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Friday, July 12, 2013

Felicitous Felinity (7)—Dulcet

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series Felicitous Felinity.
A year ago on Round and Square (12 July 2012)—Asian Ethnicities: Japan (Yamato)-c
Two years ago on Round and Square (12 July 2011)—Seinfeld Ethnography: High-Stakes Betting

[a] Nuanced RF

This word is less likely to bring confusion than consternation. Dul—what? Isn't that some kind of musical instrument—something that you play at Bluegrass festivals?

Um, no. That would be a dulcimer. There is a connection, though. If you have never heard the dulcet voice of Alison Kraus together with the equally understated power of Gillian Welch, well, then you haven't lived enough yet. Now add the gentle twang of dulcimer strings, and we have a combination that is truly sublime. Dulcet—soft, pleasing, sweet, gentle. Mix in the Coen brothers, and you have a film and soundtrack of subtle beauty.
[b] Sweet RF

Dulcet. After bluegrass performance, my next thoughts turn to kittens, as they usuallly do. Have you ever heard the sweet little half-meow of a fluffy kitten? Of course you have, and its quiet urgency makes your cold heart melt every time. Cats know this, and that dulcet squeak is one of the key tricks for making their far stronger and (supposedly) mentally superior humans buckle under to their cute little iron wills. 

Don't kid yourself. They know what they're doing...and we don't (or at least we forget after fifteen minutes, only to return, Memento-like, to the same situation a day later, when our discipline crumbles yet the crust of a well-baked apple pie.

Dulcet. It's what's for influence.

American Heritage Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary**
**(Beloit College students and faculty: this is available through the library. Many other RSQ readers may find the link through a college, university, or local library). The "OED" is the best, by far, of any English language dictionary on the planet. Among mere mortals, the American Heritage is superior to anything else (I have loved it since I was a child, and my father taught me the many meanings of "culture"). I use the Merriam-Webster site because it is solid and everyone around the world can access it. Find your way to AHD or OED, though. The latter is even worth $295 a year (seriously). Words matter.
***  ***
Dulcet—soothing, melodious, lilting, soft.

Now we come to the little twist that I didn't tell you about in the introduction to this series. If your native language is not English, go to the comments section and give a rough translation that "works" for you. I am hoping to get a whole passel of approximations for "dulcet" in languages ranging from Danish and Korean to Lakota and Swiss. And of course they will be approximations. Language doesn't have any exact equivalents. That would be boring (try to find a synonym for je ne sais quoi, for knowledge-seeking's sake).

So what's a word that means something like "gently agreeable" in your native language?

And, if you really want to think about how to make use of vocabulary, use a sentence that you might actually speak or write.

          The politician's dulcet voice was something of a distraction on the campaign      
          trail, where his opponent's harsh and guttural criticisms seemed to call for a
          coarse return-in-kind.

Dulcet. It's as soft and pleasing as a chubby kitty's fur.
[e] Fluffkit RF

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