Want Thesaurus

Filed under: The Writing Process — joy at 9:36 am on Tuesday, October 27, 2009

word pirates thesaurus

As soon as I saw the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, I had a serious case of book lust. It has 800,000 meanings for 600,000 words in more than 230,000 categories and subcategories. It took 44 years to make. It also costs $400, which is sadly out of my price range for a reference book. A girl can dream…

Anyway, I was interested to learn that the longest entry in the thesaurus is the word “immediately,” with 265 synonyms. Why so many words for immediately? It all gets down to the nature of human procrastination:

According to Professor Christian Kay, who has worked on the project for the past 40 years, it is down to the human tendency to procrastinate. (Procrastinate: foreslow, adjourn, proloyne, protract, tarry, defer, delay … ) “A lot of the words that once meant ‘immediately’ came to mean ‘soon’, so you then needed another word that really meant ‘immediately’. ‘Soon’, for instance — its original meaning was ‘immediately’.”

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