The other day I was researching something on the web, the exact subject escapes me now, when I came across this article about beautiful words and phrases. Being a part-time speaker of the english language, I found the information interesting.
From a purely phonoaesthetic (how something sounds) point of view, it seems that a lot of people believe that "cellar door" is a lovely set of nouns. And no, I'm not making this up. There are articles on Wikipedia and in the New York Times that cover the subject in some depth.
Maybe it's because I grew up in the northeast US, where cellar doors are quite common, but I don't hear anything particularly melodious in that combination of words. Oh sure the combination is better than, say, Muskrat Love, but cellar door doesn't exactly move me. I do wonder, however, if some marketing guy came up with the name of a particular biscotti I remember from childhood, Stella D'oro, based on the supposed beauty of cellar door. At least Stella D'oro flows better off of (and, now that I think about it, on to) the tongue! Still nothing stirs within me when I hear these supposed golden nuggets of language.
Then, a couple of nights ago, I was watching TV and someone was reading the text of a Marine's Medal Of Honor citation. In those words I did hear a pair of words that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Though I suppose that this combination is not particularly beautiful in terms of its phonoaesthetic value but maybe I'm more of a believer in semantics, the meaning of words. In any event, I was so intrigued by this combination of words that I immediately searched out the text of more Medal Of Honor citations to see the pair in written form. It turns out that, in Medal Of Honor circles, the wording is actually common. I guess that's what I'd expect in texts that describe a group of such uncommon individuals.
I know, I know... You're probably wondering just what the heck is this pair of words that has captured my imagination so thoroughly? Well, I wanted to make you wait in order for you to get your brain into a state of anticipation so that, maybe, the words I'm about to show you would stick there for a while--a period at least, perhaps, as long as this Memorial Day holiday weekend.
That's it, that's the combination of words that has me smitten with the english language this week because it so efficiently describes the US armed forces. Twenty characters, if one counts the space, of text but one huge freakin' concept. So huge, in fact, that some of you may not be able to reconcile its grandeur in your heads. That's OK, I can't do math in my head so I use Excel or a calculator. The video below shows, visually, the concept of conspicuous gallantry. Think of it as a concept-to-action calculator which is going to help you mentally sum the immensity of those two words.
And finally, to the men and women of the US Armed Forces, who consistently display acts of Conspicuous Gallantry, my sincere thanks. Though the good deeds done by you are not readily conveyed through our sometimes lazy and ignorant news media, you have the thanks of a grateful nation.