National Thesaurus Day

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.

Truman Capote
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

January 18th is the official day set aside as National Thesaurus Day. There seems to be a day for everything these days, but the Thesaurus does have some importance. Whether you use the physical book or the online version, most everyone would have used the Thesaurus. If you are from a family that loves to read and write, then the Thesaurus is likely a well-used book on your bookshelf. The Thesaurus, when used adequatley, helps to improve our vocabulary and increase communication skills.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Thesaurus as a book of words or of information about a particular field or set of concepts. Rooted in Latin, The word was originally used by archeologists to refer to an ancient treasure. Later the word became associated with a book that held a “treasury” of words related to various fields. 

The man behind the Thesaurus

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), Physicist and Author of the Thesaurus (bookworm norm –

In 1805, Peter Mark Roget, created the book that we rely on from time to time, the Thesaurus. However, Roget did not publish his list until 1853 at the age of 74. Roget was an English physicist, writer and inventor and began compiling the book for his own personal writing use.

Roget’s other exploits

Roget was also known for inventing the slide rule which was used to calculate roots and powers. He lectured on medical topics, designed a pocket chess board, published works on what we know today as anesthesia, and invented what could easily be the first movie camera.

The other side of Roget

Even though Peter Roget was very accomplished in his lifetime, he was not bereft of the negativities that often come our way. He suffered many tragic moments in his life which led to his battle with mental health and depression. His obsession with lists and organization, what we know today as obsessive compulsive, led to the list of words which he divided and organized into categories. He used this obsession to help him cope with his mental health. Joshua Kendall noted in Roget’s biography, The Man Who Made Lists, that it was this obsession with lists that “enabled Roget to live a vibrant life in the face of overwhelming loss, anxiety, and despair.”

A few useful quotes about words

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment.”

Learned Hand

“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Do you have other favourite quotes about words? Feel free to add them to the comments.

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