Daily Archives: November 3, 2008

euphony

A word with pleasant sound. It carries the smooth resonances of symphony and polyphony while not so quickly calling forth the cracked stops of cacophony. (If you say it like an accusation of spuriousness, your hearer may think you funny.) The first syllable is pleasing, too; many will think of euphoria and perhaps eulalia (or, by sound association, even Utopia); dancers and theatre historians may think of eurythmy (and ’80s music fans might get a related echo). And who does not like to year “you” spoken to them in pleasing tones? Orthographically, this word gives us the ph spelling that bespeaks classical roots and phatter wallets – it could be higher class or just “classy.” Saying the word takes the tongue in a swoop through the mouth: high front to high back, like an ebbing wave, then the [f] with the lips and teeth like the sound of surf (or of soft white noise), then the tongue taps front quickly before continuing the flex to its opening forward swell. No surprise that the word comes from Greek – a Greek word that means the same thing (nice + sound), euphonia. Notice that the ia was changed by the 17th-century borrowers to a standard English ending, y, perhaps because they thought it sounded nicer.