"Grapefruit" is not a particularly attractive word in the English language, but its French equivalent is fabulous. "Pamplemousse" has been my absolute favorite French word throughout the entire 13 years I've been a student of le français. I love the way is sounds, I love the way it looks, and I love sneaking it into as many sentences as one can possibly sneak a big, round piece of fruit into. Bonus: French affinity for grapefruit sorbet, grapefruit juice and even grapefruit-flavored Perrier means that everywhere in Paris I turned I saw my beloved "pamplemousse." Language learners often become fans of certain words in their newly acquired lexicon, and beautiful, romantic French offers up more than its fair share of worthy candidates. But what about my native language? What's my favorite English word? I've asked myself that question many times without ever finding an answer. Now that the holidays, the inauguration, and my first few days at a new job are over, life has settled into enough of a routine for me to once again take up the quest.
Deciding upon a favorite English word is no easy task. While it's nearly impossible to determine exactly how many English words actually exist, estimates put the number in the hundreds of thousands with some claiming as much as one million. That's a lot to choose from. Dale Carnegie is known for urging people to "Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." I like my name well enough, but I don't think it's my favorite word. It does, after all, rhyme with "lasagna," for which is loses serious points. There are the too obvious choices of "love," "peace," and "happiness," and plenty of ugly sounding words like "linoleum," "refrigerator," and "fork." Just thinking of "fahrenheit" makes me cringe.
Maybe it's easier to have a favorite word in your second, third or fourth language. After all, non-native tongue words are adored partly because of their inherent foreignness. They're fun to say because they're different from what you're used to, and the saying of them represents so much more than the words alone. It represents years of study, time spent exploring a different culture, and a fun game of perfecting your pronunciation. Sure, I'll keep my eyes out for that elusive best English word, but I'm not going to hold my breath. "Pamplemousse" is a pretty tough act to follow.