Mellifluous Tax Shelters

There is a funny exchange with a reader today in the WSJ over a David Wessel column on tax shelters:

Evan Wilner writes: But surely the adjective “mellifluous” belongs in the paper’s occasional vocal events coverage — like the Seattle Opera tryouts in the paper — rather than in your column. You described a thirteen year old General Electric tax shelter vehicle as “mellifluously dubbed Castle Harbour…” May I ask you, some time having passed since your copy was filed, what you found “mellifluous” about the conjunction of “castle” and “harbour”?

Here’s my problem: the definition of mellifluous that comes to hand reads “sweetly or smoothly flowing; sweet sounding: a mellifluous voice; mellifluous tones. 2. flowing with honey; sweetened with or as with honey.” One’s perception of sweetness may differ but there’s nothing sweet-sounding or smoothly flowing about “Castle Harbour” that doesn’t apply equally to “Brooklyn Bridge.” Would you call the “Brooklyn Bridge” mellifluously named?

David Wessel responds: Without commenting on the euphonious phrase “Brooklyn Bridge,” I do find Castle Harbour sweet-sounding myself, especially in comparison to “TIFD III-E Inc.,” the name GE gave to the subsidiary that entered into the partnership.


  1. F. Lee Jacquette says:

    Mellifluous. it seems, is in the ear of the auditor. Sweet-sounding English words or phrases? — Two of my favorites are “cellar door” and “gangrene.” Ignore meaning . . . sweet sounds only.