John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

Monday, February 22, 2010

The sweetest sound

Last week the lighthearted lexicographer Grant Barrett published an essay in The New York Times on the claim, attributed to various writers over the years, that cellar door is the most euphonious phrase in the English language.

(“Huh?” you say? Read the article.)

On Facebook, one of my daughter’s former teachers wrote to ask whether I found the claim reasonable or preposterous, suggesting, for her part, that melancholy is more beautiful.

My suggestion for the most beautiful phrase in the language:

Pay to the order of

And therefore, since I have freelance projects pending and you, dear reader, my dearest friend, do not part with a dime for these posts, You Don’t Say will now shut down for the remainder of the day.