Mara Da Costa Reis
November 19, 2012
We all have a favourite word. There are the ones that we overuse, going to them in times of need when all other potentials for articulation are lost. Or there are those which are more sparingly applied and saved in our back pocket for the opportune moment. Whether it is the phonic sound of the word as it leaves our mouth or favouritism primarily based on meaning, there are always particular words that just stick.
Although rarely used, eunoia has been one of my most dearly adored words for the past few years. It is not found in all dictionaries, however the urban dictionary defines it as “beautiful thinking” or “beautiful mind.” The medical dictionary defines it as a sparingly used medical term for normal mental states and it is the shortest word in the English language containing all the vowels.
Eunoia has a Greek origin and is used in book eight of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics to describe the benevolence or feeling of goodwill that forms the ethical foundation for human life. In rhetoric, it is the goodwill formed between a speaker and his/her audience.
Christian Bök is a Toronto born experimental poet, who won the Griffin Poetry Prize for his book of poetry, Eunoia in 2001. Eunoia consists of univocalics, which is a type of constrained writing that uses only a single vowel in each of his chapters. Each of the five chapters consists of one of the vowels from the word eunoia. Bök believes that his book demonstrates the flexibility of the English language and the unique personality of each vowel, for him: “Enfettered, these few sentences repress free speech.”