Friday, 10 July 2009

ROGET'S THESAURUS - An Oxford Rival?

Oxford University Press has announced it intends to publish what it claims as the world's largest thesaurus in the autumn, fall, dusk or sunset of the year.

Forty four years in the making, this new thesaurus will contain 800,000 meanings and provide a chronological history of words.

I've seen it reported, though not able to confirm, that the suggested retail price will be 150 nicker, quid, pounds, libras, beer tokens, spondulicks, units of a failed experiment.

The announcement prompted a flurry of stuff - check out this and this at the BBC website and/or this post over on HarperStudio's blog.

As you'll see, if you follow the links above, the BBC Magazine feature gives a sample entry from this new tome, followed with a selection of comments.

It's perhaps unfair, and maybe churlish, to form judgement on the basis of a single sample entry - but, if the 150 quid retail price is correct, then punters' expectations are going to be very high. However, I read the entry on trousers and very quickly, without thinking too hard at all, came up with 9 words describing trousers that are not mentioned in the entry.

Having read the comments I can see that I'm not the only person who straightaway thought of 'kecks'. And then there's 'duds'; a very common expression when and where I grew up. And then there's 'duns', less common, and I suspect a twist on 'dunnies', a shortened form of dungareees.

I was very surprised that the entry did not mention 'trewsers' (which I first came across when working in Lancaster City Museum in a hand-written note between the pages of a ship's log dated 1809) and 'troosers' which I'm fairly sure I came across in Sterne's Tristram Shandy. (But then I did a word search here and couldn't find it.)

And then there are 'strides' and 'slacks'. How can anyone assemble a thesaurus entry for trousers and not include 'strides'?

So, roll over Roget? No, don't think so, not for 150 smackers. I'll be sticking with a combination of a battered Penguin edition of Roget's and Merriam-Webster's New Book of Word Histories for a while yet.

What do you think? Will you be ordering OUP's Thesaurus?


  1. Hm, I have never heard most of those words for trousers. For me, "duds" is slang for clothing in general, though I haven't heard it in a long while. Are they perhaps filtering out regionalisms, at least those with a limited reach? That would seem reasonable to me, if its intended reach is international.

  2. No, too expensive. And I love my Roget's.