Actually, I detest the primary reasons we use thesauruses. I don’t like them because the primary reason we use them is that we’re forced to use them. So, for instance, you are assigned a paper and you cleverly insert some fancy, thesaurus-found, words to either look smarter or fulfill some diversity quota. Absurd! I remember thinking how stupid it was that I had to take time and look for words. I already had the one’s I wanted to use, damnit!
Why should we have to look back or fulfill diversity quotas? Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating the abolition of thesauruses. I have looked through one on occasion and found a cool word or two. However, I am against using it in a unauthentic manner.
Why you ask? Because it creates confusion. Many-a-time I’ve been sitting next to a friend writing a paper and asked me “what’s a different word for ‘thought’?” or “what’s a different word for something that is good?” You have no idea how crazy that drives me. Usually they tell me they want a different word because they have “used it too much”. This is what I’m talking about. Our education system has decided that we should be afraid of using the same word more than once! So what do students do? They either make the sentence complicated to change the word order or go they go to the thesaurus. What’s worse is that when the thesaurus is involved, the words have not been used in such a long time that most students don’t know how to use the word they found! The sentences become complicated at best, meaningless at worst.
I’m an advocate for simplicity and coherence. Like I mentioned above, I rarely go to the thesaurus. Actually, for my last two years of college, I never touched one. I think that my major looks down on it. Philosophy is/was rife with jargon. Most of it might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it’s a horrible idea when you have to teach the complex meaning of these terms. Instead, using simple but longer sentences would have been better. Today, in philosophy, simple and clear is the only policy. Use jargon only when you need to. I see the reverse happening when students look through a thesaurus. They find an obscure word that fits under a category and use it. However, as most of us know, these words aren’t always synonyms, most of the time they only have a related meaning. This means that it can be a hit or miss. Worse, the sentence can take on a different meaning. See the frustration?!?!
I don’t use big fancy words. I don’t look through a thesaurus for words to diversify my paper. I keep it simple. I make sure that anyone (large or small vocabulary) can make use of my writing. Sure, it might not sound as awesome as Kevin’s Stupefying Disquisition (follow the links) but it’s going to get (complex) concepts across. And I thought that was the point of language.