Thesaurus

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My Roget’s Thesaurus is pretty beat up. It’s a paperback with creased binding. The cover is missing the top corner. Half an inch of paper has peeled away from the bottom of the spine. It looks well used if not well-loved.

Until I pulled it out last week, I don’t think I’d used it in years. Certainly not enough to warrant its bedraggled condition.

In high school, however, I used it all the time…to the point of detriment for my writing. I was trying to find better, more sophisticated ways of saying things. Instead, phrases came out over wrought and pretentious. Maybe the saying shouldn’t be “write what you know,” but rather, “write words you know.” Simplicity is always clearer and more powerful.

The reason I brought it out recently was to find another way to say “shard.” I’d used it a few times on one page and when I read the passage out loud, all I could hear was “shard, shard, shard.”. Even after editing, it was in there too often. I felt bad dragging the old book out, like I shouldn’t be resorting to such a shady tactic, but it worked. I found the word I was looking for: fragment. Duh, I should have been able to come up with that myself.

No matter how bad I feel using a thesaurus, I can’t even contemplate tossing it. Part of that is because it’s a book and you just don’t throw a book away, and part of it is because of the shard situation. One day, in the very distant future, I may need it again.

Where do you stand (if at all) on thesauruses? Thesauri?

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5 thoughts on “Thesaurus

  1. By the time I had to do a lot of writing for school, Word had its own built-in thesaurus (shift+F7, I even memorized the shortcut) so I didn’t really bother with flipping through a hard copy very often. And even now I’m more likely to search online if I need more options. I don’t think using a thesaurus is bad — it’s quite useful for helping you remember words you know but can’t recall off the top of your head. It’s only detrimental if you choose a word when you don’t know its exact meaning or connotations.

  2. Ah, so young…ha, I didn’t realize that I was showing my age.

    You’re right, thesauruses aren’t bad in and of themselves. I guess, I’m just gun shy since I abused them so egregiously in the past. Thanks for the permission…I need to remember to give it to myself every once in a while.

  3. I think a thesaurus is a wonderful thing for three reasons,
    1) You can learn new and funny words.
    2) You can use it exactly like you just did and thus not overuse a certain word.
    3) It sounds like a kind of dinosaur to me (possibly because it’s “dinosaurus” in my native language).
    Seriously, though, I’m with you on not overusing the thesaurus. 🙂

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