The not so sweet life of dulcet

Choosing the right partner for your life journey can help you to achieve great things and to realise your full potential. Unfortunately choosing the wrong partner can drag you down and stop you achieving your promise. Unfortunately the pairing of dulcet and tones has not been a beneficial choice for the lovely dulcet. Every time you hear or read dulcet you expect her to be followed by her inevitable, plodding partner, tones. It has reduced dulcet to nothing more than a tired, old cliché.

La Dolce Vita film poster

Dulcet has been closely associated with tones for more than 200 years. The Oxford English Dictionary list several examples of “dulcet tones” from about the beginning of the 19th century, including from one of the novels of Benjamin Disraeli, a British Prime Minister.

Introducing speakers with reference to their dulcet tones is such an over-used irony that you cringe. When you hear it you prepare yourself for a barrage of clichés and expect a naïve and unsophisticated speaker.

But dulcet does not deserve this. It is a beautiful word that identifies things as harmonious, melodious and pleasing to the ear. She is descended directly from the Latin word dulcis via the Old French, doucet.

In musical contexts we use dulcet’s Italian cousin, dolce, to mean sweet and gentle. The glamorous Italian word chose her mate much more wisely than did her English cousin. We drop la dolce vita, the sweet life, into our conversations as we sip our cappuccinos in Leichhardt (the centre of Sydney’s Italian community). When we do so we are using a bit of cosmopolitan language and referencing the classic 1960 Fellini film, La Dolce Vita. It makes us feel suave, urbane and even a little bit sexy. But using dulcet tones just makes us feel a bit daggy and won’t work to impress our friends.

So what can we do with dulcet? We need to wean her away from her partnership with tones. We need to introduce her to new partners, hoping that when she gets out there she can build new relationships and grow into the word that dolce has become. Good luck, sweet dulcet!