Saturday, April 10, 2010

college station and british synonymy

Dawn comes in bright over College Station. It still looks vaguely like I imagined Ulan Bator to look (but I googled Ulan Bator, and it turns out to be huge, and have mountains in the background, and Chinese temples, and yurts on the outskirts. I haven't seen any yurts here). It's been an excellently stimulating day, from a panel on the digital humanities this morning through to Felicity Nussbaum's talk on Hester Thrale Piozzi this evening - someone about whom I've never really thought about, but whom I can very readily see can be obsessively interesting.

So I've found myself ACTIVE, ASSIDUOUS, SEDULOUS, DILIGENT and INDUSTRIOUS in reading up about her this evening post dinner - and became hooked on her British Synonymy, which is a completely wonderful discursive prototype of a Thesaurus - one never knows if she's going to make reference to a classical text or to Italian customs or to large sized sheep in Leicestershire - it's as though her mind grabs at the first source that comes to mind, and this in itself suggests what fun she must have been as a conversationalist. She differentiates between near-synonyms through building up sentences with examples that show the varied occasions on which one might, indeed, use the words, making quite fine discriminations - sometimes with the effect of writing a whole imaginary plot: "...a man FORSAKES his mistress, ABANDONS all hope of regaining her lost esteem; RELINQUISHES his pretensions in favour of another; GIVES UP a place of trust he held under the government, DESERTS his party, LEAVES his parents in affliction, and QUITS the kingdom forever." What a rat.

Tomorrow, I may turn Hester into a cube. But that's another subject, and I'm still working on that.

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