December 1, 2010


I like words. I take satisfaction when they are heavy or when they are fluffy or lithe. I mean this in all senses - the way they point to things standing behind them or the way they don't (or point to so many things at the same time or point to the wrong thing entirely). I am also talking about the way they sound.

Clearly, I am nerdy and while doing some word digging the other day, I came across a post on's blog. Yes, that is a real blog and yes, I like to graze once in while. And yes, I am riveted by the post topics sometimes. Recent examples:

What dish involves more than 10 birds stuffed inside each other?

“Mystery missile” Web sensation may have simply been a “contrail.”

There really is a 13th zodiac sign named “Ophiuchus” that you’ve probably never heard of.

Great stuff.

Well today, there was a post about the most beautiful words in English. The most beautiful sounding words (nothing to do with their meaning). Apparently, language experts (beginning with J.R.R. Tolkien) concur that cellar door is the most euphonious phrase in English (be careful with the accent on that r, according to phonetic standards). Cellar door, eh? I love it.

It is timely because just the other day Xavier was gushing over one French word, a French word that he pronounced over 50 times with embellished French lips in all the right places. "Babe, it is the most beautiful word in the most beautiful language: libellule" (/libɛllyl/). LI-BEL-LULE (remember the French 'i' (ee) and 'u' (well, u, in that special way). It means dragonfly.

Cellar door, libellule. Two ideas. Think of more.


SGM said...

in 8th grade english we learned about 'cellar door' but also were told that 'free refills' was on the most euphonious list. maybe just the 'merican list...

Anonymous said...

lacey said...


i also like how "shellac" sounds, but only because it makes me giggle, not because i think it sounds particularly beautiful.

on the other hand, i think "gubernatorial" is one of the ugly-sounding words.

Ming said...

I've always been fond of onomatopoeia, not only for it's musicality when spoken but for the actual meaning itself! Cheers! *clink*

gaminette said...

I adore the word libellule! I learned it in the first place because I have one tattooed on my...sacrum. Heh.

I too love language - not just the sounds of the words themselves but their origin and how they came to be and how they fit together. It's one of the reasons I find learning Japanese to be so fascinating. Also, I have a memory of our having a conversation about JK Rowling and her marvelous wordplay in Harry Potter. We did, didn't we?

Emilie said...

True, gaminette. I know you love language and that is one of the primary (in both senses: time and importance) reasons that I adore you.

D1Warbler said...

Kimi had a sensory experience of another sort when she was in the hospital with her second child. The woman in the bed next to her astounded her by exclaiming that she had decided to name her new daughter "Placenta" because she loved how the word sounded.

Unfortunately, the new mother had no clue -- as a non-English speaker -- what the word meant, and she did name that poor child Placenta!)

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