16 August 2011

summer afternoon and beautiful words

Henry James once said:
Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

And I mean him no disrespect, this man who wrote Portrait of a Lady and taught me the word dilettante—

{Sidenote on that: I have yet to use the word dilettante in normal conversation. Please, someone, give me reason to use this word. Although I guess I'm asking you to be pretentious, to put on airs, to make me want to flash my eyes in exasperation at how impressed you are with yourself, just so I can fulfill a long-held desire to say, "You are such a dilettante."

Maybe you don't want to go along with my plan at this point, although aha! When I was writing that bit about flashing eyes, I realized that I do know someone who could be described as a dilettante. My eyes flash around him more than usual—perhaps that's my dilettante sign—and I've also been sorely tempted to bring him down a few notches every time I've talked to him. A dilettante in my midst: how exciting!}

So no disrespect to Henry James, but I disagree with his love of the summer afternoon.

To me, there are so many more beautiful times of the year, let alone beautiful words in the English language.

For example:
  • dilettante: Try it. It rolls off the tongue. It'll make you wish you had one around, just so that you could use the word.
  • twilight
  • violet
  • yes
  • ephemeral
  • plethora
  • delightful
  • glade
  • lagoon

And that's just off the top of my head.

So much beauty in language: what would you suggest to Mr. Henry James as the two most beautiful words in the English language?


  1. "At least Julie was not a dilettante when she opened up that cookbook." Or for a longer response: http://naphtalia.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/an-open-response-to-summer-afternoon-and-beautiful-words/ :)

  2. ravioli

    ok. maybe I'm just hungry. :)
    Also, seeing as how I'm not a big fan of "portrait of a Lady", I am going to have to disagree with good old Henry just for the sake of not having the same taste as him.

  3. Ooh, I like your words, Brenda. I like that "cacophony" has "phony" in it.



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