That Magic Word

‘Civilisation runs on words. Civilisation IS words’

Terry Pratchett, The Truth.

Christopher Fowler wrote an article this week about how he likes books to be clever. He quoted Stephen King as saying you should never use a word you find in a thesaurus.

Now, Stephen King is a wonderful and thoughtful writer, but, like Christopher Fowler, I have to disagree with him on this. I love using a thesaurus. I love finding a new word in a book. I love coming across a word I have to look up.

How else would I expand my vocabulary? How else would I learn such joyous words as ‘refulgent’ or ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ except in a book?

You see, I love words. I love the precise use of them. I love the sound of them. I love to whisper a new word to myself, rolling it round in my mouth like a fine wine, discovering it’s sound and feel. I love discovering their definition and their history and their use. I love waiting for the perfect moment to use them myself. I love the way the right word can break the silence, build a relationship, create a country, destroy an empire.

Like anything that I love, I want more. I want more words. I want to open a book and find a word used in a way I never thought of before. (Dickens is particularly good at this. His phrase ‘misanthropic ice’ in Christmas Carol still gives me a thrill). I want new words. I want that delicious moment of ‘I don’t know that word. I have to find out what it means’

So please, don’t throw away your thesaurus just yet. Give me the difficult words. Give me the unusual words. Give me what I crave. Give me a new word.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby


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