Many years ago Wilfred Funk propounded a list of the most beautiful words in English. Others have also selected their loves. This week we'll please our ears with some of the choices.
asphodel - a flower of the lily family, with white, pink, or yellow flowers clusters of flowers.
[note: The asphodel of the early English and French poets was the daffodil. Our word daffodil is believed to come from the Dutch de affodil = "the asphodel".]
Though we're speaking of beautiful words, whether or not they name beautiful things, here is a picture of the asphodel.
Euphonious itself is rather euphonious, I think...
As E. A. Poe wrote in "The Bells," What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
In this context I've always been fond of sursurration
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden asphodels; ...
- after Wordsworth. Works for me.
cerulean - sky-blue
But that definition rather begs the question, for a blue sky can range from light pale blue to rich strong blue. Which do we mean?
There seems to be some confusion. Thus, One-look's "quick definition" is:
Funk's selected "beautiful words" are all lovely in meaning, typically flowers and such gentle animals as "bobolink", "fawn", and "oriole".
James Joyce focused more on the pretty sound of a word. (Or at least he seemed to, to the extent one can ever tell what Joyce was thinking.) He stated that to him, the most beautiful word in English is cuspidor.
cuspidor - a spittoon; a receptacle for spit
(including the "receptacle" of a drinking fountain or in a dentist's office)
Pausing for a moment to remember September 11, 2001, and to contemplate our remembrance of that date last year (see week of Sept. 9, 2002).
Today's word comes not from Funk's list of beautiful words, but from a list by Willard Espy.
gossamer - noun: 1. a film of cobwebs floating in air in calm clear weather; 2. something light, delicate, or insubstantial: the gossamer of youth's dreams
adjective, by later extension: extremely light, delicate, or tenuous
[probably from goose + summer, a period of mild autumn weather when goose was in season and such webs were often seen in the air]
[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Sep 11th, 2003 at 10:03.]
Funk put luminous on his list. I'm going suggest a modification.
numinous - suggesting the presence of a god; spiritual, divine; inspiring awe and reverence
Bryant muses, "However, there is more to holiness than a mere acknowledgement that human intellect is limited. Interwoven with it is a healthy dose of awe; what Rudolf Otto called mysterium tremendum, an awe-filled mystery that leaves us trembling. St Augustine encapsulated it. 'What is this which gleams through me and smites my heart without wounding it? I am both a-shudder and a-glow; a-shudder in so far as I am unlike it, a-glow insofar as I am like it.'"
Russell Rocke in his Grandiloquent Dictionary (not the same as the website by that name) highlights words he considers euphonious. Among them is today's word, the concept being less sweet than the sound.
vellicate - to move with spasmodic convulsions; to twitch
[Rocke add another definition, which I'm not able to confirm: to pull off; to pluck, as: Women villicate their eyelashes.]
Dorothy Parker opined that the most beautiful words in the english language are "cheque enclosed". But lets return to Funk.
mellifluous - flowing sweetly or smoothly, as with honey: a mellifluous voice
[From L. roots meaning honey and flow]