Blog Excerpts

To a Thesaurus

Franklin P. Adams, a regular at the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920s and '30s, was a master of comic verse. His best-known work is no doubt "Baseball's Sad Lexicon," an ode to the Chicago Cubs double-play combination of "Tinker to Evers to Chance." The blog Futility Closet brings to our attention another playful ode by Adams that's right up our alley: "To a Thesaurus."

O precious code, volume, tome,
Book, writing, compilation, work,
Attend the while I pen a pome,
A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.

For I would pen, engross, indite,
Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit—yea, even write
An ode, an elegy to bless—

To bless, set store by, celebrate,
Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
Immortalize, laud, praise, extol

Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
Experience, utility—
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
I sing, I chant, I worship thee!

How could I manage, live, exist,
Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
Have place, become, breathe or inhale

Without thy help, recruit, support,
Opitulation, furtherance,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
Favour, sustention, and advance?

Alack! Alack! and well-a-day!
My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.

Though I could keep this up all day,
This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!

— Franklin P. Adams, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920

Adams was no doubt spoofing writers who spent too much time with their noses in Roget's, a frequent source of ridicule that Roget biographer Joshua Kendall told us about (see our interview with Kendall, "Roget's Legacy: Thesaurus as Tool, Thesaurus as Crutch"). But for revealing the unexpected joys of synonymy, this surely deserves a place in the Thesaurus Pantheon alongside Johnny Carson's "Funeral for a Thesaurus Editor" sketch.

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