A “cellar door” phrase is one that is aesthetically pleasing even when divorced of its meaning.
What are you favorite ones (along with hopefully a reference to where they come from)?
The ones I always think of are:
– The Heretic Archivist of the Gethsemane Reclussium. (A character from the Warhammer 40K universe.)
– I came of age and I found a girl in a Tuscaloosa bar. (From Waiting Around to Die by Townes van Zandt.)
– Western Unions of the Country Westerns. (From Hotwax by Beck.)
I am especially in awe of the second example. Even without being sung, it is pure poetry on the order of the We Shall Fight Them or I Have a Dream speech. Speaking of which, those have some good cellar door phrases as well, but it’s much more difficult to divorce them from their meaning.
It doesn’t mean anything as a phrase, but I’ve often joked that if I didn’t know the meaning of the words, Atelectasis Cachexia would make a lovely girl’s name.
(Atelectasis “At-uh-LEK-tuh-sis”: collapsed lung or part of a lung.
Cachexia: “Kuh-KEX-ee-uh”: wasting/extreme weightloss and weakness often caused by cancer)
In this case, certainly a phrase that’s *only *aesthetically pleasing when divorced from its meaning.
The ineluctable modality of the visible.
From Joyce’s Ulysses.
I dated her in high school.
In one of Jack Vance’s stories he mentions an object called an anfangel dongobel. I don’t recall what it was (something a bit unpleasant, ISTR) but the name is so mellifluous.
I always thought Ambergris sounded like a girl’s name, but not after you know what it is.
I always think of Vonnegut’s Chronosynclastic Infundibulum, defined by him as “those places … where all the different kinds of truths fit together”. Its a region where all truths, from all points of view in space and time, agree, where there is no contradiction; a place where the concept of “false” does not and cannot exist.
The Sirens of Titan
“slow dulcimer, gavotte and bow in autumn/the slow courtesy that courses like ichor.” –impossible to tell, Robert Pinksy
(most of this poem is just gorgeous wordsound…i have never considered what he was saying, not a single time i heard it. it’s just a pleasant assemblage of sounds).
hey–speaking of all this, isn’t there a form of freepoetry where words are compiled by the aural aesthetics, concentrating on flow, cadence and pantometer, with no concern if they add up to a sentence that makes any sense?
Beck is really good for cellar door phrases. Two of my favorites are from “Sexx Laws”:
Neptune’s lips taste like fermented wine
Runnin’ buck wild like a concubine
whose mother never held her hand
As for girls’ names, the name Alexia sounds beautiful, until you look up the word “alexia” and find out it means an inability to read.
I’m rather fond of the word “resplendent”, since the word itself sounds resplendent.
I always liked the name Jason Cobalt Northstar, from a historical war hero mentioned in passing a few times in George R.R. Martin’s sci-fi stories.
From Simon R. Green, there’s a character known as “The Walking Man, the Wrath of God in the World of Men”. The phrase just has rhythm.
I’ve never found “cellar door” particularly aestheticly pleasing, myself. Completely unremarkable to my ears, FWIW.
Since playing Minecraft lately, I noticed “Lapis Lazuli” has a certain beauty to it, almost as if the name is a visual onamonapia for the mineral itself.
cerulean blue – a lovely, sea-breezy sound with a creepy X-Files context
She said CERULEAN BLUE – A LOVELY, SEA-BREEZY SOUND WITH A CREEPY X-FILES CONTEXT
(And…hey! That’s SDMB blue!)
Vernal Equinox (also sounds a tad naughty)
Oh, another one I remembered:
A passage from “The Raven”. It’s a mix of the alliteration, and the rhythm of the “tinkled” and “tufted”.
Okay, get over here and clean my keyboard.
To me, that’s what does make it somewhat beautiful (although far from the top 10) is the old-sounding, short, plainness of the words. Overly elaborate words do not do anything for me aesthetically (usually, of course.) “Cellar door” would be a good phrase to use in a spoken word novel to provide a punchy, powerful storytelling as contrasted to an elaborate and baroque style using a lot of long Latin-derived words.