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Thesaurus Club

April 24, 2014 — 12 Comments

thesaurus club“The first rule is: If this is your first night at Thesaurus Club, you have to synonymize!”

“The second rule of Thesaurus Club is: You don’t talk about, mention, comment on, allude to, speak of, discuss, converse about, whisper of, gossip about, or chat or chinwag about Thesaurus Club!”

Only a true logophile (word lover) could enjoy the scene described above . . . but if you’re as captivated as I am by wordplay, you may appreciate the creativity. Of course, understanding the reference to the film Fight Club reveals more clearly its wit.

Words are fun to play with.

Although we tend to think of cartoonists as artists, the fact is they are usually just as skillful in their artistry with words. (The successful ones, at least.)

Not long ago I saw a single panel cartoon showing a seated man in a suit addressing a secretary, steno pad in hand. Nothing funny about the picture, of course, but the caption said, “One more thing: Remember to introduce me as a lawyer, not a liar.” Nice.

Even funnier if you think about synonyms. (No offense intended to Mere Inkling’s readers who are attorneys.)

Words are powerful. But they are also finite. C.S. Lewis noted their limits in an essay entitled “Prudery and Philology.”

We are sometimes told that everything in the world can come into literature. This is perhaps true in some sense. But it is a dangerous truth unless we balance it with the statement that nothing can go into literature except words, or (if you prefer) that nothing can go in except by becoming words. And words, like every other medium, have their own proper powers and limitations.

Lewis was quite sensitive to the abuse of language. It doesn’t require a graduate degree to know what he would think of today’s word processing programs with their built in thesauri.

No doubt these fingertip resources have contributed immensely to the modern proclivity of many writers to write artificial prose. I’m confident Lewis would have mourned their creation.

That’s precisely why joining the Thesaurus Club would be so daunting. There you stand, stripped of your ever-present literary crutches, proving just what you’re made of. Will you find victory (triumph, success) or will you taste defeat (downfall, failure)?

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I wish I could take credit for the concept at the top of this page, but I stumbled upon the notion elsewhere and modified it for Mere Inkling. (I did make the graphic, though.)