Thursday 13 October 2016

ODE TO MY THESAURUS – Elizabeth Fremantle

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee for thy depth and breadth and scope,
For chemical elements and common allotropes,
For thy hundred ways of describing grace.
I love thee as the answer to everyday's
Most desperate need, to find perfect verbs.
I love thee for sounds: plops, ticks, clinks, whirrs.
I love thee purely for exalt, extol, praise.
I love thee for creatures' collective terms;
For a skulk of foxes and bears: a sleuth.
I love thee for phobias listed by names,
For eternal verities: the true and the truth,
For the right and the flawless, the flicks and the flames
I shall love thee ever, for thou art my proof.

(with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

As you might have gathered, I love this book – it is so much more than an ordinary thesaurus, it is a portal to subtle and enriching linguistic links that can't be found anywhere else. Thesauruses can be much maligned. Indeed Stephen King recommends rejecting them altogether, famously saying, 'Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word.' And while I accept it as a bid to discourage overwriting and find it valid in the context of simply substituting one work for another from a drop-down menu, I think any writer who wouldn't take pleasure in diving into this universe of language with all its quirks and connections would surely be the poorer for it.

Elizabeth Fremantle's novel THE GIRL IN THE GLASS TOWER is published by Penguin


Ann Turnbull said...

I love it, too! I was given my copy by my parents on my fourteenth birthday, along with a second-hand typewriter and a ream of paper. It's now brown and crumbling, but I still use it occasionally and will never part with it.

Joan Lennon said...

Thesaurus - a friend indeed. Thanks for this, Elizabeth!

Catherine Hokin said...

That raised a grin on a soggy Glasgow afternoon, love it!