Soon after I posted my most recent entry, I received an e-mail from a friend who suggested that I read Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words by Phil Cousineau. I found it and downloaded it to my IPad and I recommend it highly. The author, a self described word hound has been compiling lists of his favorite words since he was a boy. The book includes descriptions, derivations and etymologies for about 260 words.

The best passages describe foreign words that do not have an easy English translation. There is the word kavla. This is a Turkish word for the moment between the end of haggling and the consummation of a deal. It is also used to describe the act of stretching out our most sensuous moments in order to emphasize the anticipation of something rather than the consummation of something.

There is also the word rasa. This Hindu word is a noun for the aesthetic or spiritual essence of a work of art. It is art at its core which can only be experienced through immediate perception rather than rational explanation.

But my favorite is the French word chantapleure. Not only does it sound beautiful but there is no English equivalent. It means to sing and cry at the same time.  (chanter= to sing and pleurer=to weep).

Finally the author offers a list of the 10 most beautiful words. In 2004, the British Council polled 40,000 people and here is the list:

1. mother

2. passion

3. smile

4. love

5. eternity

6. fantastic

7. destiny

8. freedom

9. liberty

10. tranquility


One thought on “Wordcatcher

  1. does your book tell of a word that describes the character of an inanimate object that takes on the essence of it’s provenance/longtime usage (i.e. an antique chair….something very old and much used)….I think the word was Oriental, but I cannot remember it……:-( (kind of a spirit infusion)

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