Festival Audio: What’s Your Favorite Word?

language map
Visitors pinpoint their place of origin along with their first and second languages and their parents’ or grandparents’ languages. Photo by Elisa Hough

What’s your favorite word or phrase, in English or any language?

We asked this question Saturday at the One World, Many Voices language documentation booth, where representatives of Recovering Voices have been mapping out festival visitors’ spoken languages.

Some people had never considered their favorite word (I tried to prompt them by revealing that my favorite is “Hamburglar”—you can’t say it without smiling!), but many immediately rattled off silly and odd and beautiful phrases.

Take a four-minute trip around the world with 40 people speaking over 20 languages and local dialects, from Czech to Chinese, Jamaican to imaginary:

Festival Audio – What's Your Favorite Word?


Someone also demonstrated their favorite American Sign Language phrase: “I forgot” is a pantomime of something actually slipping out of your mind!

Do you have a favorite word or phrase? Tell us in the comments!

Elisa Hough is a web production intern at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. She holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from the University of Southern California and is proud to be a word nerd.