More beautiful words: and in first place...

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 3, 2003

Last week I left you with the question: What is the most beautiful word in the English language? Your responses have been overwhelming – 180, to be exact, with over half by e-mail, and the rest through personal encounters around town.

Why, just the other night at Cochrane's annual Christmas Light-Up, one woman approached me urgently and said "Compassion!" "Compassion?" I said. "Yes, for your list of most beautiful words."

A bit further along the brightly decorated main drag, a computer specialist offered me his word: "TWAIN." "You mean, like I can hear the twain coming?" I asked. "No," he said. "In computerese, TWAIN's an acronym for 'Technology Without An Impressive Name.'" I'm discovering all kinds of unusual stuff on this quest.

Speaking of the unusual, Calgary dentist Ralph Dubienski suggested "eunoia." The word comes from Greek, where it originally carried the idea of "a good attitude," and hence its medical use in English for "a normal mental state," and, according to author Christian Bök, "beautiful thinking." But its greatest claim to fame is that it's the shortest word in English to contain all five vowels.

Many of you chose words simply for the beauty of their sound – "demure," "doowang," "facetious," "mellow," "onomatopœia," "periwinkle," "phantasmagorical," "Shenandoah," and "twitterpated." Les and Ottilia Jaworski liked the sound of "jamboree" so much they recently renamed their Cochrane coffee shop "Java Jamboree."

Some of the more romantically inclined offered the name of their spouse: "Denise," "Marianne," and "Rob," or the name of their latest silver-screen heartthrob, "Legolas."

Words of endearment? I was really surprised when Kaya came running after me on the boardwalk at Rustic Market Square. "Belly-rub!" I wasn't sure if I was being given a word or an invitation. But more on that in a minute.

There was a noticeable absence of certain words. For instance, no one suggested "money," "power," "greed," or "hate" as beautiful words. Over coffee, I mentioned this to Don Neufeld, pastor of Cochrane Alliance Church. "Some words drive us, but do not nourish us," he said.

So, before announcing the three words you folks have placed at the top of the list, let me share the rest of the nourishing words I've received. In the spirit of the season, I thought I'd set some of them to the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus":

And integrity,
Kindness and beauty,
Friendship and family,
And forgiveness,
Give, glory and grace.
And madrigal,
And coffee and chocolate.

Bliss and camomile,
Dog and fellowship,
Horse, home, hyacinth,
Savour, share and trust.
Parents, grandma,
Mum and mother,
Sunset, sun and sublime,
Skylark, smile,
Mitten, mist,
Hello and lullaby.

I'll treat the first person who can sing that to me acceptably to a coffee or coffee substitute.

Now here are the rest of the beautiful words you have selected:

Amazing, behold, beloved, cherish, contentment, devotion, God, gratitude, harmony, hope, Italiano, Jesus, joy, lavender, light, mercy, moonlight, motorcycle, poetry, scunnert, thanks, unique, unity, voluptuous, water, and wonderful.

And the top three? "Happiness" is in third place with five votes; "peace," in second place with eleven.

I'll let Libby Graham, formerly of Cochrane and now of Calgary, introduce the first-place word, which garnered 45 votes. "What is the most beautiful," she says, "is genuine goodwill that dances with spirit and comes from the heart – openly. I think this is 'love.'"

So there we have it, folks, the top three most beautiful words: love, peace and happiness. A wonderful trio for a wonderful life.

Oh yes, about Kaya's belly-rub. Kaya is chiropractor Colleen Griffin's playful Jack Russell terrier.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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