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"Throw Momma From The Train"

Posted by Woodchuck on November 11, 2002

In Reply to: The Flip Dictionary posted by ESC on November 11, 2002

: : : : : Perhaps I'm just grumpy because I have a back injury, a mother recovering from surgery, and four non-functional computers in various stages of repair, but I've been amusing myself with Eugene Ehrlich's "Highly Selective Thesaurus for the Extraordinarily Literate" and its companion dictionary and I am less amused than expected. "Swashbuckler" is offered as the sole synonym of "swordsman". "Carmelite" and "votary" are given equal weight as synonyms of "nun".

: : : : : Granted, Ehrilich's books are clearly intended to be cotton candy for pseudo-intellectuals, but after flipping through other references for comparision, I've decided most thesauri are sloppy miserable things that need better categorization. Only Roget's passed muster in my library. Are there other decent thesauri out there?

: : : : Perhaps not, but here's a recommendation for the grumpiness: below), a large collection of Monty Python scripts.

: : : : The only thesaurus I use is an old paperback Roget's. How old? The cover price is 35 cents.

: : : I don't use a thesaurus very often. But I like "The Writer's Digest Flip Dictionary: for when you know what you want to say but can't think of the word," by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D., (Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2000).

: : : For purposes of comparison, the Flip Dictionary lists:

: : : nun: abbess, anchorite, devotee, postulant, prioress, sister, vestal, votaress.
: : : nun or monk: votary
: : : nun who is superior of convent: abbess, prioress
: : : nun, candidate for: neophyte, novice, novitiate, postulant
: : : nun, to become a: take the veil, take vows
: : : nun, woman living in religious community living without vows of: canoness

: : : swashbuckler: adventurer, buccaneer, daredevil, pirate, ruffian, soldier, swordsman

: : : sword: bilbo, blade, brand, broadsword, claymore, creese, cutlass, dagger, dirk, dris, épée, falchion, foil, hanbger, rapier, saber, sabre, scimitar, toledo, weapon, yalaghan.
: : : (10 sword related entries follow)
: : : swordsman: dueler, fencer, gladiator

: : A thesaurus is a dangerous machine, and it should be used only by sober, licensed operators who recognize its potential for damage. In the hands of students, for example, it's a device for seeking out just the wrong word, the inappropriate, half-understood word, the word that can turn a straightforward simple declarative sentence into a ludicrous jumble of stilted blather. There ought to be a warning label on every thesaurus:
: : Caution! Endeavoring to obtain this compendium has the potential to lead an author into prolixity and obfuscation.

: Last week a friend was writing a tribute for her boss and asked me to read over it. She wrote about her boss using "platitudes" when she was trying to say "wise sayings." Shades of meaning can be very important.

: What I like about The Flip Dictionary is that it helps when a writer "knows" the right word but just can't call it up.

That puts me in mind of Billy Crystal's character in "Throw Momma From The Train". There's a man who desperately needed a thesaurus.

Larry: The night was hot. Wait. No. The night, the night was humid. The night was humid, no wait, hot, hot. The night was hot. The night was hot and wet, wet and hot. The night was wet and hot, hot and wet, wet and hot; that's humid. The night was humid.

Mrs. Lift: The night was sultry.