--from a letter to Larry Callen, July, 14, 1958 (found in the collection of his early letter, “The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman)”
I took the advice of Thomson and as I ordered my words, the word “wanderlust” came first. It came in the early teens driven by hours and days and nights of vicarious experience; the freedom of adventure on adventure as we plunged into an endless stream of novels set off-island in every-which-where places. It’s a beautiful and wonderful word.
“Dépaysement” came years later. It carries that meaning of being somewhat lost, somewhat disoriented in a strange country and culture. It’s in the beauty of the word rather than any stirring of feeling. Let’s forget it’s a French word. There is a power of beauty in words!
What is the most ‘beautiful’ word in the English language? Is it “wanderlust” or “caramel” or “dépaysement"? “Caramel” it is; nothing on the World Wide Web comes close. It has a power of sound you can almost caress; a rich swirl of colour; a movement of associations.
It could be that the most beautiful word in the English language is actually a cluster of words. We think of ‘epiphany’ which is a gossamer uplook on a crystal, December morning; an eternal instant. Juxtapose this with ‘syzygy’ which is “the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system” Merriam-Webster) or expressed otherwise: Astronomy A conjunction or opposition, especially of the moon with the sun: ‘the planets were aligned in syzygy’ (Oxford dictionary). ‘Epiphany’, ‘wanderlust’, ‘syzygy’, ‘caramel’ do make a most unlikely quartet.
It’s time to temporarily ignore definitions and just find your own ‘most beautiful words’. Perhaps in 2016 you will also begin another journey of discovery, self-discovery, other discoveries starting with your own “most beautiful word(s).
Happy New Year!