Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Three Cheers for the Thesaurus

I found myself thinking about favorite words today. There exists, sometimes, a word as sweet or prickly as the thing it names or a word that brings to mind the opposite of its meaning. Here are a few of mine.

    The unrelated slap-dash and haberdashery
    The somewhat misleading shoehorn
    The ever-so-nasty carbuncle, which is not like a barnacle (and is not to be confused with the lesser-known furuncle, which sounds like a word invented for a raised-by-wolves story)
    The evocative spitfire
    The sophisticated svelt
    The pointy-edged complication and its softer cousin, impediment
    The expansive (or explosive) catastrophic
    The decreasingly-popular adjective lantern-jawed

There are so many words out there that you can nearly always find one that fits your point perfectly. I advocate universal Thesaurus use whenever you write.

Often I’ll compose a sentence intended to convey something only to discover that it fails. The words mean the right things but don’t evoke the right mental picture. I click over to my favorite Thesaurus site and look up the words that don’t fit.

Invariably, I find or am reminded of a word that makes my language center stand up and say, “Yes!” The cadence of a sentence and the layout of a paragraph live and die by the words you choose. Put some variety into your vocabulary, and please share some of your favorite words with me.




"Carbuncle" is one of my family's favorite words. Even though we know the true meaning, we use it amongst ourselves to refer to any type of skin lesion -- everything from zits to mosquito bites. :-D