My Thesaurus
                    by Corinne H. Smith
     My sophomore English teacher started it.
     During our first week as tenth graders, Mr. Sachwald told us we each needed a thesaurus
to help us with our writing assignments.  What was a thesaurus?  I had yet to see one and 
certainly had never used one.
     That weekend my mother drove me to the bookstore at the brand-new suburban mall.  
While she looked for mysteries and romances, I stood in front of the reference shelves and 
surveyed the possibilities.  Sachwald had given us two criteria:  the name ďRogetĒ -- a funny 
word that didnít sound at all like it was written -- and a preference for an edition that listed 
key words in alphabetical order.  Armed with those guidelines, I scanned the shelves.  I took 
so much time that Iím sure my mother interceded, impatient and ready to pay for her own 
purchases.  A hardback copy is too expensive, she would have said, especially if you need 
the book only this year.  I settled on a small, cheap, yellow and turquoise paperback, 
The New Pocket Rogetís Thesaurus in Dictionary Form, printed that year (1972). It met 
both my teacherís and motherís requirements.


     Wouldnít you know it, Sachwald was right.  That thesaurus helped me find more powerful words to put in the many American literature papers
 I cranked out on the family typewriter that year.  I continued to consult it whenever I had reports to write for my junior and senior teachers.  
Why use interesting when engrossing went a step farther?  If explain was too common, then elucidate could take its place.  And if a character had to laugh, 
he might even guffaw. The book also came in handy to spruce up the unrequited-love poems that I churned out ad nauseum during my teenager-hood.  
Some of that verse even made its way into the school literary magazine, Whispering Minds.  The worst of the bunch were submitted under an alias to protect the 
guilty author.
     When I went off to college, I was armed with my old thesaurus and two graduation gifts: a typewriter of my own, and a hardback, letter-tabbed
Websterís New World Dictionary of the American Language. Armed thusly, I felt as though I was indeed embarking upon a noble educational experience.
     I learned much during the next four years, including the technique of typing with carbon paper or on dittos so that my masterpieces could be distributed to 
classmates.  Those were the days of hand-held correction tape and typewriter eraser sticks with wild hairdos of plastic bristles.  Choosing the best words to 
type was the easiest part of the process.
     Sometime during its second decade of coming to my rescue, my thesaurus needed some help of its own.  First the back cover fell off, and then the front.  
I repaired the damage badly, using masking tape because it was all I had at the time.  When I finally had thick clear tape to reinforce the spine, even the 
masking tape was crumbling with age.  I taped over it, rather than run the risk of further ruining the cover.  Appearance didnít matter; it just had to hold together.  
The pages were fine and none were missing.
     On a drive through central New York in the 1990s, I stopped at a used bookstore.  The musty backyard shed was crammed to the rafters with all kinds of 
books.  Since I was the only customer and had walked down a long driveway to reach the place, I felt an obligation to buy at least one item.  Quite frankly, I 
didnít see anything Iíd want to touch, let alone buy.  Just when I thought Iíd have to aim an idle thanks at the proprietor and walk away empty-handed, I caught 
a glimpse of a familiar yellow and turquoise cover.  It was a copy of my thesaurus that was in much better shape than the one I had.  I had never considered that 
other copies might exist.  My mind debated against itself.  I already had one, why would I need another?  Mine was worn out, thatís why.  But Iíd never have the
heart to throw out or recycle the book I bought in high school.  It had sentimental value.  Maybe it would be nice to have two thesauruses.  Thesauri?  Whatever. 
I gave the man a dollar and felt good doing it.
     I saw a copy of my thesaurus again a few years later at a library book sale, and I bought it.  By now it had become a habit.  To date I own four copies of that 
Rogetís New Pocket Thesaurus.  The original sits with my dictionary next to my computer.  Another copy is on a shelf in my unplugged writerís garret.  One is 
in the car, and the last one is in my desk at work.  I have the luxury of knowing that wherever I am, my thesaurus is probably nearby.   Whenever I have times of 
sudden inspiration to write, I donít have to worry about reaching a point where the right word doesnít come to mind.  My trusty thesaurus will give me appropriate 
     Truth be told, I donít use the book much anymore.  Itís no longer the crutch it was in high school and college.  When I do get the urge to leaf through it, my 
thesaurus is a tool that feels comfortable in my hands.  I even consulted my tattered paperback several times while writing this article.  Which words originated 
in my brain, and which ones needed a little prompting to reach the printed page?  Iíll never tell.  But I noticed that the cover needs additional taping.
     As I keyed this text into my computer and checked my word count in the word processing program, I noticed that the software had a built-in thesaurus.  
I opened it, entered a simple word, and eight similar words popped up on the screen.  I was given the option to Lookup, Cancel, or Replace.  Replace?  
No thanks.  Iíd rather flip through the worn pages of my favorite old Rogetís.  Some things just shouldnít change.
Fall 2005

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