Felicitous Vocabulary

My friend Beth called my attention to a list of the “100 Most Beautiful Words in English,” posted by a gentleman who writes under the nom de Web “Dr. Goodword” (in more prosaic life he is Dr. Robert Beard, a professor of linguistics at Bucknell whose institutional web page features one of the most incongruously unnecessary intrusions of loud MIDI music that I’ve ever encountered). Dr. Goodword, call Dr. Goodwebdesign, please.
Of course, the very notion that anyone might produce a list of the 100 most beautiful words in a language invites catcalls and quibbles (I like both those words), and the criteria for judging a word “beautiful” involve innumerable controversies. It seems that Beard incorporates words on the basis of their sound, their relative obscurity, their precise evocation of otherwise hard-to-articulate phenomena, and everyone who loves language will be tempted to argue about the list that results. Granted all that, Beard’s list does call attention to a great many lovely words: some familiar, some very uncommon, but worth a quick survey. It’s words such as these that got me in trouble in tenth-grade English, when Mrs. Palumbo couldn’t believe that I hadn’t plagiarized the phrases with my (characteristically) high-flying diction.

2 thoughts on “Felicitous Vocabulary

  1. I hope people aren’t looking to that list for good definitions of the words, because I believe many of them are not particularly good (if not downright misleading or wrong).

  2. Yes, very true, Pascale. The value of the list is amplified immeasurably if one acquaints oneself with richer definitions and usage of these words.

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