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

sweetness and light

Saccharine goodness and cheerfulness. Originally this term was used in all seriousness by Jonathan Swift (Battle of the Books, 1697) for the two products of bees, honey and wax (for candles), and by Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy, 1869) for beauty and intelligence. It was the latter that led to its widespread adoption. Today, however, it is always used ironically, as in, “‘This one’s on Thames House.’ ‘That’s very generous of them,’ said Goss drily. ‘You know us. Sweetness and light’” (Stella Rimington, At Risk, 2004).
See also: and, light, sweetness
References in periodicals archive ?
I left the library reacquainted with Arnold's view that criticism matters since it aims to understand, aloofly, the "best that has been thought and said" I fortified myself with his notion of culture, with "high seriousness," with poetry as "Criticism of life," and with "sweetness and light." I felt, then as now, that Wordsworth and Arnold were giants in a humanist critical tradition which must not perish.
Matthew Arnold, for his part, stands to be targeted for his term "high seriousness" for involving something hierarchically defective, Above all, Arnold would suffer for his term (Jonathan Swift's, really) sweetness and light, since light--meaning intelligence--would be as suspect as reason and equally culpable as an instance of the metaphysics of presence.
Arnold lifts "sweetness and light" from The Battle of the Books to define the pleasures and benefits to be gotten from culture, which he sees as a striving for perfection, a harmonious perfection ...
asks that question, it reminds us that the perfection of human nature is sweetness and light" (5: 112).
But just 48 hours later it was all sweetness and light as the three put on an united front for the cameras.
It might be all sweetness and light just now, but wait until the lads are teenagers.
The pair, played by Kate Ford and Bill Ward, have a stormy on-screen relationship, but it was all sweetness and lights as they performed the switch-on yesterday.