Wednesday, January 18, 2023

National Thesaurus Day!

By Debby Giusti

When I realized today was National Thesaurus Day, I reached for my copy of Roget’s International Thesaurus, blew off the dust and wondered why a favorite reference book had, over the last few years, been ignored on my office bookshelf. Flipping through the pages of my rather aged Fourth Edition advertised to contain 256,000 words and phrases, I had a renewed appreciation for the effort involved in creating such an outstanding tool for writers. Intrigued by a book that continues to be a reliable resource, I wanted to learn about the mastermind who had compiled the first thesaurus.

I found a short biography in my own edition that spurred me to dig deeper into the life of Peter Mark Roget, the physician and scholar-wordsmith who had compiled the first Thesaurus, a name taken from the Greek and Latin words meaning treasure. To attempt—and succeed—at such a huge endeavor (and doing so prior to computers) is a testament to Roget’s hard work and persistence as well as his keen intellect.


Roget was born in London on this day in 1779. He entered the University of Edinburgh when he was fourteen, and graduated from medical school by the time he was nineteen. In 1805, he began to practice medicine at the Public Infirmary at Manchester and was soon heralded as not only a qualified physician but also an astute medical lecturer. Five years later, he moved to London and aided in the establishment of the Northern Dispensary, a charity clinic, where he cared, free of charge, for those in need.

Honors and accolades soon followed. He was known as an inventor, created a slide rule and was an avid chess player. At the age of 36, he was elected into the Royal Society, a fellowship of the most learned minds in math, engineering and medicine and served as its secretary for twenty-plus years. He wrote numerous papers on physiology and health, including an extensive study on the animal and plant kingdoms that was highly acclaimed in his day. Additionally, he penned articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Photo of Peter Roget, Roget's international
Thesaurus
, Fourth Edition, Harper & Row, Publishers,
New York, 1977.

Although his achievements were numerous, Roget is remembered for his Thesaurus. Always a lover of language, at age twenty-six, he compiled a list of 15,000 words arranged by meaning that served as the initial draft of his later work. It was only after he retired from a prestigious career in medicine, that he resumed categorizing words and in four years had completed the manuscript.

Published in 1852, that first edition was titled Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition. The title explained the uniqueness of Roget’s work and how it could be used by writers in any discipline. The first edition was an instant success, and a second edition was published a year later, followed by a third edition in 1855.

Roget continued to add to and enhance many subsequent editions of his work. Before his death in 1869 at age ninety, he was revising the twenty-eighth printing of his thesaurus. His son John took over after Roget’s death, followed by his grandson and eventually Thomas Y Crowell who acquired access to the book in 1879.

 Peter Roget's Preface to the First Edition,
Roget's international Thesaurus, Fourth Edition,
Harper & Row, Publishers,
New York, 1977.

Roget’s Thesaurus is not a dictionary, but rather, as the Publisher’s Preface in my thesaurus states, “a grouping of words according to ideas.” Roget divided his words and phrases into categories, such as Abstract Relations, Space, Physics and Matter. Just prior to publication, he added an alphabetized index in the appendix so readers could more easily find synonyms for specific words without having to sort through the various large groupings.

More than 40 million copies of Roget’s Thesaurus have sold over the years, and the book continues to be a valued reference for all wordsmiths. From now on, I’ll keep my copy close to my computer and am determined to use it when searching for that perfect word to enhance my writing. I’m grateful to Peter Mark Roget for the thesaurus he created—a storehouse of words and a treasure for all.

Do you have a thesaurus? Do you use it? What impressed you about Peter Roget?

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti

www.DebbyGiusti.com

 


IN A SNIPER’S CROSSHAIRS

By Debby Giusti

An assassin’s loose in Amish country…and she’s not the only target.

When a radio broadcast describes taxi driver Lily Hudson’s passenger as an armed criminal, she becomes his immediate target. Narrowly escaping, Lily accepts Matthias Overholt’s offer to hide at his Amish family farm for Christmas—until evidence reveals the gunman’s plan is tied to Lily’s past. Now to prevent an assassination, Lily and Matthias must unravel a years-old conspiracy…and evade a sniper who has them in his sights.

Order HERE!


 

 

 

 

 


17 comments:

  1. Good morning, dear friends! I've brought coffee, hot tea and blueberry muffins! Enjoy!

    I'm pouring through my thesaurus today in honor of Roget! Have a lovely day!

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  2. So interesting and informative, Debby! It seems to me like Roget probably began this project for his own benefit, for use in writing his own "numerous papers" amongst the various disciplines. What a blessing to us that he chose to share his compilation of word lists.

    I must confess that while I often use the the dictionary, I seldom use a thesaurus. And when I do, it's not that I'm looking for a synonym, but rather for that similar word with the better connotation. I love Mark Twain's quote about the difference between the right word and the almost right word being the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug. However, to know which is the right word, one must already know the word and it's usage. And a thesaurus could definitely be helpful in building those vocabulary muscles. Hope you have a good time today wandering through the blooming fields of the profuse variations of the English language.

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  3. Terri, I love Mark Twain's quote. So spot on, isn't he? I always enjoy finding the "perfect" word. The thesaurus helps in that search. A good dictionary is invaluable, as well.

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  4. That sounds like a treasured book! At 90 he was still revising. That is awesome. Could not imagine hand-writing all that. And he did it in four years. Thanks for the great post, Debby! I don't have a thesaurus, but I look online for synonyms very frequently.

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    1. I agree, Sally! How amazing to compile all those words and phrases in categories by hand. I'm in awe!

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  5. I'm sure I have a thesaurus somewhere. I guess I don't use it often. I just go to the computer to find a synonym. There is a children's book about Roget that was an award winning book called The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. It is a good book. I am sitting here with a foot of snow outside and more falling. We haven't had a good snow day in a few years.

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    1. Enjoy the snow! Hope you don't have to travel in the white stuff. I saw a photo you posted on FB. A beautiful scene. We've had drizzle and overcast skies in GA, which doesn't make for a pretty day!

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    2. Sandy, I'm jealous of your snow! We haven't had a good snow day yet. I have a snowman kit ready to use! Great pics!

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    3. Debbie, I stayed home all day yesterday! Sally, hope you get snow sometime.

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  6. I received a Roget's Thesaurus and a Webster's Dictionary for Christmas when I was 15, and I still have both of those treasures on my writing resource shelf! :)

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    1. The thesaurus was a good high school graduation gift, in my day, for those going to college. Now, I doubt children learn how to use it. Such a shame. I know. It's online, but it's not the same, IMHO.

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  7. Off subject, Debby, but want to say I loved your book; very good; posted a review on Amazon and also emailed you!!!!

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    1. Thank you, Jackie! I always appreciate your support! So grateful for your review!

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  8. Interesting post, Debby. I tend to use an online thesaurus these days. I am immensely impressed by the concentration it must have taken to collect and organize all.those.words!

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  9. Loved your post, Debby! When I first started working at the library, a print thesaurus was often used by our patrons. I don't have one but I often look up words online when I'm needing a synonym or antonym.

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    1. I doubt many folks use the print copies these days. We seem to do everything online.

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