Thesaurus Day

Peter Roget was born on this day in 1779, and despite a very sad childhood and lifelong depression he succeeded in putting together one of the most famous books in the English language:

Roget’s Thesaurus

As you can imagine, cataloguing words is very time-consuming, so even though he lived to be over 90 his work was not completed to his satisfaction! It was constantly revised and reprinted, and after his death it was continued by his son and then his grandson.

The idea of classifying and grouping words according to their meaning was ingenious and has since been of immense value to scholars, schoolkids, students, writers, journalists, critics, crossword puzzle solvers, Scrabble players… and blog writers too, I bet!

The name “Thesaurus” is the Latin (originally from Greek) for “treasure store”, and it is indeed that.

I have several different versions of a Thesaurus, where basically synonyms are listed with cross references to similar words. I do not own a Roget’s myself, as I prefer the alphabetically listed entries. My first Thesaurus has been everywhere with me (and is falling apart!). So one of the first books I purchased for my Kindle was the Collins Thesaurus. I’m really pleased with this as dictionaries and reference books are, by nature, so heavy… and mine weighs only 170g!

I also use the Macmillan Online Thesaurus (and dictionary), but my favourite online one is the Merriam-Webster one.

So, today, take some time to look at whatever version of a Thesaurus you can lay your hands on…. and simply appreciate it!

By the way, Peter Roget was an avid list-maker (like me!) from an early age. This probably assisted him in dealing with his mental instability by giving an order to things. (Personally I find list-making comforting and useful!)