In which we write a love letter to what we believe is the world’s most beautiful phrase

The phrase “cellar door” has been highlighted as the apotheosis of English language beauty by everyone from J.R.R. Tolkein to H.L. Menken, and I have to admit they’re onto something. Especially when it’s said with a British accent, “cellar door” has a rhythm and lyricism to it that make it undeniably appealing. I lack both a cellar and a British accent, though, so now, in The Year of Our Lord 2017, I’d like to nominate a successor: “out for delivery.”

Three words, 14 letters, music to my ears. As I write this, I’m currently experiencing both the joy and anxiety of “out for delivery” because my new kitchen chairs are out there in the back of a FedEx truck somewhere in Brooklyn, winding their way toward me among the the graceful old trees and historic brownstones of this sunny afternoon. All I have to do is sit here and periodically refresh the tracking link to see if they’ve landed in my building’s mail room.

That reality is the foundation of the phrase’s beauty, even though it, like “cellar door,” has a nice rhythm and sounds great in the British accent I’m imagining in my head. If something is “out for delivery,” it means you most likely clicked a few buttons, made a few keystrokes and fished out the credit card whose security code you always forget, and now someone else is doing the tiresome work of lugging your new purchase—a bag, maybe, but it could be anything at this point in the growth of e-commerce—to your home on your behalf. It’s a phrase of immense convenience.

“Out for delivery” is also a phrase of anticipation. No matter how many times I’ve ordered something online, I always click the tracking link the moment it lands in my inbox, even though I already know it’ll simply show me that the label has been generated and provide no other useful info. And once I have it, I click that link at least once a day until my package has arrived, and the closer it gets, the more I refresh. A status change to “out for delivery” marks the last phase of the long wait but the very beginning of the short one: When does UPS usually get here? Does the big package truck run later than the little package truck? What kind of difference will that make?

These are the thoughts that automatically jump to mind for me when that beautiful little phrase blesses my screen, in addition to some small anxiety that I might step out to grab a coffee at exactly the moment my package arrives and no one else in my building will let in the delivery guy to leave it for me. Mostly, though, everything works out, and the tracking link shows something that is also pretty great: delivered.

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