A heavy-hearted moment is upon me.
This moment has been coming for years and years and years.
It is time.
Time to throw away my cherished childhood friend. She that accompanied me through crushes, pimples and teenage angst. She that caused this heart to leap endless times up to the stars and back to that red typewriter in my white bedroom in our Yale house.
It is time to throw away my thesaurus.
Thesaurus? some of you may ask. What the living heck is that?
Others of you may be nodding in recognition, your own childhood treasures returning to memory.
I loved you, my dear thesaurus. How I loved you, The Original Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. How you shared the secrets of the English language as I typed story after story.
Thesaurus, says Google: a book that lists words in groups of synonyms and related concepts.
Can’t find the appropriate word that carries just the right zest? Let’s say you’re looking for an adjective to describe “magnificent”. You scurry to the Index and look up that word. Are you seeking an adjective to describe “excellent”? Or an adjective like “splendid”? Or–better yet–if you even know what the word means–an adjective meaning “ostentatious” (which I must now look up). I am sure you all already know what it means: characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice.
In my story, let’s pretend, we’re looking up another word for “splendid”. The thesaurus begs you to visit #841 adjective.
Here we’re given all these words to try: beautiful, pulchritudinous (kudos to anyone who knows what THAT means!), beauteous, of beauty, lovely, fair, bright, radiant, comely, goodly, bonny, pretty, sweet, sweetly pretty, pretty-nice, nice, good enough to eat, pretty as a picture, paintable, photogenic….well, I could keep typing, but you get the drift. Eventually you might find the PERFECT word to add to your story. Such as “sublime” or “exquisite” or “superb”.
The thesaurus was the most amazing thing a 13- or 14- or 15-year old wannabe writer could find. I remember feeling dizzied by it. Feeling so in love that my heart thrilled. Feeling like the Secret to the Universe had been revealed, word by precious word.
But, alas, the years pass. Computers appear. You can type in “talkativeness” and get a glib definition with possible adjectives. My darling thesaurus says: Loquacity. Conversableness. Flowing Tongue. Running on. Verbal diarrhea!! Can a computer compare with this, I ask you? What teenage wannabe writer will swoon before Google, lost in a world of amazing possibilities? Very few, I suggest.
Oh my dears, it is time to throw away this childhood friend. She’s missing a front cover. She starts on Page xi, like those ancient textbooks that still understood Roman Numerals. She’s ripped and faded and I never look at her bosom anymore. About six times in the past six years I’ve looked at her sitting on the book shelf and thought: begone with ye, Thesaurus! You’re so yesterday. The Zen-simple-monklike part of me doesn’t like clutter, and Ms. Thesaurus smells musty and old and decrepit–and, wait a minute, let me look up some more adjectives.
She’s primitive, prehistoric, bygone, lost, irrevocable, lapsed, expired, run out, ended, finished.
How can I throw this away, friends? I mean–seriously. Right now my heart is pounding with joy. 824 noun. Pleasure, great pleasure, keen pleasure, thrill, kick, tickle, exaltation, ecstasy.
Have any of you ever used a thesaurus? And if this didn’t bring you to ecstasy–what childhood memory might you remember right now that did? When you sat in your bedroom and your heart throbbed? The world of your childhood opened up–maybe only briefly–and you smiled in delight?
I am now thinking of 45 rpm records spinning round and round and the song: Crimson and Clover, Over and Over…
What should I do? Keep her or throw her? (Husband justs suggests an edit: recycle it, Kathy! Or better yet, how about we make kindling out of it?) What’s a grownup girl to do?