I always thought of Roy Blount as a humorist, and I suppose he mostly is. It turns out, however, that he is also a lexographer of sorts -- he actually sits on the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary. Along those lines he's published a new book, with the lengthy title of Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory. There's a good review of it in the New York Review of Books here.

Blount takes issue with the idea that the sound of words is arbitrary and separated from their meaning:

"As a principle of English-language appreciation, at least, separation of sound from sense is audibly, utterly wrong."

He's not talking about run-of-the-mill onomatopoeia. He's talking about something else he calls "sonicky." Without worrying about any of the brain/language theory stuff we've thrashed over in here from time to time, Blount claims there is some innate sense in humans to detect when a word is particularly appropriate to the thing it signifies. A word that has that trait he calls "sonicky."

By this he means that the sound of the word "does somehow sensuously evoke the essence of the word"—"... frowzy, froth, moan, mope, mellow, neat, nebbish..."—until your head spins or your ears ring. "Are there not sonic as well as geographical grounds for calling a teeny beach outfit a bikini instead of a smock ?"

It’s not at all clear how he would reckon with the existence of languages other than English. In a way, his status as a humorist gives him cover and allows him to say whatever he wants, no matter how silly. Still, it's an interesting notion. (The NYRB article also reviews two other books: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, by Ammon Shea, and The First English Dictionary, 1604, by Robert Cawdrey, with an introduction by John Simpson.)