March 1 – The giraffe and the thesaurus
Why yes, this is a giraffe sitting atop the third edition of Roget’s International Thesaurus.
I love old books. They’re fun to look at, and great to decorate with.
Allow me to tell you about this particular book.
All of the editions of Roget’s International Thesaurus before the fifth edition were formated in a really wonderful way.
You start with the alphabetical index in the back of the book. The index will tell you the page number of the word you are looking for. When you find that page the word you’re looking for will be there with all it’s synonyms, just like you would expect from a thesaurus. The wonderful thing is that the next entry on the page won’t be the next alphabetical word, rather it will be a similar word. Sometimes it will be a synonym, and sometimes it will just be a related word you might also be thinking about. It’s like a progression of thought, which is perfect for a thesaurus. This format also makes the thesaurus perfect for perusing.
But, when it came time to print the fifth edition, Roget and his associates decided to start printing their thesaurus in alphabetical order like a dictionary. The thesaurus hasn’t been the same since.
Disclaimer: The thesaurus should only be used to help you remember words that you just can’t think of at the moment. The thesaurus should never be used to replace words at random to help you seem smarter; always know the definition of a word before you use it.
Maybe on another day I’ll share the significance of this giraffe with you.