Sunday, January 18, 2015

Thesaurus Day

On this day, 236 years ago, Peter Roget, best remembered for his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, was born in London. What better day to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the English language than Thesaurus Day?

If you love words—the more obscure the better—you’ll love A Compendium of Collective Nouns: From an Armory to Aadvarks to a Zeal of Zebras. This delightful picture book for adults features stunning renditions of more than 2,000 curious, collective nouns.  Did you know a group of jellyfish is called a smack or a collection of pandas is known as an embarrassment? Whimsical? Yes. Eclectic? Very.  Many of the nouns come from a fifteenth century hunting guide, The Book of Saint Albans, although some (an ooze of amoebas) are newer. Fun? Absolutely!

The word “thesaurus” comes from the Greek thēsaurós meaning “a treasure, treasury, storehouse, chest.” Do you know where the word “heckling” originated?  (Hint: It has to do with sheep.)  For this, and other etymological trivia, flip through The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Blogger Mark Forsyth (aka The Inky Fool.)  Or, for a more straight forward approach to word derivations, try the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins.

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