“Why?” “Who else?” I sat back, away from this. But then he went on, saying in his tethered voice, “Correct me if I’m wrong. Did you ever meet anybody happier than Jennifer? Did you ever hear about anybody happier than Jennifer? More stable? She was, she was sunny.” “No you’re not wrong, Colonel Tom. But the minute you really go into someone. You and I both know that there’s always enough pain.”

Can someone please explain what does it mean to speak in a tethered voice? Or better, can someone suggest a synonym?

  • Can you provide the source, author, date, context, and anything else that you think might help understand. "tethered voice" is an unusual phrase.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 6, 2022 at 1:28
  • 1
    Have you looked up tether? Do you see a definition that may be relevant?
    – Xanne
    Jan 6, 2022 at 1:54
  • 2
    I’m voting to close this question because the source was not included in the question. Jan 8, 2022 at 5:52

1 Answer 1


Based on the context, I would think the author is trying to portray a voice restricting emotion or very considered in an otherwise emotional context.

Tethered meaning 'restricted':

Tether noun teth·​er | \ ˈte-t͟hər
1a: a line (as of rope or chain) by which an animal is fastened so as to restrict its range of movement b: a line to which someone or something is attached (as for security) 2: the limit of one's strength or resources


A more commonly used synonym would be "controlled voice"

"Controlled voice" appears in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) several times, often in a situation where people are speaking in short, concise sentences. Often in a similarly emotional context where someone is trying restrain emotion.

Examples from COCA:

In a tightly controlled voice, Amy answered: "Listen to me very, very carefully."

"Let's send it off to experts. " Raina speaks in a trenchant, controlled voice, but in fact, she can hardly contain her excitement.

She talks in a low, controlled voice, her well-manicured hands held tightly together.

This would also make sense in the context of a Colonel or other military figure who would be used to speaking and acting in a controlled manner under stress or in emotional situations.

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