February 5, 2024 at 10:05 a.m.

Special Words

By LARRY PERKINSON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Online the Tolkien Gateway references a 1955 lecture by the Middle-earth author. In it Mr. Tolkien mentioned “cellar door as a combination of English words having an especially beautiful sound.” How much ale was consumed at the Green Dragon before that presentation started?

Who knew that J.R.R. Tolkien could blow as much smoke as Gandalf?  “Cellar door” might echo sweetly in the Shire, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.  Yet we all have particular or even peculiar words and phrases that are mellifluous. (I found that one in Webster’s.  Appropriately enough, mellifluous means “a sound that is pleasing to hear.”)

My high school English teacher declared one day that debris was as beautiful sounding a word as she had ever heard.  If the meaning hadn’t been so ugly, Mrs. Lawless might have considered it for her daughter’s name.  Maybe she was exaggerating, but she definitely caught our attention. That was not an easy thing to do on vocabulary day.

Pretty words and phrases slide gently off the tongue, don’t they? Most of us have one or two that catch our fancy; but they don’t always benefit our conversations.  As a kid, for example, one of the first words I learned was free.  “Free Gift Inside” determined which cereal I begged for.  I would have remained silent if the caption had suddenly been switched to “Lagniappe Inside.” Same deal, but I would not have known what lagniappe (lan-yap) meant or how to say it.

Here’s a writer’s epiphany: Use both the right words and the ones your audience will understand.  The beauty of the message is what is really important, and that’s what February is all about.   This month demands an investment in clear words and communications.  I aim for that on a regular basis but never as intensely as during the season of amethyst birthdays.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, our expressions have to be perfectly beautiful and precise.

Picking an affectionate truth was easier in elementary school. Mom and the dime store supplied the art and the emphatic messages.

* You’re a swell number! (Picture: boy using a landline phone)

* I’m crowing for you! (Picture: a rooster)

* We belong together! (Picture: teacup and teapot)

Each young lady was offered a card, but the girl who pressed my buttons the most received the one with a picture of a train and the inscription “You make me blow my stack!”

Valentine’s Day was so much fun when I was learning to read the Dick and Jane series. The characters in my class were as likable as Sally and her siblings. Spot and all the pets were friendly. And, I didn’t have enough of a vocabulary to be choosy about what I said. Honest words in the right order made the difference. That is still a solid strategy.

A discussion of the love-bug season needs to include soliloquy, one of my favorite words.  It’s pretty and slides gently off the tongue, and I like it better than debris for a girl’s name.  One of the greatest soliloquies of all time captures the challenge of our upcoming celebration.  Hamlet struggles as he states, “To love or not to love - that is the question ….”  If only the Prince of Denmark could have followed my lead and chosen romance.

After unscrambling all my thoughts and putting honest words in the right order, my heart says that the most beautiful expression for the 14th is simply “I love you.” What could be more mellifluous?  Throw in a Hershey bar and a flower, and I’ve added some kindling to the fire.  My significant other might “Run, Julie. Run.” straight at me with a homemade cookie and a kiss.

You’re probably right.  The power of words might not get me the cookie, but a guy’s gotta dream.