How to Ferret Out Strong Verbs and Other Good Words, Part Two
(This series began yesterday with a post on Strong Verbs)
Since I have become a big game verb hunter, I have remembered how much I adore my thesaurus. It is Roget's International Thesaurus,
with a copyright of 1977, and I have no idea where I got it. I do know
it would be one of the first things I'd grab in a fire, (except that I
once did escape a house on fire and believe me, the only thing you
think about saving is things that are alive–kids and pets, so nix
The "How To Use This Book" note in front of the thesaurus says that
this particular version is a "theme" thesaurus. Short version, this
means its not arranged in traditional dictionary form. Rather, the
words are grouped in categories, according to themes, with an index in
the back. This is the thesaurus as Roget intended it.
This is the only type of thesaurus a writer should have.
Why? Because a word-loving writer could get lost in the pages of this
kind of thesaurus. A writer could glean all the ideas she ever needed
from perusing the pages of the International Thesaurus. A writer,
given that he had overcome laziness, and fear of not being able to find
good verbs, can find a cool word for every thought he's ever had in
For instance, randomly open the index section and spy the word,
"burning." Beneath it are all the possible permutations of that word,
starting with nouns such as capital punishment, combustion, cremation,
heat, pain. We've not even gotten into the verbs yet, which include
angry, colorful, eloquent, excited, feverish, flashing, and more. AND,
we've not even turned to the actual thesaurus section yet–this is just
the index. Choose, say, flashing, and you're directed to section
335.34, from which you can glean a whole paragraph of synonyms, such as
flashy, blazing, flaming, flaring…and so on. In case none of these
suit you, the mother section 335 consists of 42 segments having to do
Oh, the glory of it all: words tumble over each to attract your attention on the page! But now what to do with them? How to remember the perfect verb when it is midnight and you labor to finish your chapter or the article that is due in the morning?
That, my friends, is the subject of Part Three of our series on Verbs.