Which is best: modern dictionary with thesaurus or old; well loved thesaurus publication? Here are some examples as I thumbed through both.
The New Roget’s Dictionary & Thesaurus Form – Edited by: Norman Lewis (edition 1931, 1936, 1959, 1961, 1964 by: G.P. Putnam’s Son
idol: n. – image, golden calf, graven image, fetish, (worship); beloved, darling, dear (love)
celebrity: n. – luminary, personage, notable (fame)
The Little Oxford English Dictionary and Thesaurus – 2003, 2008 copyright
idol: n. -1) icon, effigy, graven image, fetish, totem 2) hero, heroine, star, celebrity, favorite, darling; inf. blue-eyed boy
celebrity: n. – star, superstar, personality, household name
While I compared the two widely different examples, I noticed something very disappointing: the English language is diminishing before our eyes. The language in which we speak is losing its luster and stamina.
While editing my novel “Soul’s Little Lie” I noticed something about my writing from the early stages. I repeated what I was taught in simplicity of word style. The words I used in how I wanted to express the feeling of the story and character interactions were weak; had no power to hold up against the pages. While using my old 1930s Roget’s Thesaurus I learned of words I never knew existed or the context in which they are used. My eyes, my mind expanded to a whole new (perhaps old) world. I dove into this new found adventure and began adding what I had now learned.
There are ways to to use words in explaining a time period or a type of character in how they speak. Say, in the 18th century a character would speak in a more colorful manner. So using, ‘older style’ words would be appropriate. However, that’s cheating us out of the beauty of words. I would ravel in the joy of using ‘notable’ than ‘superstar’ to describe an idolized person.
The way words are used today are extremely simplified so much that this generation and the next will not know the art in which words are created. There are many words in different languages that mean the same thing just like the English language does, too. The difference is, older cultures try to keep to the same ways of language as long as possible. More modern, faster growing; expanding countries like the United States throw away or shift words around too much. Everyone seems to want to keep everything around them fresh, ‘novel’ as though they can’t sit still long enough to enjoy what they already had.
I ask you now, readers and writers alike: Open your old, beloved thesaurus with renewed vigor. Dive into those dust stained pages. Let your fingers do the walking. Play with the idea for a while in what new; old words you can use in your future works. You will not be disappointed. I promise you that.