Synonyms for Literate: Educated, Well-Read, Informed


“What’s Another Word for Thesaurus?”-Steven Wright, American Comic

How many of us have a worn paperback or hardback copy of Roget’s Thesaurus?   I know I do…somewhere. Roget’s Thesaurus and a dictionary were always by my side growing up and came in so handy. Today I learned that Peter Mark Roget, who took 12 years to compile the thesaurus, was born today in London in 1779. Dr. Roget accomplished quite a few things, “the log slide rule, which included a scale displaying the logarithm of the logarithm in 1815;”about.cominventors    and “He was the first to notice something called “persistence of vision” — the illusion of movement when looking at a series of still photographs in rapid succession — which formed the basis for future motion picture technology.”The Writer’s Almanac

The Greek word for “treasure” is thesaurus; I can only imagine how Roget must’ve valued, appreciated, treasured his project once it was completed for all the world to use and use they did….it is still in print and online.

Joan Baez wrote and sang: “Then give me another word for it  You who are so good with words”Diamonds and Rust   Hey, did Bobby use a thesaurus?????




16 thoughts on “Synonyms for Literate: Educated, Well-Read, Informed

  1. “Diamonds and Rust” is my favourite Baez song – I visited the USA with my family in 1975 and it was everywhere on the radio…

  2. Pingback: TODAY’S BIRTHDAY: PETER MARK ROGET (1779) | euzicasa

  3. Thanks for your fine post Ilene. So what’s another word for cabin fever? We had snow again yesterday with still more on the way, after a few teaser days near fifty degrees. Winter reality check! My mother just said she’s ready for spring — but then she’d been listening to the radio garden show, that will precipitate such a winter of discontent every time! Maybe I’ll trudge out and give a groundhog an early wake-up call — and lug along a BIG work-light…

    I’m sure My mom would rather take a beating than look anything up, but I love reference books! My favorite online dictionnary site is prominently placed in my Favorites menu — the computer must have at least a spell-check buried somewhere, but I don’t seem to use it. And have you noticed that in the last ten years or so, the digital reference folks have gotten clever, giving a list of “nearby words” with each entry, thus restoring some of the serendipitous fun we enjoyed while looking up things the old-fashioned way? I always loved running across interesting surprise words I wasn’t searching for and didn’t know or had only a vague familiarity with. (My partner is much worse — it’s deadly to ask him to quickly check a word for me — he won’t put down his 3-pound dictionary again for hours! Oh well, it almost counts as weight-lifting for him.)

    I only re-gifted my mangy red Roget’s paperback a year or so ago. (No, I can’t seem to throw away books, unless they’re covered with mold or truly ghastly — I’m sure it headed for the thrift store.) A useful tool indeed, and easier to maneuver than a slide rule, thank goodness! Though Stephen King does make a point in saying “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” I’m sure we’ve all run across writers who clearly relied too heavily on the thesaurus. I think folks forget that the farther down the list a synonym occurs, the greater the chance it may not mean exactly what we want to say! And as Mark Twain would remind us –

    “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

    Thanks again Ilene — and pray for spring, not more snow! – Linda

  4. Thanks, Ilene, for putting into beautiful words what it’s like to “gasp” love words. Growing up, I loved searching for words and their meanings in a two-volume dictionary set my folks owned. I a couple of dictionaries and Roget’s Thesaurus. One of my favorite NPR regulars, John Ciardi (sp???) did wonderful stories on etymology. They were always great fun and an education.

    • Oh I used to read Ciardi’s poetry!!!! Thanks for the response!!!! Speaking of words…don’t you just love being so educated??? I know I do!!!! i.e.: In today’s Travel Section of NY Times, there’s an article on “Baldwin’s Paris” and I know all about his stay in Paris and all of the other artists, writers, etc who self-exiled to Paris and I was just loving the article and loving that I knew who and what the columnist was writing about. It’s true that no one can take your education away from you!!!!!!!! Thank goodness for WORDS!!!!!

      • If Ciardi wrote a book on the etymology of words, I’d buy it. But I haven’t been able to find out if he did.
        I am delighted that my parents loved to read and passed that on to me, and I also am appreciative of the excellent professors I had who expanded my horizons beyond the page. I’m going to check out that article on Baldwin’s Paris. Thanks, Ilene.

      • Yes, Parents can have such an influence. My dad wasn’t really educated, hs grad, he read the newspaper cover to cover, that I remember. My mom loved reading and passed that onto me. Along the way, I also had some very good tchrs/profs as well!!!! Thanks!

  5. Love “Diamonds & Rust” – it’s hard for me to listen to, actually, because I find it so heartbreaking, but absolutely love it.

    Also didn’t know that Roget first noticed persistence of vision. One of those Enlightement-era “Renaissance Man” types – evidently, his propensity for list-making was in part a way of dealing with the tragedy in his life.

    • Yes, perhaps you are right…he did experience much tragedy in his life. Re: “Diamonds & Rust,” it is so very beautiful and I can’t help singing along with Joan. It’s been in my head all day!!!!

  6. re: earthriderjudyberman comment about John Ciardi –

    I remember John Ciardi’s shows too, from decades ago on CBS? daytime radio. Oddly enough, think I first caught one while reading Ciardi’s translation of “The Inferno” for a world lit. class. Here’s a link for what NPR says is a 4-minute weekly podcast of his pieces On Words. Hope they’re as good as we remember. – Linda

  7. Lovely post, Ilene. I remember reading Ciardi in a magazine called (I think) The Saturday Review of Literature. Today I’m feeling sort of guilty about what I just did with my reference books. In a recent apartment renovation, I had to move all my books out of my “library.” While reorganizing and putting them back, I decided to donate my dictionaries, thesaurus, quotation books, etc., to a local library. The online reference tools seem to work well for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t love words and language as much as I always did. But technology changes the way we work.

    • Don’t feel guilty. We all use the online references now, don’t we???? I haven’t opened up a dictionary or thesaurus or any other reference book in many years!!!! We can’t turn back. Technology is pushing us forward every single day! Thanks so much!!!!

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