The favourite word

People are attracted to learning languages for different reasons. This list is fairly comprehensive, though notably it neglected the common high school reason of communicating with that elusive hot exchange student.

Another reason, is that some languages just have some really neat words.

A straw poll conducted among four friends on Friday night at Thomas’ place, revealed two things.

Firstly, there was universal dissatisfaction with my choice of wine: I’m the only guy in Paris that consistently buys bottles with a chemical compound more akin to paint-stripper than grapes.

Secondly, we all  were attracted to different words in English and French.

For JRR Tolkein, it was “cellar door“.

“Most English-speaking people…will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.”

…Tolkein also seemed to the like the word hobbit, Mordor and Kahghoul, so one should take his musings on what sounds beautiful with a grain of salt.

I also like the word cellar door, especially if following preceded by the words ‘drink for free from our’.

I digress: For me, my favourite French word is probably ‘bouffant’, not least because until yesterday I had one.

No-one else could think of a favourite French word, so we turned our attention to English.

My French friend Dorothee once said she liked the word ‘cucumber’, she didn’t elaborate whether it mattered if it was Lebanese or not.

Vanessa meanwhile likes ‘Buoyancy’. She took a dive course in Thailand, and had never come across the word  until then.

Chloe, native to England, started by saying she likes ‘outrageous’. She later added ‘audacity’ to the list.

The next morning, all with sore heads from the effect of paint-stripped getting passed into the blood stream, Chloe added one more word to her list.

He text message said simply: ‘Drunkard’. Like I was last night.


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