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Word Wisdom: Sweet

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser.
Word Wisdom

It is almost time for the Easter bunny to arrive. I am looking forward to some bunny gummies and perhaps some chocolate covered ginger. The sweet sweets are sweet. But I can’t wait to taste the sweet cream egg that will be placed in my Easter basket. That’s what I really crave.

As you can see, the word sweet can have several meanings. As an adjective with a cream egg, it can function in various ways. A cream egg has a very sugary taste. A cream egg is gratifying to those who like them. A cream egg is much loved by some people. All those descriptions of a cream egg can be implied by the word sweet.

Sweet entered the English language as swete in Old English around the 12th century. Initially it described one of the taste sensations when eating something. The sensation of sweet is typically induced by sugars such as sucrose or glucose. We now know there are five tastes: bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami. Sweet tastes are often the most pleasurable.

Sweet can also function as a verb. To be sweet on someone has been used since 1690. A person with an intense infatuation towards another can be labelled as sweet on the other, a pleasurable experience.

As a noun, sweet or sweets are food or candy that have a high sugar content. I do hope the Easter bunny stops at our house and brings sweets to fill our Easter baskets. That can cover a lot of different types of candies, chocolates, or food items.

It is as an adjective that sweet has its various uses. Just to remind us, adjectives modify or describe nouns and pronouns.

Sweet can mean pleasing to the mind or feelings, agreeable or gratifying. A pleasant smell such as roses or perfume could be termed as sweet. By the late 18th century someone smelled sweet if they were perfumed or scented. A sweet aroma is fragrant and generally pleasing. The story of Noah and the Ark in the Biblical book of Genesis records, “Noah built an altar to the Lord . . . and when the Lord smelled the sweet aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man.’” (Genesis 8:20-21)

Sweet could also describe the melodious and harmonious sounds of jazz music. In the early 20th century sweet jazz meant playing at a steady tempo without improvisation. The weather can be described as sweet if it is considered warm or mild. Sweet sixteen was recorded in 1767 to describe prettiness and innocence in a girl.  In 1897 the phrase ‘sweet dreams’ was said to those going to sleep, in wishes of a pleasant experience.

In the 17th century, sweet was adopted by artists to describe delicate and soft brush strokes in painting. The sweet spot is used in sports terminology, especially golf and tennis, in reference to the prime location for the club or racket to hit the ball. My best shots in golf occur when I hit the sweet spot of the club. Sweet can mean skilful or proficient when describing a very good golf swing. Pro golfers most often have sweet swings whereas mine is not.

Sentimental trivialities whispered into a lover’s ear are called sweet nothings. Using the phrase ‘my sweetie’ is a term of love and endearment for another. Sweet butter is not salted. If the ground is free from excessive acidity, the soil is labelled as sweet. Sweet crude oil is free from any excess of acid, sulphur, or corrosive salts. The Bakken Formation of Saskatchewan and North Dakota has sweet crude oil.

When it comes to eating the contents of my Easter basket of sweets, I like to take my sweet time and enjoy the sweet taste of the sweet treats that I am sweet on. Happy Easter!

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to . Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 




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