Archive for July 10th, 2011

What are the most beautiful words in the English language?

Sunday, July 10th, 2011
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Obviously, I am an ailurophile

This one is too much fun to resist.

The Deshoda blog is asking for the 100 most beautiful words in the English language.

They’ve got some good ideas – it’s hard to beat tintinnabulation, for example, as Edgar Allen Poe knew when writing of

… the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Or sempiternal, or serendipity, or, for an ethnic note, how about Susquehanna? Am I just enamored of those scintillating sibilants? Perhaps.  Quintessential, then.

Onomatopoeia is too obvious, I think. So is mellifluous … which, really, is an example of onomatopoeia, isn’t it?

All the French words they’ve picked, like denouement. As Camila commented, are words like ratatouille really English words?

And here’s one I didn’t even know:  Petrichor – the smell of earth after rain.  How not to fall in love with that one?  Reader Ranjini commented it “has got me waiting for the day the rains come.”

Galleycat joined the fun, and made a simple nomination for the list: lovely.  This isn’t just one of your holiday games, admonishes Galleycat editor Jason Boog, “it is one of the most important questions an aspiring author can ask. All writers should love language and keep a long mental list of favorite words to use at important moments in your writing.” As if to underscore the point, the Galleycat editor also shows us to a site for a visual thesaurus.

Triumphant

Which brings to mind Nadia’s recommendation, Robert Herrick‘s liquefaction:

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;
O how that glittering taketh me !

As a child, ripple was one of my favorites – and it made Deshoda‘s cut.  But my sister’s favorite didn’t:  voluptuous.  Well, you have to know my sister.

My daughter told me that, since girlhood, her favorite word was triumphant, because it reminded her of elephants.

But now that I’m older and wiser, I know I know the very best word of all: 

authenticity

Make your own nominations below. Or on my Facebook page. They’ll wind up here anyway.