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After discussing different types of specialized synonym dictionaries, I will and thesauruses: Merriam Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms.
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There are, too, many new articles dealing with peculiarly British terms, such as those which concern the church and daily life in England; but these, although they represent an enrichment of vocabulary, add little to the originality of the work, which still remains an imitation. A clear-cut distinction which sharply reveals the meanings of synonymous French terms often becomes a forced distinction when applied to English.

In fact, Trusler never knew whether it was his aim to point out the "delicate differences between words reputed synonymous" or to give the particular idea of each word "which constitutes its proper and particular character. Thrale, the close friend of Dr. It first appeared in and was succeeded by at least two editions, the best known of which was published in Paris in That it was immediately popular is evident from the testimony of its editors, who asserted its merits on the ground of "the successive editions it has passed through being the best proof of the estimation in which it is held.

The editors imply, however, that Mrs. Piozzi's work is something better than had yet been given to the public. Johnson, brought out the work we have now the pleasure of presenting to our Readers, and which is totally grounded on the structure of the English language. Johnson, who had died in Piozzi's book reveals an independence of spirit and a feminine disregard of advice. It is, in fact, never profound : it is full of errors or dubious assertions, and it is often absurdly nave. More than this, it frequently takes issue with Dr. Johnson or, in a sprightly manner, casts doubt on his judgments.

There 1 Mrs. Piozzi in her own preface p. Johnson contended that such an action showed that she was ignorant, but Mrs. Piozzi maintained that it proved her senseless. Great as was her respect for Dr. Johnson in his own field, she believed that she also had her field and that it was incumbent on her to remain within the limits she had set for herself. Her object is very clear. Like Girard and Trusler, she was distinguishing not synonyms that is, words identical in meaning but words so similar in meaning as to be "apparently synonymous.

Her book, she modestly claimed, is "intended chiefly for a parlour window" and is "unworthy of a place upon a library shelf," but it may be of help to others "till a more complicated and valuable piece of workmanship be found to further their research. I shall have an honour to boast. Theirs was to define: hers was to indicate propriety in the use of words.

Opposite: Learn 120+ Common Opposites in English from A-Z - Antonyms List (Part I)

It was not her intent to establish differences in meaning but to indicate the fitness of words for use, often depending on "the place in which they should stand" but sometimes depending on their relative fineness, strength, force, or the like. She makes a distinction between the methods of the definer and the methods of the synonymist by giving, first, two definitions of the word fondness, one from "an eminent logician" and one from Dr. Johnson, and, secondly, by an ideal synonymy in which she reveals the same word's meaning by showing it in use along with similar words.

This was not invariably her method, but it illustrates what in the main she was trying to achieve. I have before me the definition of fondness, given into my hands many years ago by a most eminent logician. Johnson, "is rather the hasty and injudicious attribution of excellence, somewhat beyond the power of attainment, to the object of our affection. Nor can any one allege that her tenderness is ill repaid, while we see him gaze upon her features with that fondness which is capable of creating charms for itself to admire, and listen to her talk with a fervour of admiration scarce due to the most brilliant genius.

For the rest, 'tis my opinion that men love for the most part with warmer passion than women doat least than English women, and with more transitory fondness mingled with that passion. It was in her simpler versions of this method that she developed a formula that has been followed by many of her successors in the discriminated synonymynot always felicitously. We will have opportunity to return to this method later when it becomes an object of attack and will call it for the sake of convenience the Piozzi method. The gentleman who discharges a gaming debt in preference to that of a tradesman, apparently prefers honour to another virtue, justice.

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It seems a fair statement of her aim to say that she was attempting to indicate and establish idiomatic English. However, in determining such English, she had only two tests to apply: the drawing-room usage of her time and her own instinct. To literary use in general she was indifferent. Therefore her judgments are nearly always subjective and sometimes arbitrary.

Moreover, she discounted the great help that discrimination of meanings is to the synonymist. Yet, within those limits, she frequently hit upon an exact meaning of a word in a particular sense and gave it life and color. What she seldom saw was that a word might have more meanings than the one which was illustrated as honor in her example of the tradesman or that a good but narrow instance of use might be taken as idiomatic by her readers as when by implication puzzle suggests a question or problem needing determination and perplex a variety of choices.

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The danger of her work is not in the falsity of the example, for it is usually true or just, but in its inadequacy in suggesting other instances of good use. Yet in her refusal to accept her age's theory of definition and in her approach to a concept of good usage we must recognize an independent spirit.

The time was not ripe for a fully developed conception of the differences between logic and lexicography, yet she was somewhat nearer the present conception than some later and cleverer persons, and she had at least a feeling of lightness in the use of language that suggested, even if it did not consciously approach, the later theory of good usage as a test of such lightness.

Besides, her book has an engaging quality, often lacking in books of this character, which is not necessarily a sign of the levity with which critics have charged this book, but rather of a spirited challenge to the ideals of a hidebound age. On its title page and in its preface the editor explicitly offers his work as derived from The Dictionary of Samuel Johnson.


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Perry was the compiler of the better known Royal Standard English Dictionary brought out in England in and in America in The Synonymous Dictionary, as we will call the book, evidently did not achieve the fame or popularity of the Royal Standard. Chauncey Goodrich, Noah Webster's son-in-law, referred to it in in his preface to the royal octavo volume of Webster as "entirely out of print. On its title page it is described as "an attempt to Synonymise his [Johnson's] Folio Dictionary of the English Language.

Johnson], we have superadded two exclusive advantages to our publication; the oneas a synonymous, the otheras a pronouncing nomenclature. The former is new and unique. Piozzi's British Synonymy. Yet there is no indication of knowledge of that work or of the work of Girard; in fact, Perry recognized no predecessor save Johnson.

From Johnson, by explicit credit, he extracted his vocabulary and his explanations of meanings.

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Not so openly, however, did he extract the synonyms themselves: for example, his entry good is followed by Johnson's definition of sense 1, but the synonyms are taken from all of Johnson's succeeding twenty-nine senses. Nor does he provide many citations, and these are chiefly in entries at the end of the book; elsewhere, at the end of an entry or in parentheses, he cites the authors Johnson quoted but not the passages.

In addition he adopted an original method of presenting his material. There were two types of entries, one in lowercase and one in capitals. The latter, which he called "radicals," were followed by an exhaustive list; the former were succeeded by a much shorter list, but one word was printed in small capitals to indicate it was the radical. There are two things to notice here that are important. Perry was not merely greatly extending the traditional definition of synonym as one of two or more words of identical meaning or of apparently identical meaning and broadening it to include a group of words which have resemblances in meaning, but was doing so in what seems to be a misunderstanding of Dr.

Johnson's purposes in adding such words to his definitions and in ignorance of what he supplied as a corrective. The fact. To interpret a language by itself is very difficult; many words cannot be explained by synonimes, because the idea signified by them has not more than one appellation; nor by paraphrase, because simple ideas cannot be described. That was the difficulty.

Synonyms would not perfectly satisfy the need either when the word defined had many meanings or when the word defining had more significations than the one intended, for in either case one must be too broad and the other too narrow.

Much more than documents.

Then, too, "simple ideas" really those involved in simple words such as be, do, act were beyond definition, as Johnson saw it. The rigour of interpretative lexicography requires that the explanation, and the word explained, should be always reciprocal; this I have always endeavoured but could not always attain. Words are seldom exactly synonimous ; a new term was not introduced, but because the former was thought inadequate : names, therefore, have often many ideas, but few ideas have many names. It was then necessary to use the proximate word, for the deficiency of single terms can very seldom be supplied by circumlocution.


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  • So Johnson wrote and so Perry quotes in his preface. But instead of continuing Johnson's statement to its end, Perry broke off with "circumlocution," thereby giving the reader some reason to infer that Johnson thought the method of definition by synonym preferable to that of definition by paraphrase. He had failed to notice or possibly had deliberately ignored that this was not in any sense Johnson's meaning, that both methods were faulty, but that there was a remedy for the imperfections of each.

    Johnson's addition to this last sentence, "nor is the inconvenience great of such mutilated interpretations, because the sense may easily be collected entire from the examples," makes that point clear. Perry may have been obtuse rather than disingenuous when, for the most part, he omits the examples citations of Johnson and enters synonyms, which are not, in Johnson's language, "exactly synonymous" but only "proximate words.

    Johnson meant, though his explanation is by no means clear:. Johnson's authority for their selection and disposition as explanatory of their meaning. Johnson's example, great as was its authority and prestige at that time, was an unstable prop when his statements were misunderstood. Perry perhaps indirectly rendered a service by raising the issue as to whether the term "synonym" needed redefinition, since it was being broadened in its extension: he may also have done a service in showing to others the values implicit in word-finding lists.


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    • But he did not see that he had raised those issues, and what purports to be a dictionary succeeds chiefly in being a word finder. Between and the latter the date of publication of Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases several works on synonyms appeared. Some were of the word-finding list type, and among these there was nothing of particular importance. On the other hand, there were as many as five works discriminating synonyms of which at least four stand out for one reason or another: English Synonymes Discriminated by William Taylor , English Synonymes Explained by George Crabb , English Synonyms Classified and Explained by George F.

      Both Crabb's and Whately's books are still influential and have been reprinted in recent years.

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      William Taylor , the author of the first of these books, is better known as the translator of Burger's Lenore, Lessing's Nathan the Wise, and Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris and as one of the leading promoters of knowledge of contemporary German literature during the romantic era. His English Synonymes Discriminated is the result of his studies in German, French, Italian, and other languages and of his conviction that no English work the equal of certain foreign treatises on synonyms had as yet been written. The work is, as a whole, uneven, but a few articles in it are not only better than any others written up to that time but the equal of any that were to be written for over ninety years.

      A favorite theory of his was that if one is thoroughly grounded in the original meaning of a term, one "can never be at a loss how to employ it in metaphor. They formed not an invariable part of his discrimination but a very useful part when they were needed. Usually, also, he knew when his etymology was grounded on fact and when it was merely hypothetical. His method at its best is exemplified in the article covering austere, severe, and rigid, which we give here in abridged form :.

      Introduction Austerity says Blair relates to the manner of living : severity, of thinking, rigour, of punishing. To austerity is opposed effeminacy; to severity, relaxation; to rigour, clemency.