“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice”*…
In Words in Time and Place, David Crystal explores fifteen fascinating sets of synonyms, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.
We’ve turned selections from six sections of Words in Time and Place into word clouds, arranged in a shape related to the topic in question…
The first is above; see the other five– terms of endearment, dying, fools, money, and the lavatory– at Oxford Dictionaries‘ “Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things.”
Special bonus: Benjamin Franklin’s personal– and voluminous– list of synonyms for “Drunk.”
* T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
As we choose our words with care, we might send dangerous birthday greetings to Herbert Huncke he was born on this date in 1915. A drifter and small-time thief, Huncke became an object of respect– even affection– for William S. Burroughs, in whose autobiography (Junkie) Huncke is described:
Waves of hostility and suspicion flowed out from his large brown eyes like some sort of television broadcast. The effect was almost like a physical impact. The man was small and very thin, his neck loose in the collar of his shirt. His complexion faded from brown to a mottled yellow, and pancake make-up had been heavily applied in an attempt to conceal a skin eruption. His mouth was drawn down at the corners in a grimace of petulant annoyance…
Huncke embodied a certain honest-criminal ethic so purely that Burroughs and his friends came to love him for it. Huncke was said to have introduced Jack Kerouac to the term “beat”; in any case, Kerouac wrote adoringly of him (as Elmer Hassel) in On The Road. And Allen Ginsberg shared his New York City apartment with him, even though he realized Huncke and his junkie friends were storing stolen goods there. This phase ended in a dramatic police bust on Utopia Parkway in Bayside, Queens, during which Ginsberg frantically phoned Huncke and told him to “clean out the place” before the cops got there. Ginsberg arrived at his apartment moments ahead of the cops to find that Huncke had taken him literally. He’d tidied up and swept the floor, but left the stolen goods in an orderly stack. A forgiving Ginsberg later engaged Huncke as an instructor in the literary program he ran at Naropa Institute.