Saturday, February 03, 2007

Slide Down Your Cellar Door

It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It seems the time has come again to play what I call, Sounds Like.

The occasion? While Googling a quotation I half-remembered from The World According to Garp, "Eighteen, the most beautiful word in the English language," I found a website claiming that James Joyce's pick is "cuspidor."

A spittoon.

Huck, you're right, Joyce must be addressed with a sense of humor, if one is to take him seriously at all.

A 2004 survey of non-English speakers in 102 countries found that "mother" is favored. I can't tell if they were choosing solely by phonetics (one would presume that was the reason for excluding those native to the tongue), which is my criterion for this exercise.

Henry James claimed "Summer afternoon, summer afternoon." I'm assuming he chose for the meaning, though 'summer' is not at all unpleasant.

Here's a preposterous list. It rankles more than it jingle-jangles.

The poet, whom my friend, Adam, referred to anagrammatically as 'Toilets,' offered this observation on sounding the voice of lyrics:

'Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.'

T.S. Eliot, 'Four Quartets'

Nabokov's favorite "(took) a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."

Oh bother, musn't leave the Pythons out of this mess.

Fitzgerald reminded us, 'You can stroke people with words.'

Thomas Hardy concurred, "If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the Inquisition might have let him alone."

Of course it matters who 's saying them, and how they deliver. Words alter as they are cradled, held on the tongue, and issued in various accents and differing parole. An 's' is harshly sibilant in one mouth, soft and seductive in another, turns to mush with a lateral lisp.

Leave the last advice to Shakespeare:

"flatter and praise, commend, extol their
graces; though ne'er so black, say they have angels' faces.
That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man,
If with his tongue he cannot win a woman."
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act III, Scene I)

Here are my new entries:

Kenya
loss
coax
drink
carol
cajole
alter
chimera
desolate
laughter
palimpsest
razor
seven
azure
forest
shadow
paradox
crash
four
ocean
pyrrhic
vestige
oak
parole
Africa
whore
audience
silence

7 comments:

whosyourhuckleberry said...

I still say its obstreperous...

kissyface said...

Huckster, you said obsequious first time round. But I like this new word. It's full of feist, though hardly lyrical. However, it is part of one of the many nicknames of my college boyfriend, Obstreperous Runt (Pigpen was another). He wasn't really short, nor was he tall, but everybody loved him.

whosyourhuckleberry said...

I know, but I felt it needed reiteration...
And besides, I'm loyal like that...

steve said...

I think any word with more than one "P" is funny... like "purple" or "people"... people is funny...no..."people ARE funny and Kids say the darndest things"..

steve said...

"Pigpen".. see thats funny too! Find me a word with two "p"'s that isn't funny...

jt castleton said...

methinks that shakespeare quote has been recycled.

kissyface said...

'tis true, Stitch, 'twas you I was thinking of.