Thursday, November 25, 2004

'Mother' Judged the Most Beautiful Word

Mum's the word, says the world
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/4039185.stm
Published: 2004/11/25 16:40:44 GMT
© BBC MMIV

Mother is the most beautiful word in the English language, according to a survey of non-English speakers.
More than 40,000 people in 102 countries were polled by the British Council to mark its 70th anniversary.
Mother, passion, smile, love and eternity were the top five choices - but father did not even make it into the list of 70 words.
But some unusual choices did make the list, such as peekaboo, flabbergasted, hen night and oi.
SOME OF THE TOP WORDS
1. Mother
2. Passion
3. Smile
4. Love
5. Eternity
48. Peekaboo
50. Kangaroo
61. Oi
63. Hiccup
70. Hen night
Fantastic, destiny, freedom, liberty and tranquillity rounded out the top 10.
The British Council promotes the learning of English around the world and teaches the language to more than 500,000 people each year.
Chris Wade, director of communications at the council, said the most favoured choices in the list were all strong, positive words.
He said: "All of us have a mother and have a reasonable idea of who that person is, it's one piece of certainty we can have and it's also a very powerful word in a variety of cultures.
"But I wonder if we would have had the same result if we had done the survey in the UK."
He said the list showed the diversity of the English language: "There are words denoting concepts that people aspire to, like freedom; words that sounded fun like peekaboo and others that aren't really words at all but they convey real meaning, like oi."
Other words to make the top 70 included serendipity, loquacious, kangaroo and zing.
Imports
There were also words imported from other languages, such as renaissance and aqua.
"We'll grab anything we can take. Lots of words have been stolen over the years," Mr Wade said.
"But while other languages may be reluctant to use our words, [this has provided] a real richness in the English has evolved."
He said one English word to have gained widespread usage recently was flip-flop, which came 59th in the survey.
Failed US presidential candidate John Kerry was accused by the Republicans of having "flip-flopped" - or changed his stance - on a number of policy areas.
"Flip-flop was used a lot during coverage of the US election. If the survey had been done a year ago it probably would not be in the list," said Mr Wade.
Michael Quinion, whose recent book Port Out, Starboard Home examines some of the quirks of the English language, said it was a very "eclectic" list.
He said: "These non-English speakers certainly have wonderful English vocabularies.
"There seems to be a curious mixture of the formal and the colloquial. Oi is not a word that I would've thought turned up in English manuals all that often."
The list also included what Mr Quinion said was his own favourite English word - serendipity, which came 24th.
"It's so mellifluous but it's such a nice concept too."