my word for it
The man who gave his name to Roget's Thesaurus
was much more than a simple wordsmith.
and critic Will Self admits that he cannot sit down to write unless
he has one close to hand. In Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie claimed that
Captain Hook could not be wholly evil because he kept one in his
cabin. And novelist Jim Crace once used it to invent his fictional
insect the "swag fly".
in 1852, Roget's Thesaurus is one of the most popular books in the
world, thumbed through by songwriters, students and crossword fanatics
alike. Indeed, it has never been out of print and has sold more
than 32 million copies since its creator first shared his "treasure
trove" of synonyms, linguistic look-alikes and substitutes
with those readers he guessed were "unpractised in the art
of composition, or unused to extempore speaking".
Yet the Thesaurus
of English Words and Phrases has often overshadowed the very man
who built this monument of publishing history.
Born in London
in 1779, Peter Mark Roget was no mere lexicographer. The son of
a Genevan father and a French mother who so valued education that
she moved the family to Edinburgh when Roget was 14 so he could
attend the city's superior university, he graduated as a doctor
his medical studies in Bristol, Roget accepted a position as tutor
to the two sons of a wealthy Manchester merchant. In a rare error
of judgment, he took the boys on the obligatory Grand Tour of Europe
just as the fragile peace between France and Britain collapsed in
1803. Finding himself trapped in Geneva with his young charges,
he demonstrated his ingenuity by disguising them as peasants and
smuggling them back to Britain.
He was rewarded
by the boys' grateful father, who helped him to set up a medical
practice in Manchester, where he became one of the founders of the
city's medical school and a lecturer at the Manchester Philosophical
and Literary Society.
London in 1808, he set up house in Bloomsbury and quickly established
himself as one of the leading lights of the city's scientific and
intellectual community. When he wasn't studying works in French,
Latin, German and Italian, he was setting chess problems for the
Illustrated London News and writing articles for the Encyclopedia
Britannica. Indeed, something of a polymath, he invented the scale
still used on today's slide rule, and wrote a paper on the effects
of seeing a moving object through the slats of a Venetian blind,
noting that an image remained on the retina for a fraction of time
after the object had disappeared - a discovery that eventually led
to moving pictures and the invention of cinema.
he was soon elected a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society.
But Roget was
not concerned with personal glory. Having made a name for himself
as both a doctor and a scientist, he helped to establish the Northern
Dispensary, where he treated patients free of charge for 18 years.
Such was his reputation, that in 1823 he was one of the doctors
asked to investigate the dysentery epidemic that tore through Milbank
prison. Four years later, he led the commission that studied London's
water supply, recommending the idea of sand filtration - a method
that is in use to this day. And in 1831, he reached the zenith of
his career when he was elected a Fellow to the Royal College of
By then he
had been secretly working on his thesaurus for more than 25 years.
In 1805, perhaps motivated by his scientific passion for order and
classification, he had begun jotting down words and phrases he found
useful to him in his writing and lecturing, adding alternatives
to those words as and when they occurred to him.
himself had been one those "painfully groping their way and
struggling with the difficulties of composition" when he began
the book. He admitted as much in his introduction to the original
edition. "Conceiving that such a compilation might help to
supply my own deficiencies, I had, in the year 1805, completed a
classed catalogue of words on a small scale."
later, having been ignominiously forced into retirement when younger
and more daring scientists ousted him as secretary of the Royal
Society, he returned to his project, calling on all his diverse
interests and knowledge of science, literature and philosophy.
While a dictionary
explains the meaning of words and the ideas they are meant to convey,
his thesaurus took a given idea and went on to "find the word,
or words, by which that idea may be most fitly and aptly expressed."
To this end,
he organized words into six classes: Abstract Relations, Space,
the Material World, the Intellect, Volition, and Sentient and Moral
Powers. These were subdivided under headings and grouped into clusters
of related meanings. Under "intellect", for instance,
you will find mind, psyche, mentality, brains, wits, senses, gray
matter, and seat of thought - among other helpful descriptions.
It took Roget,
then in his 70s, another four years of "incessant occupation"
to edit his catalogue and ready it for publication. Even when the
first edition of 1,000 copies was finally published in 1852, Roget
did not stop working. He continued to make improvements and prepare
the new editions that his publishers Longman, Brown and Green demanded
as each one proved more popular than the next.
was still collecting new words and expressions, adding them to the
margins of his copy, when he died aged 90 in 1869.
By then his
thesaurus had taken on a life of its own. Roget's son, John Lewis
Roget, made its use significantly easier by improving the cross-references
and expanding the index. More reprints followed, as did further
revisions by John's son, Samuel Romilly Roget, in the early 20th
century when the great hunger for crossword puzzles made a thesaurus
indispensable, doubling annual sales.
there has been at least one print run of the Thesaurus of English
Words and Phrases every year. And today, the 15,000 words included
in the original 1805 manuscript have multiplied to more than a quarter
of a million.
of language," mused Roget, is "an instrument of thought;
not merely its vehicle, but giving it wings for flight."
Thanks to this
remarkable man, the English language can still soar and swoop.
- Asia Features
Beautiful chart topper
band Blur that has been around
for more than
a decade has not lost its sparkle as yet. This is very evident by
the fact that five of Blur's forthcoming concerts were sold out
within two hours on March 1.
were on sale for five nights of Blur concerts. The concerts to be
held at the Astoria theatre were scheduled for May 8,9,10 and 12.
But when sales of the tickets began at 9 a.m. on March 1, a fifth
night, May 13 was added.
Blur fronted by Daman Alban had their new single 'Out of Time' premiered
over UK radio stations on March 3. It's a prelude to its release
on April 14. The track will be featured on the band's new album
'Think Tank' which will be out on May 5.
is at the top of the UK singles chart this week with her new release
'Beautiful'. It was very interesting to note that Christina managed
to have pictures of herself in various poses in the print media
in the U.K, in the run-up to the current singles chart compilation.
It is obvious that the publicity build-up was part of the promotion
for the song 'Beautiful'.
ballad came into the UK originally as an import and peaked at No:
51 - a few weeks ago. On its official release the song debuted at
the top of the chart. 'Beautiful' follows Christina's previous single
'Dirrty' featuring Redman, which also topped the chart in the last
week of November last year. Aguilera has now had three songs at
the No: 1 position in the UK. The first was 'Genie In A Bottle'.
She was part of the female team that hit No: 1 with 'Lady Marmalade'
from the film "Moulin Rouge" in 2001.
version of 'The Boys Of Summer' by DJ Sammy entered the UK chart
at No: 2. It's a remake of the big Don Henley hit which first peaked
at No: 12 in February 1985 and peaked at the same position when
re-released in 1998.
Those who rave
over Eurodance and who have never heard Don Henley's rendition will
be thrilled with DJ Sammy's version.
DJ Sammy scored
a No: 1 hit in November last year with a similar version of Bryan
Adamsí 'Heaven'. Sammy was assisted by Yanou and Do on the
song. While Sammy assaulted Bryan Adams' song, it was neither a
spoiler, since the original was a ballad.
A duo with a
very interesting name debuted on the chart this week at No: 4. Junior
Senior have this name since the members are from two generations.
The Danish duo's song 'Move Your Feet' is a catchy track combining
funk, disco and soul. The song has been heard in various quarters
since Christmas. No wonder it was waiting to take off.
is another star born out of the Fame Academy TV music show. Henderson's
single titled 'Keep Me A Secret' is a retro guitar charged song
- with female vocal backing.
the third star from Fame Academy following David Sneddon and Sinead
Two weeks after
the Spice Girls meet at a reunion dinner, one of them Melanie C
checked into the chart at No: 7 with 'Here It Comes Again'. Melanie
C is the only member of the Spice Girls to be able to record a second
album. Her debut solo album 'Northern Star' spawned two No: 1 hits
'Never Be The Same Again' and 'I Turn To You' and a further Top
20 hit 'If that Were Me'.
maintained confidence in Mel C in giving her a second album. The
track 'Here It Comes Again' is encouraging since the other Girls
have had their contracts cancelled.
Soda Club and Hannah Althea have made a club track out of 'Heaven
Is a Place on Earth.' The song was originally a No: 1 global hit
for Belinda Carlisle in the UK particularly in 1988. Soda Club and
Hannah Althea if one may recall were in the chart last November
with a dance version of 'Berlin's Take My Breath Away.' 'Heaven
Is A Place On Earth' took its mark at No: 13 this week.
The Clash will
release a greatest hits album called the 'Essential Clash' later
this month. It comes following the death of the band's front man
Joe Strummer who died of a heart attack on December 23 last year.
The album will
cover hits from 1977 'White Riot' to the last hit This Is England
in 1985. Among the 20 tracks included will be 'Clash City Rockers',
in so "Bored With USA', 'The Guns of Brixton', 'Rudie Can't
The Clash will
be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame tomorrow March 10
in the US.
Presley is to release her long awaited single 'Light Of Day'. The
song is now receiving some airplay in the US. Lisa's debut album
'To Whom It May Concern' will be out in April.