I saw this some time ago (I’m not sure if this was the original post or someone copying it from elsewhere) and I really liked it. It can be really easy to forget the importance of choosing the perfect word rather than one that does the job. Languages with extensive lists of descriptive words that are similar but actually quite different are one of the reasons literature is so powerful, or at least that’s my hypothesis. English is a fantastic language which has been aided for centuries by Britain’s mish mash of culture and habit of re-appropriating other cultures.
The value of having an immense language that enables a person to verbalise their thoughts is something that is touched upon in 1984 by George Orwell.
‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.’
If you aren’t familiar with the novel it doesn’t matter all that much because I hope that the sentiment speaks for itself. Real thought can only be possible with language to express it. Even without uttering an idea in your mind you have thought it out in language. Although I will also agree that sometimes you have an idea that is very hard to express, but perhaps it is this thinking that forces us to continually add the to a language.
Even when looking at my own writing I can clearly find the value of choosing the right word (not trying to toot my own horn here). These are choices that I make subconsciously very often, I never sit down and think about all the possible synonyms before choosing the right word. But when I look at possible synonyms I know I made the right choice for me.
‘Vines hung effortlessly, flowers had bloomed incessantly and trees had sprung up everywhere.’
I could have said ‘Vines hung easily’ or ‘Vines hung calmly’ but that just wouldn’t have been quite right. Similarly I could have said ‘flowers had bloomed steadily’ or ‘flowers had bloomed regularly’ but I’m not so sure that would have gotten the same idea across.
It’s also worth pointing out that I have noticed British people are incredibly sarcastic. They almost expect sarcasm and sometimes struggle to say a simple sentence without sounding sarcastic. It really makes communication purely through written text quite tricky and requires the use of emojis. This is where synonyms can come to the rescue but it can still be tricky you have to hit the perfect tone, too subtle and it’s a not very enthusiastic possible white lie, too overt and it’s clearly sarcasm. For example:
Person 1: What do you think of this?
Person 2: It’s nice. (This means they probably thinks it’s terrible but this is their attempt at politeness)
or Person 2: It’s spectacular! (This is sarcasm…)
or Person 2: Oh that’s delightful (This may genuinely be a British persons opinion)
So synonyms are not just important for transporting a reader to precisely the location you envisioned, nor are they just important to the advancement of human thinking but they are used as subtle coding in social situations. All considered choosing the right synonyms can be hard but oh so important.
As usual leave a comment or contact me with questions and responses.