, lively boy." To my ear that sounds perfectly natural. Happy writing!
    – George K.
    Aug 21, 2022 at 20:57

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