I just tried to read an essay in the New York Times that cited the words “cellar door” as the most beautiful phrase in the English Language. HUH? Normally I enjoy lists of “beautiful words” but this threw me. Cellar door doesn’t do anything for me, in sound or meaning. It actually makes me feel a little tense, since I automatically presume that something bad exists behind a cellar door, like a maniac or a dead animal.
I screwed around on google and found this list of “The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English.” Take a look! I was surprised by how many I disagree with. Usually lists of beautiful words are big on euphonious words like shimmer, iridescent, and lullaby, but this list is all over the place.
It includes “plethora” which I hate, and “inglenook,” which I think is the name of a cheap wine, but I’m not sure. I misread “fetching” as “felching,” which was a momentary shock that has ruined “fetching” for me, at least for tonight.
“Ineffable” is a great word, and so is “imbroglio.” I also like “pungent” and “woodwind” and “melancholy,” none of which made the top 100. On the other hand, it did include “penumbra” which is too reminiscent of “pudenda” for my comfort.
“Halcyon” is a lovely word that made the list, as one might expect. It would be beautiful even if it didn’t evoke a nice tranquilizer. I once told a friend that the drug Halcion made me think of people laying in the grass beside a sun-dappled lake. He replied, “They should have called it Seurat.” I nearly fell in love with him for that, but I was already in a relationship and he was a prick.
What words do you find beautiful? Feel free to list your own 100 if you love that many.