Funny how I didn't stumble across my favorite word until later in my life. I should have had ample opportunity to read it, and even work with the concept, while I was studying English at Rutgers. Later, however, I discovered this word.
The way it pours out of your mouth with a great swelling, a swoop and a lift and the way you can't help but tilt your head and get a wistful look in your eye make the word echo what it means. It means, "the music of the language." Well, I exaggerate. When you consult The Randomhouse Dictionary of the English Language, the entry on prosody reads "the science and study of poetic meters and versification; a particular or distinctive system of metrics and versification; the stress and intonation patterns of an utterance." I feel in my heart, however, that we sing our language. We continue along in a gentle, predictable rhythm and then *pop* we stress, swing our tones up and down, break the rhythms and make our meaning doubly clear.
A finely tuned ear can hear, in five words, where we lived as children, how our fathers took their chairs at night, what we're likely to enjoy for lunch and how those left behind will celebrate our deaths. A dropped terminal "g" or an antipenultimate stress tell our life stories as clearly as our family photo albums. We sing the opera of us.
And that's my favorite word. Prosody.