I have this very distinct childhood memory from 1st grade of being told what a thesaurus was and then handed a rather large book to use. I was perplexed, confused, baffled, confuzzled even, as to what this device did and why it was both unlike and like it’s counterpart—the dictionary.
The memory of my first meeting with this large book is so vivid, I can even describe the day’s weather, where I was sitting in the class, and the sensation I had as I mulled over what the purpose of this heavy, word laden contraption was. It’s name seemed more reminiscent of a dinosaur than a literary tool and I was afraid.
I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to grasp the concept of how to use a thesaurus and maximize its potential. It was middle school (possibly +- 3 years) when I had taken introductory computer classes and learned about the magic of the “right-click.” Simply right-click on a word and this magical menu appeared. On this menu, an option: “thesaurus.” Maybe it was the little Microsoft Word paper clip that appeared on my screen and guided me through all the nooks and crannies that was Windows 97 that finally gave me the gift of full comprehension:
Low and behold, right-click, select, and a gargantuan range of synonyms presented themselves to me! Who knew there were so many ways to say one simple word?! Imagine my amazement, astonishment, awe, bewilderment, epiphany, fortune, incredulity, jolt, shock, stupefaction, wonderment, and even whammy at discovering this tool that has been there with me since age 6 when I first learned to assemble letters and make words.
A cloud had lifted. I finally understood.
It didn’t take long to embrace the thesaurus, digital and hard copies alike. Initially, the enthusiasm may have flooded my eighth grade papers with unnecessary word choices:
“The American Civil Contention was a laborious time in American yesteryear. Premier Abraham Lincoln chaperoned the populace through this onerous stint. In the termination, Lincoln’s hegemony amalgamated the nation.”
I learned how to use certain word choices in moderation; I learned when it was appropriate to use a 10 syllable word; I learned how to choose words to give the best context possible; and I learned to love—to love all the words.
Rather, just the English words.
I went forward to get a BA in English, speaking it much betterly. I discovered etymology (not to be confused with entomology). What could possibly more interesting than words than knowing where they come from?! Oh, thesaurus, you showed me the way.
I have a lot to say, or rather I just say a lot, and I am happy to have a stockpiled amount of words in my noggin as well as tools like thesaurus’ (thesauri?) to chat about the same thing multiple ways. For me, this is my art, my expression, my creativity, my trade…