In other words...
- Credit: PA
In the spirit of National Thesaurus Day, the following words may be synonyms for the ones originally intended.
Thesaurus day, we are told, will help us broaden our horizons and our vocabulary, and to take joy in the beauty of language.
One hopes US President Donald Trump will take the opportunity to explore other options. In 2015 he quoth: “I will be phenomenal to the women (2015),” which could mean remarkable, sensational, unique, fantastic or miraculous.
We have as yet seen little evidence (confirmation, indication, proof, sign, substantiation) of this which may, after all be a good (excellent, fine, capital, pleasing, splendid) thing.
Thesaurus day was introduced as an opportunity to fall in love, all over again, with the Thesaurus. “Whether you’re looking for a new word to spice up your vocabulary, or looking for precisely the right nuance to add to a sentence or phrase, a Thesaurus can be there to help you. While many of us don’t use the great expanse of verbiage that’s available to us, the expanse of language really gives us an amazing ability to express ourselves with beauty and precision,” says daysoftheyear.com
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It is suggested that we celebrate Thesaurus Day by finding all our favourite words in a Thesaurus and find new favourites “ones that mean similar or the same thing, but perhaps have a bit more panache” (dash, elan, flourish, spirit, style). Expanding our vocabulary has been shown to have positive health effects, apparently (seemingly, ostensibly), and a powerful vocabulary can help you get ahead in your life and career.
Reader’s Digest, once the stalwart publication of doctors’ waiting rooms, has a strand called Word Power® which sets out to expand our vocabulary.
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At media.rd.com/rd/consumer_marketing/Ultimate-Word-Power.pdf you will find the following statistics: English has around one million words (including scientific and technical terms) compared to 100,000 for the French.
Having said that, you will note that “panache” above is French as is its synonym “elan”.
In fact, 80% of English words are based on other languages. One might argue that it’s more about quality than quantity. Perhaps most interesting is that most people use just 2,000 words a week. And, I would add, some of those don’t even qualify as words, innit.
The extraordinary use of language can be stretched to the limits of the average person’s understanding, however. I find writer Will Self challenging... He is often flagged up as a “sesquipedalian”, an obscure word that means ‘a lover of obscure words’.
In defence of using obscure words, he said: “I’d point out that my texts were as full of resolutely Anglo-Saxon slang as they were the flowery and the Latinate.
“I’d observe that English, being a mishmash of several different languages, had a large and exciting vocabulary, and that it seemed a shame not to use it – especially given that it went on growing all the time, spawning argot and specialist terminology as freely as an oyster does its milt.”
The trouble is, that as fast as word-lovers try to re-popularise words that have lapsed from general usage they are having to accept new words that are brain-scrunchingly awful, as well changes of use that leave older possessors of English O Level beating their heads against the full Oxford English Dictionary.
My particular bugbear is “was like” instead of “said” as in: “And he was like, ‘Wassup?’ and I was like ‘You disrespecting me?’” This exposition of what I imagine to be some sort of disagreement, reveals little actual information; a sad day for the vernacular.
Winston Churchill, whose uplifting oratory swelled British hearts in the Second World War, used words to deliver a sense of national unity; each word carefully chosen, plucked from among competing words. “This was their finest (best, greatest, foremost, perfect, supreme) hour.”
Earlier this week Macquarie Dictionary announced its word of the year 2017 was “milkshake duck” (no, I’d never heard of it either). Coined on Twitter it is defined as “a person who is initially viewed positively by the media but is then discovered to have something questionable about them which causes a sharp decline in their popularity”.
Oxford dictionaries went with “youthquake” for its word of the year. It is defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.
I have no alternative to offer.