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I’m not a grammar Nazi, like one of my colleagues.  I don’t have Strunk and White memorized, but I do know what someone is talking about when they refer to Strunk and White.  (Do you?  If not, go look it up.  Go on…I’ll wait.) I do not subscribe to the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook online.  Although for the current job, I do have to be familiar with all these tomes, and so I find myself referencing them from time to time.

No, my grammar bibles are more along the lines of those authored by the fabulous Karen Elizabeth Gordon, who brings us such reference guides as The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed, and Torn Wings and Faux Pas: A Flashbook of Style, A Beastly Guide Through the Writer’s Labyrinth.  She’s educational and entertaining, just as any good teacher should be.

No….I can take or leave grammar.  Even if I sound dumb saying something, you’ll probably still get my point.

What I love, however, is a good thesaurus.  And what I find myself running up against time and again, are not good thesauruses.  Not good at all. 

It seems as if the powers that be expect us to be getting dumb and dumber.  The new and “improved” updated Roget’s Thesaurus for the 21st century has pitiful few synonyms for the words it contains, and contains only the core words that one might need if one wished to write something at a 6th grade level.  Severely dumbed down.  And I won’t stand for it.  I get annoyed every time I try to use the hardcopy thesaurus in the office.  It’s just so frustratingly lame.  I think I’ve explored every online version available and find all of them almost equally useless.

And so, when I am at home, and struggling for just that word, I turn to my own thesaurus … and I breathe a sigh of satisfied relief. 

Yes, it’s old.  Yes, it’s dust jacket is tattered due to use and moves and general hard-living.  Yes, I bought it at a second hand bookstore about 30 years ago.  And yes, it’s still the best thesaurus since sliced bread.  It’s still packed, or else I’m sure I could use it to find a synonym for “sliced bread”.  It’s that yummy.

This image is essentially what mine looks like.  As I have been working on proposals, blogs, articles and the book, I have found this dusty old gem almost as valuable as a grande unsweetened iced green tea.  Not as tasty, to be sure, but when I’m sucking down tea and swirling word choices around in my head, its tender pages have provided much needed mental refreshment, along with moments of calm clarity and sparks of rollicking brilliance.

Its original author, Peter Mark Roget, was also a medical man, and also invented the log-log scale, which is essentially a slide rule.  Smart guy.  But he had an overwhelming fascination with making lists, which was well manifested even in his early childhood.  He used list-making as a tool to cope with tragedy and depression.  From the modern psychological standpoint, I would say he had a pretty severe obsessive disorder.  But his psychological flaw is the rest of the world’s gain.  I doubt I would ever have had the patience to put into creating a book like the thesaurus, so I am surely glad that someone else did.

I think the man (who died at age 90 in 1869, a remarkably old age for those days) would be turning over in his grave if he knew how his book of lists has been tampered with over the past century.  Dumbed down indeed.  So if you have even the slightest inclination to write, I strongly recommend that you trot off to your local used book purveyor and purchase a hardcover copy of the afore-imaged thesaurus, not one of the new-fangled ones they sell at Barnes & Noble.

Get one just like mine.  It’s like dipping your brain into a grande unsweetened iced green tea.  Trust me.

Today’s guest poet  —  Charlotte Bronte

Evening Solace

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;–
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame’s or Wealth’s illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.

But there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart’s best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.

And feelings, once as strong as passions,Float softly back–a faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others’ sufferings seem.
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress–
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.

(I’d like to thank Zhang Wenjie, photographer and blogger extraordinaire of A Certain Slant of Light, for introducing me to the poems of Charlotte Bronte.)

August 2020


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