The Thesaurus

Reading up on more of the Marcotte/McEwan Marathon, and saw this paragraph:

Writing is a revelatory thing. Use of ALL CAPS is a shout; use of profanity to me reflects unseriousness and lack of a vocabulary (or at least a thesaurus) and a lack of manners. Using every single issue to smear and denigrate rather than persuade, enlighten, or heck, just entertain for a second, makes the writer look like a loon. Making every post somehow All About Me and My Proclivities That You Can’t Stop exhibits paranoia. It just does. And that’s why the two bloggers have become a liability.

Do people actually use a thesaurus? I simply do not recall a time that I have ever needed one other than trying to cheat while doing a crossword puzzle. Dictionaries are invaluable- I am, at least once a week, referring a dictionary to make sure I am using a word properly or a student has used a word properly.

But the thesaurus? I never use one, I don’t own one, and I think if I did, it would make my writing seem forced.






51 replies
  1. 1

    The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte’s and Melissa McEwan’s posts personally offended me. It’s not how I talk to people, and it’s not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it’s intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I’ve talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith, and I take them at their word. We’re beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can’t let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

    http://blog.johnedwards.com/st.....13651/4503

    I would have worded it a little differently (like fuck off you wanker), but it essentialy is a big kiss my ass to Mr. Donohue from John Edwards.

    Edwards still doesn’t have a prayer of winning, but this is a positive move.

  2. 2
    Andrew says:

    My profoundly unserious, non-thesaurus referenced post for the day regarding the Malkinite right wing welfare queen ass ponies at hotair:
    Fuck those fucking fuckers for fuck’s sake.

  3. 3
    jg says:

    What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’?

  4. 4

    Bias against theaurus usage is sluggish, stolid, and stupefied.

  5. 5
    Pb says:

    What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’?

    Synonym finder?

  6. 6
    Tlaloc says:

    I’ve used a thesaurus frequently. Not when writing or responding to blogs, but in the little professional and creative writing I do I certainly have found them helpful.

  7. 7
    Rex says:

    Some people have brains that can remember a feeling and they know the word but with that word comes a lot of noise–words that might fit, alternative turns of phrase, etc. Sometimes pulling out a thesaurus will hone in on what you intended to say or, alternately, reframe the thought.

    That being said, I haven’t pulled one out in over a year.

  8. 8
    pharniel says:

    *sigh*
    A riot is an ugly thing….

    I keep hearing that phrase every time I read malkin or Ace of Spades (AoS) or Red State (RS).
    It’s like..I don’t know…listening to jr. high footballers who are trying to talk up how tough and manly they are and about how they nail chicks all the time when in reality all they do is get to 2nd base and then get shot down, and if only they’d, y’know, maybe bring some flowers or candy or open the door or act in a non-manly-man way they’d be Sealing the Deal all over the place.
    Like, Funeral Home Sehks.
    But all we get is an occupation described, debated and pursued as a war (to disasterious results), ridiculous diatribes about the Liberal MSM and Traitorus opposition party (see AoS article about how Rebuplicans eating a bit of crow and having the ‘traitor’ label used against them means that the Democrats don’t support the troops) and a ‘serious take no prisoners’ approach to anything and everything, including politics.
    There is no comprimise, there is no appeasement. To show weakness is to admit defeat. To suggest that “HULK SMASH” is not a good answer to problems is to be an appeaser and be compared to anyone and everyone under the sun who made a bad decision.
    “nuance” is used in mocking tones, and tantrums are thrown on a regular basis when things don’t go thier way. They question every ‘entitlement’ program that was put into place, ever, and generally act like a bunch of ne’r do wells who insist that htey only have the best interests of the country at heart, and that they have the only view on what is right. Oversimplification, anger and ‘easy’ solutions invovling genocide are touted as the ‘inevitable outcome’ and they just sit there slack jawed at the ‘traitors’ that continue to pop up.
    And the reason I keep quotin Old Mel is because a Riot is the perfect demonstration in Game Theory breakdown.
    AoS and RS like to tout economic figures and then wonder why no one is cheering without understanding the basic game.
    Inflation has risin roughly twice as fast as wages, and the cost of living is far out pacing that. The disparity between rich and poor widens and those in charge keep trying to start new wars (only an idiot fights a war on two fronts. only the supreme emperor of idiots fights a war on 23 fronts and unifies a desperate and fractious enemy into a coherent and global one), and it gets to the point where people are playing a game they can’t win.
    and so they stop playing. and they change to a new game.
    That’s what a riot is. It’s a feeling that the nice happy effective and good social game is unwinnable for a certian subset, so they lash out with anger, and they stop playing the game.
    It’s what prompted the formation of this country, in point of fact, and the hard right nutjobs should probobly remember that at a certian point, you just stop playing the game. and when that happens you either get something nifty, like america, or you get batshit crazy like russia, or you get bad then sort of alright like brittan or france.

    and yha, a thesurus is pretty useless unless you are studying for the act/sat/gmat or trying to write lyrics or rhyming couplets.
    wow. i kinda went way the fuck out there didn’t i. sorry. bit of rage buildup.

  9. 9
    Krista says:

    I use a thesaurus often. It depends on one’s job, I would suppose. As a PR flack, I often have to haul out the old thesaurus to keep from using the same adjective too many times in one document.

  10. 10
    Keith says:

    I generally don’t (although I tend to use a lot of synonyms to break the monotony of terms and to make some of my descriptions more vivid), but sometimes I need to use a word for something but the closest terms are not quite what I’m trying to get at & I can’t recall the word that my subconscious tells me is. And I think profanity is perfectly fine in writing if the situation warrants; it conveys a certain tone (perforative, colloquial, color) to a certain audience.

    What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’?

    Technically, it’s a form of a dictionary (a keyed lookup)

  11. 11
    Pooh says:

    use of profanity to me reflects unseriousness

    But saying self-evidently asinine things in a holier-than-thou -art tone = profound seriousness. But just to prove I’m not seriously saying that those who propound pap about seriousness are idiots, fuck them and fuck that noise.

    See, that proves that like Bill Maher, I kid the idiot wingers.

  12. 12
    Cyrus says:

    But the thesaurus? I never use one, I don’t own one, and I think if I did, it would make my writing seem forced.

    As for this, I used to use thesaurus.com a fair amount, but not so much lately. I don’t know if my writing has improved over the past couple years, or if the kind of writing I do these days needs it less (or both). These days I only go there when I need to talk about something that’s become a buzzword I want to avoid using, like “sustainability.”

    Marcotte in particular seems to have a deep-seated hatred for all things male and Southern (so she’d probably take a swing at me if we met just on general principle). I wonder if she realizes that John Edwards is both a) male and b) Southern.

    Making every post somehow All About Me and My Proclivities That You Can’t Stop exhibits paranoia. It just does. And that’s why the two bloggers have become a liability.

    As for the linked hotair.com post, I’ll give the poster one thing — yes, some people complaining about this have been overwrought and amusingly self-important — but this Bryan person seems pretty dumb, whoever he is. The fact that Marcotte and McEwan eagerly went to work for Edwards might have led an intelligent and discerning individual to question his assumption that they are actually racist against white Southern men or something like that, but not Bryan. And he’s incorrect that Marcotte and McEwan make every post “All About Me and My Proclivities That You Can’t Stop”, and even if they did it’s not like that matters, and it’s hard to imagine a weaker argument for what that means than “it just does.” Wow, that sure is well thought-out reasoning.

    I would have worded it a little differently (like fuck off you wanker), but it essentialy is a big kiss my ass to Mr. Donohue from John Edwards.

    Edwards still doesn’t have a prayer of winning, but this is a positive move.

    And as for Richard — seconded. This was the right thing for Edwards to do. And for that matter, are you sure about “doesn’t have a prayer”? He’s third, or close to it, for the Democratic nomination, after Hillary and Obama, by my reckoning, and a lot can happen yet. Kerry was third or worse this far in advance of the 2004 election, wasn’t he?

  13. 13
    jhupp says:

    I frequently find myself knowing that I know a word that I want for a very specific reason but unable to recall the word. So I go to the thesaurus and look up a similar word and hope that I can stumble on the one I want. There are certain words that just have such a specific meaning or wonderful ring to them that I feel wrong accepting a lesser substitute word. For instance, the difference between “assuage” and “allay” is extremely subtle, and as I am a logophile, I derive great satisfaction from picking the perfect word. I don’t use a thesaurus because I need it; I use it because I love it.

  14. 14
    Jonathan says:

    Sheepishly raising hand..

    I’ve used a thesaurus very occasionally, I guess I’m getting old enough that my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Every so often I know that I know the word I want to use but it just won’t come to me, then I use an online thesaurus. If I had to look it up in a book I’d never bother but a couple of taps on the keyboard and maybe a mouse click or two.. Sure why not?

    Dictionary? I almost never use one. I know what the words I use mean and don’t have to look them up except when I’m arguing with someone and need to have the exact definition to quote at them and then I include a link so they know I’m not full of it.

    Writing is a revelatory thing. Use of ALL CAPS is a shout; use of profanity to me reflects unseriousness and lack of a vocabulary (or at least a thesaurus) and a lack of manners.

    (is “unseriousness” a word, my spell check doesn’t recognize it and neither do I)

    I agree with this, writing indeed reveals much about the writer. I use obscenity with a good deal of facility in real life when it is called for. Like when I smash my thumb with a hammer for instance. Or maybe when some poster child for prophylactics cuts me off in traffic for the third time in five minutes.

    But to go to the trouble of writing out all that foul language seems childish to me, it impresses no one and says far more about the person using it than the person toward whom it is directed.

    Bias against theaurus usage is sluggish, stolid, and stupefied.

    It’s hard to use a thesaurus when you can’t spell it. ;-)

  15. 15
    fester says:

    I occassionally will use a thesaurus when I am looking for a very precise shade of meaning — the simplest is when I am looking for a word that is inbetween jog and sprint to describe running at a moderately fast pace — jog or gallop makes more sense there, but those words may not always be readily available in my mind. A quick reminder is how I use a thesaurus

  16. 16
    Jake says:

    Do people actually use a thesaurus?

    [Hesitantly raises hand]

    I have an Oxford Desk Dictionary & Thesaurus and I use the thesarus at dictionary.com. Don’t throw spitwads, I’m an editor, I need it for work! Honest. Well. And I like dictionaries. [Ducks spitwads]

    I never use one, I don’t own one, and I think if I did, it would make my writing seem forced.

    At the risk of being labled geek of the century v. geek of the decade: It’s all about the nuance. If you just grab the thesaurus and slap in a word to substitute another word in a sentence, it not only seems forced, it can seem pretty damn stupid. However, if you use a thesaurus to pick the word that means exactly what you want to say rather than a word that is pretty close, it can make your writing more powerful.

    [Flees hail of spitwads]

  17. 17
    Zifnab says:

    Use of ALL CAPS is a shout; use of profanity to me reflects unseriousness and lack of a vocabulary (or at least a thesaurus) and a lack of manners.

    Fuck Theasuri.

  18. 18
    Sirkowski says:

    Conservatives don’t like swearing? Smells like faggotry to me.

  19. 19
    ThymeZone says:

    I’ve used a thesaurus very occasionally

    Yeah, we’ve noticed. But, lucky for you, spoofing and trolling really don’t require a lot in the way of wordsmitheriness, eh Jonny Goebbels?

    Continue to vocabulate, though, and we will do our best to avoid the results.

  20. 20
    Krista says:

    However, if you use a thesaurus to pick the word that means exactly what you want to say rather than a word that is pretty close, it can make your writing more powerful.

    Not to mention much more satisfying. I’ve worked with people who, while very intelligent, didn’t have extremely extensive vocabularies. It’s often painful watching their frustration as they try to find the exact wording for what it is that they’re trying to express, which usually ends in an explosive, “You know what I mean! It’s…something!” And you desperately have to resist the urge to keep suggesting words, as you really don’t know what it is that they’re trying to say, and you don’t want to fluster them even more.

  21. 21
    Jake says:

    I’ve worked with people who, while very intelligent, didn’t have extremely extensive vocabularies.

    Canadians?

    (Profuse apologies if you are talking about people with aphasia.)

  22. 22
    RSA says:

    Like others above, I use a thesaurus regularly, because I have a memory like a sieve despite being cognitively unimpaired otherwise. I know the shade of meanining I want and closely related words, but can’t remember what the exact word is. Sometimes this doesn’t help: for a while I could never think of the word “vicarious”; all that would come to mind was “avuncular”. Thematically related, I suppose, but not close enough to be findable in a thesaurus.

  23. 23
    Krista says:

    Jake – No, you cretin (ass, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, boob, buffoon,clod, dimwit, dolt, dope, dork, dumb ox, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, halfwit, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, lamebrain, lunkhead, meathead, moron, nerd, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, oaf, simpleton, twit)

    I was simply talking about people who aren’t voracious readers and haven’t developed an extremely broad vocabulary.

  24. 24
    les says:

    I once searched an online thesaurus by accident, shooting for the dictionary. It was fun. Maybe I’ll do it again.

  25. 25
    Dug Jay says:

    But the thesaurus? I never use one, I don’t own one…

    Why am I not surprised?

    Priceless.

  26. 26
    Punchy says:

    use of profanity to me reflects unseriousness and lack of a vocabulary

    Fuck off, you intemperate and avoirdupois buffoon, as your nefarious skulduggery lacks even a modicum of concinnity.

  27. 27
    Punchy says:

    I simply do not recall a time that I have ever needed one other than trying to cheat while doing a crossword puzzle.

    Honest John;

    Why is this cheating? One DOES a crossword specifically to expand one’s vocabulary, no? Isn’t that the point?

    Hell, I do one every morning while driving to work (yes, it’s possible, once the sun comes up). Quite the ubiquitious procedure to initiating one’s daybreak…

  28. 28
    Krista says:

    Hell, I do one every morning while driving to work (yes, it’s possible, once the sun comes up).

    Note to anybody within a 50-mile radius of Punchy: Stay off the roads.

  29. 29
    Punchy says:

    Note to anybody within a 50-mile radius of Punchy: Stay off the roads

    Cruise control and peripheral vision are godsends…

  30. 30
    grumpy realist says:

    Why to use a thesaurus:

    “The difference between the absolutely correct word and the almost-correct word is like the difference between a lightening flash and a lightening bug.”
    –Mark Twain

    My problem is sometimes words are so absolutely correct to describe what you want to say that your brain keeps forcing them on you….even though it’s a different language….

  31. 31
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    I still use a thesaurus, but I’m also a writer/editor/copy editor/word nerd, so it’s just par for the course. But I use it less than used to, largely because when I learn a snappy new synonym, I tend to retain it (sure, arcane words stick in the ol’ grey matter, but birthdays, the names of people I just met, etc…not so much). I generally enjoy mucking about with language, and one the beauties of language is using those subtle differences in denotative meaning between words with the same connotative meaning to add depth to your speech and/or writing.

    But I also appreciate the use of some well-placed profanity. Sure, when you habitually write sentences of the “fuck that motherfucking bullshit and all those fucking fuckers who shit it out” variety, all the profanity just comes across as lazy. But sometimes, there’s nothing with quite the same impact as a good old-fashioned “fuck off.”

    And it is in that spirit that my oversized vocabulary and I proffer this retort to the Malkin contingent: Fuck off.

  32. 32

    I find that if I’m using a thesaurus to bring my prose to life, then my prose is already ptiscid, in the Monty Python sense. If “finding the right adjective” is critical, then you need to reword the piece — adjectives are like similes or metaphors; using them too much vitiates your prose.

  33. 33

    My problem is sometimes words are so absolutely correct to describe what you want to say that your brain keeps forcing them on you….even though it’s a different language….

    I smell a hint of schadenfreude here, g.r.

  34. 34
    Krista says:

    If “finding the right adjective” is critical, then you need to reword the piece—adjectives are like similes or metaphors; using them too much vitiates your prose.

    It’s not critical, but when writing brochure copy trying to promote something, the adjectives definitely have to make an appearance. And I have a bad habit of overusing certain pet phrases or words, so the thesaurus does become rather necessary.

  35. 35

    I’m sorry, Krista, but I’m imagining you writing a brochure about a romantic getaway for pastry, or some such.

  36. 36

    Tally up another vote for a Thesaurus user. To expand on a statement from usability research, Recognition is easier than recall. When I’m looking for a word to convey a fleeting sensation or feeling, I use a thesaurus because I know it when I see it. I recognize the word that I couldn’t recall. Consider it a verbal mnemotic device.

    Other people like to use GPS systems in their cars. Me? No way. I have a map in my head (well, and my trusty Thomas Guide). But I take my “nope. never have” for the personal preference it is; I know others find em mighty handy.

  37. 37
    jake says:

    but I’m imagining you writing a brochure about a romantic getaway for pastry, or some such.

    [insert tarts joke here.]

  38. 38
    Richard 23 says:

    Jake – No, you cretin (ass, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, boob, buffoon,clod, dimwit, dolt, dope, dork, dumb ox, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, halfwit, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, lamebrain, lunkhead, meathead, moron, nerd, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, oaf, simpleton, twit)

    Heh, I could’ve sworn you were responding to Darrell.

    Shorter Dug Jay: What’s a thesarus?

    ‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard.

  39. 39
    Tax Analyst says:

    I use a the on-line thesaurus quite frequently for my hobby, song-parody writing. OH…many moons ago…like “WordStar 6.0”, I used the thesaurus to look up synonyms for “adversary” and about the 6th one listed was “asshole”…lol…and I cross-referenced the first 5 choices and, yup, “asshole” was in there…I thought it was pretty amusing, although technically incorrect.

  40. 40
    Jonathan says:

    But, lucky for you, spoofing and trolling really don’t require a lot in the way of wordsmitheriness, eh Jonny Goebbels?

    Your signal-to-noise ratio is epsilon.

  41. 41
    Pooh says:

    I’ll toot my own horn and say that I rarely have need of a thesaurus. Conversationally, I tend to use a fairly broad range of words anyway…

  42. 42
    Jonathan says:

    Sometimes this doesn’t help: for a while I could never think of the word “vicarious”; all that would come to mind was “avuncular”. Thematically related, I suppose, but not close enough to be findable in a thesaurus.

    Vicarious and avuncular have no relationship whatsoever with each other other than that they are both words in the English dictionary.

  43. 43

    A professor of mine said using profanity indicated a poor vocabulary. To some extent that’s true, but I find profanity fun to use and sometimes exactly what I want to say. Besides that, it pisses off so many people and that’s always a plus.

    For you and others who can write without the aid of a thesaurus, I genuflect before you.

    I couldn’t write without occasional side trips to a thesaurus. I find I tend to choose the same adjectives, nouns, adverbs and verbs to “say” things and it bores me. Maybe its just me, but I tend to use the smallest subset of my vocabulary on a regular basis.

    So I use a thesaurus to find alternative ways of expressing my thoughts, remind me of a more precise word I’d forgotten I knew and to expand my vocabulary.

  44. 44
    Jonathan says:

    A professor of mine said using profanity indicated a poor vocabulary. To some extent that’s true, but I find profanity fun to use and sometimes exactly what I want to say. Besides that, it pisses off so many people and that’s always a plus.

    It pisses people off a lot worse if you do not respond to their profanity or abuse in kind. Any damn fool can use profanity and most do.

  45. 45
    Krista says:

    A professor of mine said using profanity indicated a poor vocabulary.

    In some cases, it does. In other cases, you have people with excellent vocabularies, who just really derive a certain satisfaction from cursing.

    Like me, for example.

    I just fucking love profanity.

  46. 46
    rachel says:

    I teach composition to ESL students; you’d better believe I use a thesaurus.

  47. 47
    Tax Analyst says:

    A-fucking-men, Krista. Just wondering, if you expressed that as “I just love fucking profanity”, does it still have the same meaning? I only ask because as a dyslectic I often wix mord or letter positions.

  48. 48

    My mother reads my Blog, she doesn’t like swearing, “you have a better vocabulary…” so I don’t. She’s 2500 mi away, can’t swat me, I’m 53, but I don’t. Noting I’m 53, I seem to have ‘moments’ when I need a Thesaurus. Which is pathetic since I swallowed an OED when I was younger. Despite the Frenchies attitudes, there are very real shades of meaning and content particular meanings to English, and proper usage can create clear detailed communication and fewer paragraphs.

    I beat nails for a living – maybe I know how to swear…

  49. 49
    jake says:

    “I just love fucking profanity”

    Who the fuck is Profanity?

  50. 50
    Krista says:

    Just wondering, if you expressed that as “I just love fucking profanity”, does it still have the same meaning?

    I’m thinking that most people would probably still get the gist of what you were saying, particularly if it was verbal. But it does look odd enough in writing to make a few people stop and think for a second, or in jake’s case, it’s enough to make them stop and take the hidden joke to its inevitable conclusion.

  51. 51
    Jake says:

    it’s enough to make them stop and take the hidden joke to its inevitable conclusion.

    I just wanted to say F^ck. Honest!

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