BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
“The thesaurus or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words . . . often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea . . . fitly and aptly . . .” [Wikipedia]
. . .
When I began teaching so many long, long years ago (1963), my first classes were with 9th graders. I taught at an all-boys Catholic school in the suburbs of Chicago. I was as new in the classroom as they were, though eight years differing in age; yet I had the degree, the suit coat, and the tie.
I always worked hard on my lesson plans, studied hard to teach the grammar exercises and literature requirements, and all the other peripherals that accompany “Language in Thought and Action.” Plus, a novel or two each semester (Call of the Wild, Life on the Mississippi. . .).
One of my “bestest” vocabulary-building exercises, reserved for eager-to-be-dismissed Friday afternoon students–or held in reserve for those awful condensed classes before pep rallies–was my “Roget’s.”
So simple. Somewhat baby-ish busy work (isn’t that what I needed? quiet time busy work?)
I distributed white three-holed college-ruled paper.
Each student (40 in a class–I had five classes) had a paperback copy of Roget’s Thesaurus [in dictionary format]. (I bought them at a discount for my classroom, as I recall, a few at a time. Some eager students purchased their own copies.)
“Close your eyes. Open your book anywhere. Keep your eyes closed. Run your finger down the page. Stop.”
“Take your pencil or pen and begin to copy the MAIN word under your finger, then copy all the words that are under it. Then go to ‘See also,’ and continue copying.”
And they could never finish before the bell, before they ran to the buses or to the gym, or to the football field or to the auditorium–or wherever.
Let’s see. Running my finger down the page of my vade-mecum (!) Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form (hardcover, of course!), with over 17,000 individual entries, edited by Norman Lewis © 1959 Putnam’s, I open to
boredom, tedium, lack of interest, ennui, doldrums, weariness, world-weariness [pandemic?]; jadedness, apathy, lethargy, languor, lassitude, listlessness; detachment [Covid-19?], indifference, incuriosity, unconcern [W.H.O.?], monotony, dullness [new cases, new cases, new cases?]; prosaism, vapidity, platitude, weary, pall [latest number of deaths?]; tire of, tired, blasé, perfunctory, tepid, lukewarm, monotonous, dull . . .
See also FATIGUE . . . See also BOREDOM, INACTIVITY, REST, WEARINESS [hospitalizations?] . . . spent, worn out, succumb . . .
. . .
Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869): British physician, natural theologian, lexicographer, created the English-language thesaurus in 1805 (released to the public in April 1852).
© JAMES F. O’NEIL JULY 2020