In phonaesthetics, the English compound noun cellar door has been cited as an example of a word or phrase which is beautiful purely in terms of its sound, without regard for its meaning. It has been variously presented either as merely one beautiful instance of many, or as the most beautiful in the English language.
In a 1955 lecture, J.R.R. Tolkien stated that “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.”
It’s been suggested that Edgar Allen Poe chose the word ‘Nevermore’ for the refrain of The Raven because of its similarity to the euphony of 'cellar door.' I recall that even Drew Barrymore’s character in the film Donnie Darko makes reference to it when asked why she's written it on the chalkboard: “This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that cellar door is the most beautiful.”
As early as 1903 - and possibly its point of origin - a Shakespeare scholar, Cyrus Lauron Hooper, wrote in his novel Gee-Boy: "He was laughed at by a friend, but logic was his as well as sentiment; an Italian savant maintained that the most beautiful combination of English sounds was cellar-door..."
I’m not a linguist, but language fascinates me, and certain words energize me purely for how they sound when spoken:
(the list could go on)
Cellar door belongs on the list. I understand its resonance. As a writer, I never just write a sequence of events to move the plot forward. I intentionally choose to arrange words that create flow, even if that means stepping outside of some standard grammar rules (a reason I enjoy writing poetry, too) and even if it's just to please my own ears.
Are there certain words that do this for you? Roll off the tongue nicely; cause an emotional response simply for how they sound when spoken?
I'm curious to “hear” yours.
I haven't posted a blog in a while, but I was compelled to share my thoughts on this.
Recently, someone shared an amateur porn video with me. It was of a supposed “Dom” taking his sub over his knees and spanking him. Normally, that would be good subject matter, but this one, like so many similar ones I’ve had the displeasure of viewing over the years, is about the Dom causing the sub as much pain as possible, alternating between bare hands and a paddle, while the sub squeals and squirms beneath his weight.
During the entire spanking session, this “Dom” focuses his attention solely on the webcam that is filming the scene – obsessed with how he looks as the World’s Most Awesome Sadist. The narcissism and egotism projected is astonishing. And extremely disappointing. Meanwhile, the sub he’s dominating is subjected to pain without any purpose, clutched in the stronghold of a man who cares more about how he looks on camera than about the boy in his arms.
Do I know who this couple is, or how they are together when the camera is off? No. Maybe they only just met. Maybe they've been together for years. If a Dom and a sub mutually choose to film a scene like this, then I suppose I can’t argue with that choice. However, this is the type of online manure that confuses and misguides what D/s Life is about.
Inflicting pain without purpose is pointless. Choosing to use a sub like a rag doll – or, in this case, a prop for a homemade movie – grates against my every nerve. There’s an inhumane, torturous aspect to this kind of scene. It’s also gravely inaccurate. At least, to most of us in the Life it is.
The deep emotional connection that a Dom and sub can share is something to be celebrated, not portrayed as a power play with only one winner. There is little room for egotism in a Dominant person, and a sub should be revered as a partner, not a puppet. Not to mention providing proper after-care, which means being kind and nurturing and supportive to a sub as he/she comes back from the sub-space you’ve transported them to.
A Dom who cares little to nothing for the sub in his arms doesn’t deserve to have one, in my opinion.
Yesterday afternoon, I had the day off and spent a couple of hours at the contemporary art museum here in town. The latest exhibition showcases a raw, vibrant display of street art, including graffiti, photography, and a rare collection of Jean-Michel Basquiat scribbles/doodles done a year before he became famous.
Just a few weeks ago, I saw Julian Schnabel's film "Basquiat" at a local theater (on original 35mm, complete with snaps and pops and blips on the screen), followed by a Q&A panel with one of Basquiat's friends and bandmates who was also the screenwriter for the film, Michael Holman. Seeing the film this time around, after watching it 21 years ago when it first came out, was just as moving for me now as it was back then. (On a side note: David Bowie played Andy Warhol in it, which was a remarkable performance. All of the actors were remarkable.) Hearing Michael Holman's tales afterwards about Basquiat and the crazy life they led brought back a cloud of memories for me.
When I was in junior high/high school, I had lofty dreams of running off to New York to hang with Warhol and the Factory crowd and to immerse myself in the art scene. I knew such a lifestyle would come with a truckload of challenges, but it held a certain glamour for me, and the creativity that was being produced out there was alluring to my much-younger, naive self. I never made it to New York, and after Warhol passed in '87, there was little point in doing so. However, that itch to live a Bohemian, street-art lifestyle never left me. To some degree, I did live it, but my version wasn't glamorous or productive - just a lot of fucked-up. If nothing else, I walked away with some serious life experiences under my belt, and I met some interesting people along the way - some who didn't make it out, and some who did and are now enjoying successful lives. For me, the direction could have gone either way, but that's for another discussion.
So, this art exhibit yesterday compounded the influx of memories that had already been swirling around after watching "Basquiat" again. But, beyond the Basquiat exhibit itself, there was a whole floor of the museum dedicated to thousands of photos by a New York artist named Ryan McGinley. These photos, taken when he was in his early 20s, exemplify street-art life, with raw, realistic portrayals of himself and his friends - many art students, many living on the streets - shown countless times in very stark, unflattering situations (a post-punch bloodied mouth, someone snorting coke, someone passed out, someone naked and bruised, someone with cum-splattered pants, someone spewing vomit, and so on.) This entire exhibit is stark and in-your-face, similar to Nan Goldin's photos in the mid-80s, and seeing it brought flashback reminders of so many things for me, including people and circumstances that I could relate to.
The photo below, titled "Red Mirror", particularly moved me, because it embodies Ryan's sexual discovery about himself and an intimacy and energy that pokes at the heart no matter what your preference is. I can see myself in this photo. I can see friends in this photo. I can see many in this photo. Can you see yourself?
In a new chapter that I'm currently working on for my story Dissonance, I mention art imitating life... or is it life imitating art? I feel that way often. Just last night, while attending an art opening for a friend of mine, I saw a man wearing the exact 1950s vintage western jacket that I'd just described in this current, unfinished chapter. I couldn't fucking believe it. The exact one. I had to go over and discuss the uncanny coincidence with him. Art imitating life... or life imitating art? The lines are blurred. The exhibit at the contemporary art museum perfectly illustrated that for me yesterday.
I feel more enlightened and inspired today because of it.
I saw this floating around social media today and thought it would be a humorous exercise for GA authors to participate in.
"The opening line of a book is extremely important, as it has to be intriguing and powerful enough to capture the reader's imagination. Then, the second line has to intensify the intrigue. Coming up with these lines can be pretty difficult, yet one writer came up with a second line that would almost always heighten the intrigue to its peak, and the Internet is going crazy. "And then the murders began" - that's the clever line Marc Laidlaw came up with. Add it to almost any opening line and you've got yourself a hell of an intriguing book opening."
So here's the exercise for you: In the comments, write the first sentence of one of your GA stories or poems, followed by the second line of "And then the murders began."
I'll start with my own contribution, from 'Backstage Tryst':
"I rubbed nervous palms across my denim-covered thighs, trying once more to exhale the breath which remained stuck in my throat, unable to escape. And then the murders began."
I look forward to seeing yours!