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Yes, "Chattanooga" is a very nice-sounding word. However, its etymology is
Cherokee -- not English.... that is, unless you also consider "Pocahontas,"
"fajita," and "ave Maria" to be English terms also.
Comments: To: TECHWR-L -at- vm1 -dot- ucc -dot- okstate -dot- edu
Forwarding to the list from writer Ann Catherine Osborne.
-- Chas. Bosdet
> Karen Wise wrote:
> Francine Krasowska said, "I remember reading that 'they' had
> determined the most beautiful word in English to be 'cellardoor.'
> Anyone else remember this? (And since when is that one word?)"
> In fourth-grade French class we were taught that it was the French
> who voted "cellardoor" as the most beautiful English word.
> For one thing, you're right, it's two words. But more importantly, how >
likely is it that such a survey really happened??!!
Oh, yes, indeed such a poll was conducted, about 60 years ago. In it, famed
writers were asked which English words they considered the most beautiful.
The quote about the cellar door is from H.L Mencken, who claimed that it was
a Chinese lad, a student, who liked the word(s) cellar door -- not as a word,
but rather as the most musical combination of sounds he had heard in our
Some other examples and their proponents:
Dr. Wilfred Funk: tranquil, golden, hush, bobolink, thrush, lullaby,
murmuring, luminous, cerulean, melody, mist, and others ...
Charles Swain Thomas: melody
Irvin S. Cobb: Chattanooga
Louis Untermeyer: willow, lovely, limpid, laughter
Lew Sarett: vermillion
George Nevin: lovely
Elias Lieberman: nevermore
Stephen D. Wise: nobility
Just to further befuddle, here is a wonderful passage, courtesy of Mark
Twain, from the "Double-Barreled Detective Story." Read it and revel in the
beauty of the language.
"It was a crisp and spicy morning in early October. The lilacs and
laburnums, lit with the glory-fires of autumn, hung burning and flashing in
the upper air, a fairy bridge provided by kind Nature for the wingless wild
things that have their homes in the tree-tops and would visit together; the
larch and the pomegranate flung their purple and yellow flames in brilliant
broad splashes along the slanting sweep of the woodland; the sensuous
fragrance of innumerable deciduous flowers rose upon the swooning atmosphere;
far in the empty sky a solitary esophagus slept upon motionless wing;
everywhere brooded stillness, serenity, and the peace of God."
AnnKath -at- aol -dot- com
(Who, after that last passage, has tongue planted firmly in cheek.)
P.S. With thanks to Richard Lederer, one of my favorite manglers of our
language, in "Crazy English."