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These words roll off the tongue

February 01, 2009|Carolyn Kellogg, Dan Neil and Monica Corcoran

When thinking of good words, apparently, it's hard to separate them from their meanings. The site alphaDictionary has compiled its selection of the 100 most beautiful words in English. The list, when recited, is quite beautiful, and the words, for the most part, are familiar rather than obscure: adroit, champagne, dulcet, ebullient, efflorescence, paean, rhapsody.

There is a plethora (on the list) of words whose meanings are halcyon (on the list), even effervescent (on the list). If you try, you can find the negative -- surreptitious and beleaguer are both on the list -- but the victory would be Pyrrhic (on the list); anyone who can't enjoy the serendipity (on the list) of discovering diaphanous and ingenue together (both on the list) risks being called jejune (on the list).

I'd suggest two more words: copasetic (all good) and callipygian (I'll let you look it up).

Ten of the words on the list:

1. adroit: Dexterous, agile.

2. adumbrate: To very gently suggest.

3. aestivate: To summer, to spend the summer.

4. ailurophile: A cat-lover.

5. beatific: Befitting an angel or saint.

6. beleaguer: To exhaust with attacks.

7. blandiloquent: Beautiful and flattering.

8. caliginous: Dark and misty.

9. champagne: An effervescent wine.

10. chatoyant: Like a cat's eye.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

From: Jacket Copy: Book news and information

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Aston Martin debuts LMP1 cars

To commemorate the Aston Martin company's only overall win at Le Mans in 1959 -- and to help sell a bunch of dirty-hot sports cars in the process -- the automaker will go for the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Though this was an open secret in racing circles, the company has released images of the Lola-chassised LMP1 cars with traditional orange-and-blue Gulf Oil livery. Very shagadelic. The LMP1 cars -- P1 cars, for short -- will be powered by the same V12 engine that was under the hood of Aston's GT1-winning cars for the last two years. To focus maximum "energy" (read: money) on the P1 effort, Aston will not field a works team to defend the GT1 title.

The P1 works program sets up a high-stakes showdown between the gasoline-powered Aston Martins and diesel-powered entries from Peugeot and Audi.

For those just getting, shall we say, up to speed: The Audi R10 TDI diesels are undefeated in three years at Le Mans. In 2007 and 2008, Peugeot fielded smoking-hot diesel-powered P1 cars of its own, which were quicker per lap than the Audis but ultimately met with bad luck.

The success of diesel racing cars has been held up as an example of the performance possibilities of more environmentally friendly technology. However, the race organizers have been under pressure to minimize, by rule, the inherent mileage advantage of diesel engines. The new rules come into force this year.

And so the shootout with the gas-powered Aston Martins takes on symbolic, even political overtones, as the classic high-revving performance of gasoline competes against the long-legged endurance of diesel.

"Racing has been, and still is, at the heart of Aston Martin," said Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin's chief executive. "Our cars today are subtle, elegant and handcrafted, but they still have the genes for competition. . . . We will put all our heart and skill behind this project to demonstrate the essence of Aston Martin: power, beauty and soul."

Speaking of Bez, a few years ago I had the pleasure of being taken around a racetrack in the right seat of Aston Martin's Le Mans-winning DBR1 with Bez at the controls. Bez is a skilled driver and the DBR1 -- a race car of half-century vintage -- scared the hell out of me. It is also one of the most beautiful competition cars ever made, in the same class as the Ferrari 250 Testarossa, Jaguar D Type and first-generation Bentley Speed 8.

-- Dan Neil

From: Up to Speed: The latest auto news, tips and trends

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A 'Mad Men' fashion line

When the admen -- and Peggy -- on "Mad Men" defined women as types for a Maidenform campaign, they branded them as a "Marilyn" (Monroe, natch) or a "Jackie" (as in O). Well, word has it over at that the show's brilliant costume designer, Janie Bryant, is in talks to launch her own fashion line, and so the question is: "Are you a Betty or a Joan?"

I talked to Bryant last July, and here's a taste of her personal taste in a style profile. She's meticulous about researching the looks of the '60s for "Mad Men," right down to sewing special undergarments for the ladies and men that are absolutely true to the period. (In fact, Christina Hendricks told me that that they are incredibly uncomfortable.)

No doubt Bryant will adapt the retro looks she creates for the show. I'm anticipating sexy pencil skirts, sweater sets and vintage-inspired dresses that have been updated just enough to feel modern and classic.

Will she design for men? I can't help but wonder. I think guys would buy into the idea of inhabiting a character like the Madison Avenue scamp by wearing a slim-cut suit and skinny tie. Those high-waisted gabardine pants that Don Draper favors might be a tougher sell.

Are you a Betty or a Joan, and who's sexier? Men, weigh in too.

-- Monica Corcoran

From: All the Rage: The Image staff muses on the culture of keeping up appearances in Hollywood and beyond

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