Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Word of Warning!

I mentioned a few months ago about my thesaurus, which I love. The thesaurus is a magical book full of all kinds of long words that make one sound…super intelligent.

But buyer beware. There is a nasty trap that I have seen many a writer fall into. Alas, even I have fallen into that hole a time or two – and the fall hurts my friend.

When you click on the faithful thesaurus button, make sure the super intelligent word actually means what you intended it to mean.

Take for instance:

Her skirt, even though frilly and cute, had torn at the hem.

vs:

Her sarong, even though ornamented and delectable, had splintered at the turn-up.

Okay for one thing a sarong sounds just…uncomfortable. I don’t know, I haven’t worn one. How can a sarong be both ornamented and delectable? Doesn’t that mean you’re eating it? I hope it is delicious either way. What in the universe is a turn-up? No, not turnip - turn-up. And why is it splintering? Strange, indeed.

So love your thesaurus, but watch out! It might trick you and laugh at you behind your back. Idiotic utterance inventory. Opps, what I meant was, silly thesaurus.

7 comments:

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is a conversation I have regularly with my students. I even have sample essays of "thesaurus overload". :-)

L.T. Elliot said...

For me, the thesaurus isn't a tool to learn new words, it's a place to find the "right" word. Frequently, I already have the word on the tip of my tongue but I can't quite recall it so I use my thesaurus to pin it down.

This is why the dictionary and thesaurus are partners and should be used that way. But honestly, the best place I've discovered words? By reading. When you find a new word, used in a new way, it's delightful to look it up and see how it was done. It's the single best way to learn to use words--reading.

Great post, Carolyn! You're both wise and witty.

The Dixon Family said...

It's so fun to read your posts, Carolyn! Although a tab is always open for the thesaurus while I'm writing, I generally use it to help me find the right word. If I'm feeling adventurous and want to use an unfamiliar word I click on it to make sure it means what I think it means. Know what I mean?

Shari said...

Awesome post. I don't use a thesaurus. I use a synonym finder.

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, so true! I don't use the thesaurus unless I have to. :)

Linda Garner said...

I love my thesaurus, but it doesn't replace common sense. LG

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Good advice. I'm like Shari and use a synonym finder. Love it!