Donnie Darko and "CellarDoor" (very very minor spoiler)

In the movie Donnie Darko, Drew Barrymore’s character is a high school English teacher who is fired somewhere near the end of the movie. At the end of her last day, Donnie comes into the classroom to tell her goodbye. She’s written the words “CellarDoor” on the board, and she explains that a “famous linguist” believed that it was the most beautiful combination of words ever created.

So, my question is this: Was there really a linguist who said this? If so, who was s/he and where did the idea come from?


J.R.R. Tolkien said something pretty close to that, and he was a linguist and is very famous, so yes. The exact quote, which can be found in “The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays,” is this:

“Most English-speaking people…will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.”

They also made a movie or something recently that I think had something to do with something else he’d written.

Donnie Darko is the best movie ever.


Much thanks, hazel-rah! Your answer is exactly what I was looking for.