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Wonderful Wordage
December 26, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English and The 100 Funniest Words in English by Robert "Dr. Goodword" Beard. Yes, it's promoting a couple of books, but scroll down to see the complete lists (and a few examples of his write-ups on each). Nothing LOLCAT-ish, you ailurophiles, but good for your abibliophobia. I hope the fine assemblage here at MetaFilter (you are all so becoming and not at all anencephalous) will not beleaguer the author or cause an argle-bargle. Well, I must absquatulate, so, see you later allegator.
posted by oneswellfoop (74 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just wish the Funniest Words list included Defenestrate and Slumgullion and the Most Beautiful Words included Pheromone and Tessellation. Any words you'd like to add to the lists?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:13 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bergen Evens taught me the word, callipygian (nicely assed), way back in 1970 in The Edwardian Room over the first Eggs Benedict of my life. And the Sex Life of the Camel. He was likably naughty, erudite and loved words. I think he would have really loved the internet.
posted by nickyskye at 1:30 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd like to add cunnilingus and fellatio.
posted by Splunge at 1:38 PM on December 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


To the most beautiful list, I'd add: Celerity.
posted by bz at 1:38 PM on December 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


How many of these are MeFite usernames? So far, I've spotted desuetude and hal-c-on.

However, since the "most beautiful words" list doesn't include "bacon," I have to register my (weak) protest.
posted by not_on_display at 1:41 PM on December 26, 2010


Big words can sometimes be OK, but I hate words like abibliophobia, which are brittle, pointless constructions of Latin roots. (Defenestrate's an awesome exception to the rule). I like old English words, and for some reason, anatomical ones: gut, liver, bowel. As a fun, slightly obscure usage, I like carriage to mean the way someone carries themselves.
posted by domnit at 1:41 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


This author has just ransacked a single poem by Poe.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:43 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, cromulent post, onefellswoop.
posted by not_on_display at 1:44 PM on December 26, 2010


"Tonight on Smartline: The power plant strike. Argle-bargle, or fooforaw?"
posted by squorch at 1:44 PM on December 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure everyone would like to add cunnilingus and fellatio, splunge. I know I would.
posted by emelenjr at 1:52 PM on December 26, 2010


Hm. Don't see what's funny about logorrhea, which is simply a fine and useful word.

"Tatterdemalion is excellent. My respect for Freddie Mercury began to soar when I heard him use that word on the marvellous and unfairly-reviled "Queen II" album.
posted by Decani at 1:54 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


no 'contraption?' I love saying that word.
posted by jonmc at 1:58 PM on December 26, 2010


Your favorite list of beautiful words sucks evokes dolorous cogitations.
posted by lukemeister at 1:59 PM on December 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


@?

@ is one of the funniest words in English?
posted by Askiba at 2:02 PM on December 26, 2010


There's a decidedly anti-Germanic tilt to this list, imho.
posted by el_lupino at 2:10 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


What an egregious collocation of vocables!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:13 PM on December 26, 2010


Bucolic? Seriously? I was shocked to discover its meaning as a child, because it sounds like getting gas and then barfing.
posted by threeants at 2:14 PM on December 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


hoppitamoppita is the best word ever
posted by bitteroldman at 2:16 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


What, tater is not on the list?

also...

I thought of you all when I was in Austin last month and drove past a street called Taterwood Dr.

Chortle.
posted by chillmost at 2:19 PM on December 26, 2010


I'd just like to thank Gary Gygax for me knowing a number of these.
posted by khaibit at 2:20 PM on December 26, 2010


101. Defenestration
posted by stbalbach at 2:22 PM on December 26, 2010


Sesquipedalia is one of my favorite words. Rolls off the tongue and is perfectly descriptive.

Incidentally, I think "cellar door" is ugly. Never saw the appeal.
posted by inedible at 2:27 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a decidedly anti-Germanic tilt to this list, imho.

You know who ELSE had a decidedly anti-Germanic tilt?

Oh wait. Nevermind.
posted by hanoixan at 2:36 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


'Apparatus' was always a favorite of mine. Its connotation carries a very precise meaning that makes both it and 'contraption' necessary and both hinge on the way the word sounds.

'Animal,' too. It's such a common word we don't think about it too much, but it's supremely descriptive. An animal is animated... it possesses the quality of being animated. Like a primitive is primal, an animal is... animal. It starts to seem like some goopy Lovecraftian word that points out the strangeness of something being imbued with life.
posted by cmoj at 2:43 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


all good woody words ...
posted by philip-random at 2:52 PM on December 26, 2010


He obviously hadn't spent enough time around four-year-olds before writing the "funniest" list. Poop.

Poop.

Poooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooop.
posted by Flunkie at 2:53 PM on December 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm fond of 'thylakoid' (little membrane bound things part of chloroplasts). Interestingly, it shares the same origin as the Thylacine -- both come from thylakos, which apparently means "pouch". At some point I will have to make a Thylacine out of plasticine for silliness reasons.
posted by oonh at 3:01 PM on December 26, 2010


I've always thought that 'frass' was an undeservingly beautiful word for such a definition as insect shit. On the other hand, 'petrichor' strikes me as a terrible clunker for such a lovely concept as the scent of rain on dry earth.

But in the end, I cannot love the word palimpsest. It makes me think of an over-inflated zeppelin. And everyone knows ebullience is the grey gunk in your washing machine left over from the powder.
posted by monster truck weekend at 3:27 PM on December 26, 2010


No 'Elbow'... FAIL
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:28 PM on December 26, 2010


The professor must code in Forth. He considers the at-sign ("@") a "word."

I'll also add:

WTF? No gherkin? No pork? Professor of what, exactly?
posted by clvrmnky at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2010


The most cheerful word: Periwinkle.
posted by frobozz at 3:40 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last time I saw a list like this, one of the most beautiful English words to non-English speakers was diarrhea.
posted by Evilspork at 3:41 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Euphrates ...

not so much a word as a place, not of English origin. But it's a hell of a word.

Ee-you-frayy-teez.

You can almost feel the great and historical flow of it.
posted by philip-random at 3:50 PM on December 26, 2010


me, scanning Most Beautiful Words:

FELCHING? oh...fetching.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:58 PM on December 26, 2010


Petunia.
posted by item at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2010


Wikipedia on inherently funny words (the talk page is hilarious).

Althouse Blog: "When One Word is Funnier Than Another"
posted by Rhaomi at 4:14 PM on December 26, 2010


I think at least half of these have shown up on Damn You, Auto Correct. I suspect the dictionary-writers at Apple have seen these lists.
posted by inmediasres at 4:14 PM on December 26, 2010


Any time someone is grasping for a word, I offer "rutabaga", much to my delight.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2010


Poooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooop

Lesbiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan
posted by domnit at 4:45 PM on December 26, 2010


Voracious. Mesopotamian. Antideluvian. Sanctuary. Abide. Booze (both lists). Compassion. Transcendence. Clarity.
posted by gompa at 5:01 PM on December 26, 2010


Bucolic? Seriously? I was shocked to discover its meaning as a child, because it sounds like getting gas and then barfing.

@threeants: I am right there with you. I've always thought much the same.

I would have to include "clemency". I love both the word and the meaning.
posted by the_royal_we at 5:50 PM on December 26, 2010


1. ailurophile. Pronunciation: uh-lur-uh-FAIL.

Oh I see, it's a joke.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 5:51 PM on December 26, 2010


Embrocation Rubbing on a lotion.

The word may be beautiful, but the definition is a lot more fun to say.
posted by spec80 at 6:16 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mukluk
posted by Ad hominem at 6:25 PM on December 26, 2010


Troglodyte Someone or something that lives in a cave.

Oh, but its connotations are so much richer!

And "Yahoo"? I wish everybody in the English-speaking world knew this word's origin. If you don't feel like heading over to Wikipedia...Well, Jonathan Swift, who was, along with Mark Twain, one of the few greatest satirists in the English language, wrote a book called Gulliver's Travels, in four parts. The first part was the most well-known children's tale. The giant, tied down by little ones. Parts II and III were great, but in part IV, Gulliver runs across a civilization of peaceful intelligent beings called Houyhnhnms, like horses. Hairy warlike ignorant two-legged beasts plagued the kingdom. They were, of course: Yahoos. Yep, that's where the yelp/whoop, the derogatory term for the uncultured, and the 'Net 'nym came from.
posted by kozad at 6:28 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It embrocates or else it gets the hose again!
posted by nathancaswell at 6:33 PM on December 26, 2010


To the list of beautiful words, I would add avarice and chameleon.


To the list of funny words, I would add gadrooning, loaf, and of course pants.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:03 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Fiduciary" is stuffy and clunky. Meanwhile, "sidereal" is a wonderful delight. I also wish to reiterate my appreciation of our lovely friend "deliquesce."
posted by SteelyDuran at 7:20 PM on December 26, 2010


...and as suggested by a friend: "Favonian," a mild, warm and Westerly breeze. You know what that feels and smells like, that late summer sentimental evening air.
posted by SteelyDuran at 7:27 PM on December 26, 2010


I had a list of "nice sounding" words that was more than a decade old, that I started when I was at school. I've managed to lose it.

I'll spare you all the big examples like "penultimate." "Milk" was on there. Always like that word.

Mmmm, the land of milk and honey.

Related: http://www.metafilter.com/40874/Words-that-sound-dirty-but-arent
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:39 PM on December 26, 2010


trematode > troglodyte
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:48 PM on December 26, 2010


I agree that the "most beautiful" list is plagued with flowery, latinate words, and looks over simple everyday words that feel even better on the tongue. These are words like gulp, twang, hiccup, gadget, cash, and a few thousand others that don't seem like anything special until we think about them.

"caboose" would be my top pick for both lists, in case anyone was wondering.
posted by LiteOpera at 8:00 PM on December 26, 2010


A daydreamin' friend of mine was gonna start a mobile juicing van. He was gonna call it the Juice Caboose.

ps: The Juice Caboose > The Spruce Goose
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:05 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was happy to see plethora made the beautiful list.

It's always been my favorite.
posted by matt_od at 8:48 PM on December 26, 2010


legion > plethora

penultimate > ultimate

They really gotta change that one around. Penultimate is like when you have the ultimate. But then someone discovers there's one more to go. That should be the penultimate.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:18 PM on December 26, 2010


I know it was mentioned, but I'm astounded at the lack of sesquipedalian. And it just seems so appropriate on a list about words.
posted by erstwhile at 9:19 PM on December 26, 2010


Eh, I don't know. Pretty much any short word is funnier than all of those if you say it a few times. Book. Book. Bookbookbookbook.
posted by ctmf at 9:58 PM on December 26, 2010


This author has just ransacked a single poem by Poe.

Bah -- more like a single short story by Vance.

The list lacks the time dimension of these words: many of these come into English via very picturesque routes and it seems to me it would have been trivial to add a clickable link for the etymologies. Harbinger, to take a single example, comes from the Old High German heriberga, a safe place for an army encampment (the sense of safe haven has echoes in current English harbour, and sense of a resting place survives in modern German Herberge, a youth hostel).

Heriberga filters west until by the Middle Ages it trickles into French as herberge, again meaning "resting place" (which leads to the modern French auberge, an inn or hostel, but along the way sprouted a derivation: the h├ębergier, the messenger who goes a day ahead of the main group to make sure there is space at the lodgings. From there it meander into English to embody the symbolic small thing that heralds the arrival of something larger: harbinger.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:09 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fugacious is a beautiful word? What the fug?
posted by adso at 10:21 PM on December 26, 2010


I think he put wafture on the wrong list.


And I recently used the word "emollient" to gross people out, so that is making me laugh as well.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:34 PM on December 26, 2010


Always been a fan of the word kumquat actually. It could fit on either list!
posted by novenator at 11:27 PM on December 26, 2010


Rhaomi: "Wikipedia on inherently funny words (the talk page is hilarious)."

Let's face it, the talk page is always hilarious.
posted by Splunge at 1:40 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


swiftly gets my vote.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 4:25 AM on December 27, 2010


Seriously. I am no anti-lattinite, but how about "axe".
posted by ~ at 5:43 AM on December 27, 2010


I like "cream." Cream, cream, cream. Cream, won't you?

One of my least favorite words is "pleasure." The verb "to please" gets the side-eye too. I don't hate the thing itself, heaven forfend -- I enjoy enjoyment, delight in delight, luxuriate in luxury. "Pleasure" and "to please," because of the way they are used in both non-sexual and sexual contexts, have come to sound like the creepy uncles of words to me, the bringers of uncomfortable laughter. Why else is it funny that an old cookbook was titled "A Thousand Ways To Please A Husband"? And the word "pleasure" as a verb -- urgh, there's a cold shower all by itself.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:49 AM on December 27, 2010


and as suggested by a friend: "Favonian," a mild, warm and Westerly breeze. You know what that feels and smells like, that late summer sentimental evening air.

There are a lot of nice sounding words for breeze.

Sirocco, peesash, chinook, foehn, doctor*.

*If you are ever visiting Perth and you hear a local remarking "the doctor is in" they are talking about the afternoon sea breeze. We have very hot summers here and an extremely wide river. Early to mid afternoon the soothing, cool sea breeze comes howling up the river and over the suburbs, hence "the doctor." As a bicycle rider, I bloody hate it. :)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:04 AM on December 27, 2010


I'll add "petrichor" to the list of words that are far less beautiful than what it is the word represents.
posted by bz at 11:18 AM on December 27, 2010


Oops, I see I was beaten to the same sentiment by Monster Truck Weekend.
posted by bz at 11:20 AM on December 27, 2010


I like "estuary".
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:02 PM on December 27, 2010


Spindrift.
posted by Splunge at 3:48 PM on December 27, 2010


I rather think that cornichon is not just a lovely word but as well, a tasty word. Pickle is funny. Cornichon is just sublime.
posted by Splunge at 3:59 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


An allegator may rightly accuse me of batrachomyomachy, but I run the risk of developing Abibliophobia if the snollygoster keeps absquatulating with my collection of the slangwhanger's books, no matter how anencephalous the writing may be.

I'm liking 'batrachomyomachy' and 'absquatulate' very much.
posted by the cydonian at 2:08 AM on December 28, 2010


In one of Dan Simmon's "Hyperion" novels, an android character hearing the words "buggy whip antenna" used in some weird context remarks on what a lovely phrase it is. And he's right.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:55 AM on December 28, 2010


Buffalo Bill might have garnered more cooperation from his victims had he told them,

"It engages in embrocation,
Or else it suffers hydration."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:19 PM on December 28, 2010


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