Most Beautiful Words

A reposting of a list of 100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language has me wondering what my own favorites would be.

For example, bucolic doesn’t make my list. Its meaning, in a lovely rural setting, certainly qualifies, and that definition chimes beautifully in the ear, but bucolic’s cacophonous sound suggests it would mean sick cow.

Nor do I care for long latinate words when a more accessible word will do. I prefer cat lover to ailurophile.

I  concur on onomatopeia and panacea, but my favorite word has to be lullaby.

Remember when Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street sang the L song? Bert had “light bulb and lamp post,” while Ernie advocated the “lilting and lovely ones” like “laughter, lullaby, lollypop.” So Bert the boring came up with “linoleum!” The humor came in juxtaposing a melodic word with its pedestrian meaning.

For me, the most beautiful word captures the precise meaning you’re looking for, its phonetic symbolism matches its meaning, and its cadence fits the prosody of your passage. Good thing we can rummage around in this language with the largest vocabulary available; with a half million words to choose from, sometimes we can have it all.

What would you nominate as a most beautiful word?

Not a Poem a Day

“It isn’t every day that the world arranges itself into a poem.”

— Wallace Stevens

Wally must have been as disappointed about that as I am. Maybe every day a poem lurks in your peripheral vision. Most slink away. Some are mirages; others, characters for another day. Some walk right up and turn themselves in, and some can be ambushed, while others take you down. You might wrestle with one for hours, months, or years. Finally, the last word clicks into place, the punch line hits the mark, the sound and the meaning both ring true. To pin it to the mat is joy. The poem cries, “Enough!” And the poem is pleased, too, having won its own kind of victory over you.

No, for me, that doesn’t happen every day.

But a blog post a day? A simple slice of prose? An opinion or observation, however poetically unexpressed? Why not. Join us. If nothing else, the greatest way to improve one’s writing is to write: quantity trumps all.

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2010