Where does the term sweet nothings come from? What is an example of a "sweet nothing"? Does the term connote sincerity or has it been hijacked to represent deceit and seduction? After all, the devil does whisper sweet nothings into my ear all the time.
Edit: Wiktionary carries a rather extreme definition of the expression:
(idiomatic) Insubstantial or romantic words that are only meant to flatter, woo, or seduce.
Examples of usage:
- 1904, George Gissing, Veranilda, ch. 28:
Hearing such words as these, in the sweetest, tenderest voice that ever caressed a lover's senses, Basil knew not how to word all that was in his heart. . . . Side by side, forgetful of all but their recovered peace, they talked sweet nothings.
- 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 16:
[T]he facts, to make matters worse, were made public with the usual affectionate letters that passed between them, full of sweet nothings.
- 2004, Joe Klein, "Does Bush Really Get Us?," Time, 25 April:
It is difficult to know how accurate this portrait is, and how much of it consists of sweet nothings whispered into the author's ear by loyal retainers.