Morris Mtisi Education Correspondent
Using a Thesaurus in English Language Study is a stratagem no learner or teacher can ignore.
A Thesaurus is a ‘dictionary’ which does not give you meanings of words but gives you options (other words) you can use to communicate a better and clearer picture of what you are saying or describing.
1. It increases your word power / your vocabulary.
2. It is a powerhouse of descriptive detail, whether it is a verb describing an action or an adjective describing a noun.
3. It gives you a source of strong verbs and adjectives you can use to replace the weak and tired ones. The English Language is full of words which are hackneyed. This means words which are overused to an extent of losing the power of meaning. These words are also called clichés. A Thesaurus will give you the fresh strong verb and adjective.
If you master the use of a Thesaurus your English will be far better almost instantly and your communication skills will never be same in both speech and writing. For students, composition writing becomes a source of joyful learning and literary craftsmanship. Communication becomes fun, not funny. So even adults not intending to sit examinations can learn the skilful use of this communication tool and weapon for personal English Language improvement! This includes teachers, please note.
NICE: This is one of the ugliest, most awful / notorious / clichés in English Language.
Almost everything is described as ‘nice’: people, friends, neighbours, cars, houses, places, movies, schools, clothes etc. But what does ‘nice’ really mean? Nothing really! Because the word is used to describe literally anything! It is overdone, overused, and now tired.
Let us take food for example: A Thesaurus will give you several stronger and better words than ‘nice’ to describe food. It will give you ‘mouth-watering / appetizing / nutritious / delicious / scrumptious / tasty / delectable /…and many more. Even ‘very very nice’ will not say more than any one of the above words.
Consider the following examples:
NICE (clothes): trendy / fashionable / casual / beautiful / gorgeous / chic / stylish / smart / in vogue / modish / a-la-mode / au courant.
(film/novel) thrilling / exciting / delightful / absorbing
(school) outstanding / beautiful / extraordinary / attractive / lovely /
(place) attractive / scenic / beautiful / tranquil / peaceful / delightful
/charming / wonderful / exquisite / superb / lovely / picturesque
A Thesaurus will discourage the use of ‘very’ before an adjective. It will give you one word that says it all vividly. Of course, sometimes it is more than one word. Instead of ‘very cold’ it will give you ‘freezing’ / biting cold / bitter / sharp/ cutting / glacial / stinging. Instead of ‘very beautiful’ a Thesaurus will give you good-looking / attractive / charming / stunning / superb/ staggering (looks)/ magnificent.
Very serious: solemn / grave / stern/ severe / staid / grim / humourless .
Very ugly: hideous / grotesque / outrageous / unsightly / revolting /
Repulsive / obnoxious / disgusting/
Very happy: jovial / jubilant / convivial / joyous / delighted / merry / ecstatic /
on cloud nine / in high spirits / in the seventh heaven / over the moon.
Very hot: boiling / scorching / baking / roasting / burning up/ sizzling/ blistering.
Very sad: aggrieved / heartbroken / depressed / dejected / downcast/ down-hearted / heavy-hearted / gloomy / miserable / heart-rending / bleak / poignant.
Very thin: scrawny / skeletal / bony / gaunt / skinny / emaciated / slender /
Very small: tiny / miniscule / minute / miniature / petite / mini / diminutive
Very big: massive / gigantic / huge / enormous / large / immense / great vast / voluminous.
Very fat: overweight / massive / obese / podgy / paunchy / flabby / portly/ corpulent.
Said: announced / answered / replied / asked / ordered / remarked / commanded / interrupted / whispered / shouted / grumbled / interjected / demanded / retorted / reiterated / emphasized / stressed.
How many times do we use the word ‘said’ in a day? When someone speaks, is it all the time he or she has SAID something? What about the above words supplied by a Thesaurus? When are they used? You will be surprised every time we say someone ‘said’ something we need one of the above to vividly mean what we say and say what we mean?
A Thesaurus will help you to write better compositions and to increase your word power. It is a powerhouse that enriches your language for speech and writing. You must be warned though: Please make sure the word you are using fits the context. While the word ‘scenic’ means very attractive, you cannot say, ‘Shamiso is a scenic girl, meaning she is attractive. You also cannot describe animals as ‘obese’. The word is used on people ONLY, please note.
You can describe a marriage as ‘a happy marriage….very happy marriage’ but you cannot say it is a jubilant marriage. Yes, it can be a blissful marriage / joyful / heavenly/ wonderful / perfect marriage, but not a hilarious marriage. Unless you are laughing at the marriage! Some words you will find, though they mean more or less the same, they may not be the best to fit a particular context. BE VERY CAREFUL!
A Thesaurus will make your English more expressive, more evocative and emotive. It will certainly raise the command of your English Language, but take serious heed of the following warning: It is better to use a weaker and overused word (a cliché) and get a C grade than use words inappropriately and get an E or U grade. Smart students, smart candidates rely on smart tips and guidelines during examinations. Enjoy! Behave! Be disciplined! Remember there is life after examinations!