Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bradbury Locks it Down

There's an aggressively inscrutable scene in Donnie Darko where Drew Barrymore's character recounts this idea that "cellar door" is the most phonoaesthetically pleasing phrase in the English language. You can almost hear Richard Kelly jerking off behind the camera, whispering "What're they gonna think of this new allusion?"

Anyway, it's a weird old idea, and I never understood it, not only because I don't think "cellar door" is a particularly attractive pair of words but because I think it's weird to declare two words winners of anything. The English language is not a beauty contest. There is no Miss Latin-Derived Noun or Miss Etymology-Unknown Verb (though if there was, the latter, as a linguistic orphan, would obviously win. Big inner beauty points for that one are assured, compared to words with detailed pedigrees).

I thought this until I discovered the actual most phonoaesthetically pleasing phrase in the English language, courtesy of Ray Bradbury (and co-opted as a band name thereafter).

Rocket Summer.

Yeah, I get that part of the "cellar door" appeal was that it was supposed to be beautiful even when isolated from its semantic meaning. There's no question that "rocket summer" is enhanced by its meaning; they're two fantastic nouns apart and they're the hottest couple you've ever seen when they're together. They're Brangelina if Brangelina was fun and quirky (by the way, how do you conjugate verbs with these celebrity portmanteaus - is it as if they are a couple or one entity? Us Weekly writers would know...).

But who cares about the details, you linguist purists? Just say "rocket summer" aloud. Do you have tingly little sparkles in your mouth after? I do.

.....or does that mean I'm having a stroke?


Kyle said...

reminds me of another phrase I like... "midnight buffet"

beckyferreira said...

I like the sound and meaning of that.