In general, sugar coating refers to any process whereby something which tastes bad (and is therefore difficult to swallow) is concealed within something pleasant-tasting. The original example is a bitter-tasting pill literally coated with a sugary substance, as commemorated by the song "Just a Spoonful of Sugar" in the Walt Disney movie version of Mary Poppins.
In the context of ethics and rhetoric, "sugar coating" usually refers to an unpleasant fact or detail surrounded by allusions to more pleasant things.
Notes for Expansion
- There must be hundreds of real historical examples which would make the point better; I just can't think of them at the moment. --Woozle 16:03, 8 Jul 2005 (CDT)
- This has a lot in common with euphemisms.