Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Words, Peter learned, were powerful things." Roget's Thesaurus

Here is "The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus", 2015 Caldecott Honor Book. "Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. When he put them into long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself had clicked into order."

Book blurb:
For shy young Peter Mark Roget, books were the best companions — and it wasn't long before Peter began writing his own book. But he didn't write stories; he wrote lists. Peter took his love for words and used it to organize his ideas and find exactly the right word to express just what he thought. His lists grew and grew, eventually turning into one of the most important reference books of all time.
This book is an inviting, visually engrossing portrayal of Pescter Mark Roget and the creation of the thesaurus. Readers of all ages will marvel at Roget's life, depicted through lyrical text and brilliantly detailed illustrations. This elegant book celebrates the joy of learning and the power of words.

I love words. I'm a writer, and they form the foundation of my craft. When I discovered an original two-book huge Oxford Dictionary in its case, WITH magnifying glass, I bought it immediately. Thesauri are right up there, too. I found the children's book about the life of Peter Roget, of the famous thesaurus. It looks great!

My favorite words thing happened when I was a reporter. Sitting in drafty town halls four nights a week for hours at a time, listening and listening to local politicians bloviate, you hear a lot of words. One particular elected official loved to pontificate in lengthy speeches. Fancying himself an elevated speaker, he liked to use a lot of words to explain his point of view. Lots. One verbal tic he may or may know he had, was to use three adjectives instead of one.

The most ironic example of this tic was when he was railing against the length of meetings because audience members talked too much, or because fellow elected officials talked too much (!) and in so railing, said "People are too redundant, repetitive, and recursive." LOL!!!

I'd hired a sales rep. He immediately complained about his former boss, who worked in the next town over. Uh-oh. Not good. Anyway, his insult was that his former boss was 'a maniacal windbag'. It makes me laugh to this day. Not the insult, but the use of nearly oxymoronic terms to create a hysterical picture in the listener's mind. Best. insult. ever.

William Shakespeare is well-known to have added so many new phrases to the English language. For example-

“All our yesterdays”— (Macbeth)
“As good luck would have it” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
“As merry as the day is long” — (Much Ado About Nothing / King John)
“Bated breath” — (The Merchant of Venice)
“Be-all and the end-all” — (Macbeth)
“Crack of doom” — (Macbeth)
“Dead as a doornail” — (Henry VI Part II)
“Eaten me out of house and home” — (Henry IV Part II)
“Faint hearted” — (Henry VI Part I)
“Fancy-free” — (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

What kind of a mind must Shakespeare have had to be able to invent these colorful phrases! They certainly have had staying power. We still say them regularly after 400 years!

Language is wonderful. I wish I had better facility with it. Thank goodness that when I'm stuck for a word, I can consult Roget's thesaurus! Thank you Peter Roget!

1 comment:

Grace to You said...

Thank you so much for the introduction to this book! It's now on my wish list at Amazon. :)

It reminds me of a book I received for Christmas - "Some Writer!" - about E. B. White. It too is a beautiful book. I read "One Man's Meat" last year and so wish I had known he lived in Maine while we were living there - I would have loved to visit his home. His "The Elements of Style" is on my (long) list of books to read...have you read it?