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Today's quote:

Friday, January 27, 2017

I can count the number of my friends on the thumb of one hand

Sorry, Chasers, but Peter Roget - despite his 'Frenchie' surname - was a proper Englishman


If you suffer from monologophobia – the obsessive fear of using the same word twice – you reach for Roget's Thesaurus, published in 1852 by Dr Peter Roget who longed for order in his chaotic world and so, from the age of eight, began his quest to put everything in its rightful place, one word at a time.

Roget was not just a doctor. He was also a polymath whose work influenced the discovery of laughing gas as an anaesthetic, the creation of the London sewage system, the invention of the slide rule and the development of the cinema industry – as well as being a chess master and an expert on bees, Dante and the kaleidoscope. All of which showed up in the work that he christened a "thesaurus", borrowing the Greek word for "treasure house".

His Thesaurus was constructed as a crystal palace of abstraction, each of whose 1,000 lists pushes a reader, often antonymically, to the next, “certainty” leading to “uncertainty” leading to “reasoning” leading to “sophistry.” I've never made head nor tail of the system and always go straight to the index — added by Roget almost as an afterthought — to use it as a book of synonyms even though Roget thought there “really was no such thing,” given the unique meaning of every word.

I've always thought that people who claim to have lots of friends probably couldn't spell the word 'acquantance' ... 'aquantence' ... 'acquaintenance' ... well, you know, 'friends'. Having just now joined up with facebook, I was amazed at the number of friends some of my acquaintances have and promptly reached for Roget's Thesaurus to see if the words 'friend' and 'acquaintance' are synonymous. According to the good doctor, they are!

So go ahead, Hengky Tambayong - who is, incidentally, a real nice guy and Bali's best hotel manager! - , and enjoy your 2,354 friends! I shall keep counting the number of my friends on the thumb of one hand.