Thursday, July 1, 2010

Roget, his big list, a bio concisely related (if I do say so)

Roget's last name wasn't Thesaurus, which means treasury or storehouse in Gk. and Latin. He, Peter Mark Roget, was a Huguenot whose family moved to London. His father died, his mother was smothering. Moms!

Roget studied in Edinburgh and became a doctor. Good work. Then he invented a logarithm or something on which the slide rule is based. Smart fellow. Before then he was hired to be teacher to a young man on his grand tour of the continent. The grand tour ended in 1803 when Napoleon started throwing English people in jail. The author Madame de Staël told Roget to skedaddle. An adventure.

The man was shy. He kept word lists. Big surprise. Not bad looking, he was going to marry a lively, pretty woman who was his intellectual equal but opted for a quieter type who was no challenge; to whom he could explain the world. Grrrrrrr. He published his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition late in life. That's about it.

I know the above because I just skimmed through a poorly written, overly long and unexciting biography, concisely related above. I could have been bored because I was reading a book about a man famous for making lists. But no. The writing was mediocre and there was no drama in the narrative. So you don't have to bother with The Man Who Made Lists (as opposed to that far better book {{{not on the same subject but about books of codified words}}} by Simon Wincester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary, though that book's ending is gruesome).

Better to read your Thesaurus.

p.s. Happy July.

The picture is from If, however, you want more background on the slide rule (you might) go here: for The Oughtred Society, dedicated to the preservation and history of slide rules and other calculating instruments.

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