sweetness and light


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(all) sweetness and light

1. Of a person, particularly pleasant, amiable, or magnanimous, especially to an ostentatious or exaggerated degree. That's just toddlers for you—horrible temper tantrums one moment, sweetness and light the next. She's all sweetness and light most of the time, so it's really surprising when she makes such nasty remarks.
2. Of a situation, particularly pleasant, enjoyable, or appealing. Often used in negative constructions. Anyone expecting the project to be sweetness and light from beginning to end is naïve. I know it seems like they have the perfect marriage, but it's not all sweetness and light behind closed doors.
See also: and, light, sweetness

sweetness and light

Ostentatious amiability and friendliness, as in One day she has a temper tantrum, the next day she's all sweetness and light. This phrase was coined by Jonathan Swift in his Battle of the Books (1704), where it referred literally to the products of bees: honey and light from beeswax candles. But in Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (1869), the term meant "beauty and intelligence." In the 20th century, however, it was applied to personal qualities of friendliness and courtesy and to the general pleasantness of a situation, as in Working with him isn't all sweetness and light, you know. Today it is generally used ironically, indicating lack of trust in a person's seeming friendliness or for a difficult situation.
See also: and, light, sweetness

sweetness and light

or

all sweetness and light

1. If a person is sweetness and light or all sweetness and light, they are very polite and pleasant, often when they are not usually like this. She was sweetness and light, showing everyone what a proper young lady she was. I used to be all sweetness and light on the outside, but inside I would be boiling with rage.
2. If a situation is sweetness and light or all sweetness and light, it is happy and pleasant. He is not suggesting that all is sweetness and light in the area. Note: You can say that a situation is not all sweetness and light to mean that it is unpleasant or has problems. It has not all been sweetness and light between him and the Prime Minister.
See also: and, light, sweetness

sweetness and light

1 social or political harmony. 2 a reasonable and peaceable person.
This is a phrase used by Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books ( 1704 ) and taken up by Matthew Arnold in Culture and Anarchy ( 1869 ): ‘The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light’.
See also: and, light, sweetness
References in periodicals archive ?
This cloaking of a hateful and quite non-Christian combativeness under the guise of enthusiasm is precisely what Arnold finds objectionable in the motto of the Nonconformist journal--"The Dissidence of Dissent and the Protestation of the Protestant religion"--which he quotes with this sarcastic observation upon it: "There is sweetness and light, and an ideal of complete harmonious human perfection
Arnold sees culture as providing man with the proper perspective needed: pursuit of sweetness and light enables one to see that while an extremist tendency like dissenting Protestantism may be in some ways beneficial, it also has its attendant mischiefs.
Arnold believed that this pursuit would lead to just the opposite, for he maintained that culture meant not only the zeal to discover sweetness and light but also "the passion for making them prevail.
Of course, behind this enthusiastic conviction in the powers of culture lies the fear that impelled Arnold to write Culture and Anarchy in the first place, the fear that if the pursuit of sweetness and light is abandoned, society may collapse into an anarchical condition of class conflict.
It might be all sweetness and light just now, but wait until the lads are teenagers.
I'm not saying we want something that's all sweetness and light.