Photo by moi.
The irony is that the current raison d’être of Roget’s Thesaurus — as the source of term-paper wordage for panicked college students (and some journalists), or all-knowing oracle for frustrated crosswordists — is the antithesis (opposite, antipodean) of what Peter Roget intended when he published the book’s first edition in 1852.
According to Boston-based writer Joshua Kendall’s new biography, The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (Putnam, 304 pages, $25.95), Roget felt his life’s mission was to “bring order to the world,” via “clear communication.” He believed the world’s salvation depended on a communal abstinence from using the same insipid (drab, bromidic) words all the time, and that’s probably still a noble mission in an age where “kthxbye” is perfectly acceptable in everyday conversation. But Roget wanted thesaurus users to consider language choice and concept carefully, rather than use the guide as the verbal equivalent of a fast-food drive-thru for people who want to sound more intellectual (sage, academic).
Read the rest here.