The reader's almanac; 11
It's time for the readers all men to act with one by our originally broadcast over station WNYC in New York and distributed by national educational radio. The readers Allman act is America's oldest consecutive book program. Here now is Mr. Bauer. This program may be one devoted to dealing with books for reading novels poetry significant nonfiction. But since it is above all a book program I am certain that a recently published book from Funk and Wagnalls one called Modern Guide to synonyms would be a matter of interest to a great many. There are of course some people who are readers of the dictionary who get pleasure and much information out of such perusal. But have a guide to synonyms in their discriminating use it is even more true that it can't be read since each separate entry under the heading of a broad and general term along with mention in discussion of from four five to eight or nine synonyms. Here's a brief essay by itself readable and informative.
Basically the book is a reference work of course and belongs on a writing table perhaps or on an easily available shelf. My guest today is Professor S.I. Hayakawa who was a general editor of the volume supervisor of all the activity which was expanded on its preparation and head of the publisher's staff which produced the book. He was of course extremely well known. Anybody who knows him can use the words lexicographer or semantics is familiar with the name Cobb. But for those who may not be let me say the professor who is the author of a widely used text called Language in action. And another called language in thought and action. He has been the editor of itI see the Journal of the society of general semantics since 1043. As it seems to me an extraordinary service and record. Is also an active lecturer and conductor of seminars on semantics and such matters as the relationship between psychology sociology and languages. He was born
in Vancouver British Columbia and received his university training at the University of Manitoba. Then a big guild and Wisconsin. He began his teaching career at Wisconsin and. Proceeded to the Illinois Institute of Technology University of Chicago. And he is now and has been for some years in the altogether prestigious San Francisco State College where he has been professor of English since 1955. Does your home have a car but I would assume you have been in love with language perhaps to a greater degree than anyone I can think of except perhaps a poet. Perhaps like Robert Graves and many another. Especially I suspect that you have a special regard for the English language although I'm sure you know many another language among those spoken on the earth face. If this be true as I'm sure it is would you give us some reasons why you would love the English language. Now that you put the question this way let me start. With a little fact
from before I was born. My father was in love with the English language and when he was a young immigrant kid in San Francisco he must've been 18 or 19 or 20. He was already. A. Passionate student of English Language and Literature. In fact I understand it when he was about 19 years old he was translating essays from Ruskin and Carlyle into Japanese and publishing installments in the Japanese language newspapers that. He never particularly urged me to study Japanese. But our house was always full of English classics non-factory Dickens George Eliot and Graham and Paul and so I was just brought up in this. Very literary atmosphere my mother my father never continue his studies and he became a businessman and. And so he didn't devote his life to this but he. It. Started me off I guess. That certainly establishes the atmosphere in which you grew up. I can well understand why you have chosen the English language. How do you watch over the language. What feeling or attitude or perhaps I
may not be have I'm not using quite the right phrase when I say watch over the language but I have the feeling that you do. And I wonder if it's like a parent. Or a bemused and aloof observer or like a jealous lover. Do you ever feel like reproving. The genius of the language if that were possible. Well actually. In many innovations in language I watched him with amusement and pleasure fascinated with the way in which the language grows extends itself metaphorically every new activity from rock n roll music to the young people's interest in psychedelic drugs art you know everything that happens produces an entire vocabulary of its own. Many of it variant on the previous book everyday sometimes using old words with new meanings and in every advancement in science in plastics technology new textiles in atomic energy and so on. All of these produce a proliferation of.
The cab ride I'm always interested in my only interest to them in the language of the underworld. That because you see language it seems to me grows from two places. I would say that on the whole of the middle class tries to be correct and they don't mean very much in the way of language. Whereas the intellectual upper class like to say the scientists the technologists the poets they may make innovations in language out of the special needs of communication and also the infra world this underworld of or underworld is not quite the right word but the the non academically respectable world of thieves gangsters is high school kids you know disc jockeys and so on they produce another language from below so that language is being constantly enrich from above and below at the same time. Now do I ever get reproving about things that happen things that I reprove most of all I think are. Remember miles Hamley at the University of Wisconsin what Miles or Hadley used to call hyper urban
isms. That is not damson part of the of the middle class to be more elegant than they need be and thereby commit certain kinds of errors you see. Yes that kind of error seems to me to be the worst of the North problem their airs of affectation their errors of putting putting on airs you know. Yes not of belief not of the dedication right or they are not her nor her nor not even a vividness of expression Ah yes. Right. Now vividness of expression a desirable even if vulgar if it's rigid enough you know there are certain situations in which that variable Garrity adds to its vividness and this isn't true of so much explaining the thing that comes from underneath it is almost certain to get it because it's simple and direct for storm zone. Well I believe that you have made the statement that English has the largest vocabulary and hence the most synonyms of any language in the world. I know that there are rich resources in the language which may be assumed to have been caught and held in any Unabridged
Dictionary. But I want you to discuss for a bit how that factors come about. Why is English so rich in words. Well as you know we start out with Anglo-Saxon. And after the Norman Conquest there's enormous infusion into the endless into the English language of the Norman French vocabulary and streams of influence from French are added to the English language basic Anglo-Saxon language as time goes on. And then of course any early Renaissance period would have the enormous interest in Latin and Greek. The period of. Of Oriental language as it's called which. Authors and speakers just like to load up their. Speech in writing with their Latin isms. These are the these are the days in which words like have damaged area meaning we were just told in the language of almost unnecessary really but still they got ear and then of course the English speaking
people. Wanted all of the world. British empire went into India and orient into Africa to the north and north america and then the United States as its independent subculture of the English speaking people had it became an enormous powerful nation of its own. With its own adventures with American Indians and with its own adventures in conquering the West and with its own technology and and so on. So the English language in a way has spread all over the place that is English speaking people have ruled India they've traded in the Orient they've traveled into Africa where every Englishman then or English speaking people have. Fought and traded and travelled. They picked up the carrier and brought it back with them incorporated into the language. Here's an example of the. Modern Guide that I'd like to mention to you. But take a word like a plane. As in Planes as in.
Now. In Australia it's called the Bush years. The other part of the world to the desert outback outback is another Australian term Pampas and that's quite Latin American. I would think so yes. And prairie that's an American term See range as far western term. So Vanna step step tundra these are all plains in one way or another veldt South African term. So these are all ways of saying big broad plains and they all indicate that they come from different countries in the Wal-Marts the world of yes. And instead of leaving the words like Stepan Pappas see in those countries to be to continue to be spoken there we've just absorbed with the English language is as it were. Now it's interesting that English should be so absorbent language it really is fantastically observant you know if you ever go to Hawaii it's amazing to hear in the speech of ordinary English speaking persons from the mainland United States after they've been there for five or ten years enormous hauen vocabulary just
gets incorporated into everyday speech. You ask which way to the bank it's a buy they say five five blocks from here you might have I'm leaning towards the ocean as in yes. I forgot mother's towards the ocean towards the mountains with it. Anyway the Hawaiian terminology just creeps into the language and I just think that this richness puts responsibility on the users of the language and least the discriminating users of the language to pick and choose among these words which are available with accuracy and fineness of choice. And of course that means knowing what those differences are. And which fits an occasion or a need or marks or useful distinction. I think you know in those names that you were given a for planes. It would be possible to use. Every one of them in a slightly different sense or connotation. Yes it would. That's the very idea of this book that we've organized is to help the careful writer pick exactly the term he wants out of it all out of a.
Collection like this Pierce penetrate prick probe stab. These are all pointed to probing into something. And one of them is more appropriate than another in any context. And that puts the responsibility on the individual who is using language to use it wisely and discriminating ways I will try to say a moment ago. Now I want to ask you to give our listeners a rational for this type of a reference work. What is the relation between this guide to synonyms and a general dictionary. Your body leans upon the general dictionary but I could be safe in saying that yes the general dictionary is a very important source of information for us. But the general dictionary doesn't really take the extended time sake make a careful distinction of this kind. Take all these words that mean. Feminine female.
Womanly woman ish ladylike an effeminate period for Act is the last one is the only one of this group it's exclusively used about men and never about women. Yeah I am in essence true addiction I cannot wait to go into all the difference feel womanly and woman here and get all organized in one place so that you can see them all together and then as you see them all together then you can decide exactly for yourself as a speaker or writer which when you want to use in this particular gun thing. I wonder however if this does not represent one mans that is whoever may have written the discussion of the essays in this book. One man's opinion I mean of the likenesses and differences between synonyms and others a great deal of likely like this throughout perhaps but never the less the sensitive man and man sensitive to words is the individual who is writing and discussing these. These synonyms. So when you're talking about meanings and gradations of meaning
or subtle differences between synonyms are you not in a middle ground between one man's opinion and generally recognized or agreed upon difference and tone or suggestion among words close to being actually totally synonymous. I don't quite think so. We have had a staff of something like seven to eight sometimes up to 10 various workers working together on this dictionary and it's amazing how much we agree. That is it isn't quite as subjective as it feels. The difference let's say between exile and back mission deep or expatriate. We seem to compute agreements about about them. I didn't really mean you need. I didn't really mean that there was no difference of opinion or that you all all agreed totally. But it seems to me that the Marseillais say the man sensitive to language is the man who is writing all of
these comments is eating ass rather than the person who would not have quite such a degree of sensitivity to meaning that as a kind of a class judgement that you are rendering an effect. Would you agree to that. I see what you mean. See if I got it C5 understood you correctly that does this not in this book represent the evaluations of perhaps a literary class of people. As opposed to an engineering class or a commercial class of people. A group of people who have made themselves especially since declined as I would think that that's a good way to put it I think is better than mine I readily I think. I think perhaps you're right that the people who did get together on this despite the fact that we have a diversity of trainings still do have this common training in an extremely sensitive language otherwise we wouldn't be working for reactionary because that is what we would like to prevail IDSA to extend itself among the great many speakers and writers.
Well now let me take another tack. Whom do you expect to want to have this book in their libraries or on their shelves. Possibly ready for instant use. Or is it true that this is not a book for instant you wish but for reflection and discussion in the new nation. We live on both I think it's a very wonderful book for instant use and therefore students writing themes or papers for their classes. NEWSPAPER MAN advertising men who have consummated. To write and put out the stories. I think they would find it useful. I mean take a look. If you try to describe a bad man a scoundrel cad he'll. Name a rascal rogue scallawag scam. But do what you want when you have this nice little. The essay that. Carefully distinguishes it will you know when you say when you say the gap and when I say rascal
we give you examples of this. You know it seems to me that is both entertaining to read as essay and also it's very very useful to the writer. And you go over a list like it's a scam. That's just the word I want or in my case a gap that's not quite it to see and so on. Another class of people I think that would enjoy this book very very much if the foreign student of English is someone whose native language or some other language and he would like to know the shades of difference between letters say courage and fortitude and bravery and guts let's say. And how is the native speaker of German or Japanese to know all these distinctions you know. Right off the bat I think this would help him a lot. It is your typical reader I was wondering as I was cogitating over what we might talk about. In the rather indefinite. I suspect that the typical readers are rather indefinite shade that I am raising as you like you to be a
reflective old gentleman with a literary punishment or at least for reading. Who will read these essays for their own sakes or will he turn to it when he has a problem. The user of your book. I would tend to think that the latter would be the more common. Use of this book. I think I like to think of it. At people's desks beside their typewriters along with a dictionary and a book like father's barter and usage and things like that so that I use whacking away at your typewriter and come to a pause then you'd reach for one of these books including things like this guide to synonyms in them. Well now it leads me to another question this is an almost mechanical. Let's say that our writer needs to. Decide upon degrees of badness let us say you know what would help me use the book what would you
turn to when you look up bad. For example First let's try that. Just read just right off the bat. And really what happened look at Baghdad. And. I think it will be bad but there are several meanings of the bat itself as a head word and therefore it will give us in our hands but there's also bad in the sense of mission. Mischievous which is not quite the sense of bad in the sense of Wicked. So let's look at both under thirty three bad is had where'd we get a whole list of. Synonyms for bad. And. Disagreeable distasteful objects in the book. Unpleasant. Now that's. That doesn't mean morally weak it does it. No no. So and then there's the other bad bad in the sense of mischievous 379. Mischievous bad delinquent disobedient mediant naughty and this is the kind of. Bad that you mean when you said about children when you children are bad that's another me.
Another words are enough signs in this book pointing in various directions so that the person who wants to use it for a special purpose at the moment would be able to make use of it. Little bits all these words in just about a minute have indeed yes we define demonstration of this but I must say. How did you temp to establish authenticity or at least the greatest degree possible of agreement on your pronouncements or discussions by choosing your associates I suppose first of all. Yes. Funk and Wagnalls have their own staff with very well-trained staff there and they are supervised by Mr. Sidney unlined who is a very experienced lexicographer indeed and Innes effect the production was in the hands of the staff under the charges that Sidney lined up and I would come into New York from San Francisco two or three times a year to have policy discussions with him and also the most important thing that happened is whenever anything was written the
typescript were sent out to me in San Francisco to read and review and pass upon and then I would send it back and sometimes a given essay would go back and forth two or three times and we were pleased with it. Seeing some of them went right through the first time. But that was the nature of the collaboration Yes and I said I think we ought to do a little more looking into this book. I would like to choose one under the general head of steel. Some very interesting one on page 585. Quite a long series. Quite a long list of the synonyms for this more than you usually use I notice. Yes. Cop filch heist lifts pilfer pinch pro-law and snitch swipe. We didn't put him liberate. That's a new one as a fairy rose that's not new That's the Second World War I was going to say Second World War but I mean by comparison with Yes and some of the is that it's a newcomer by any means. One of the thing that strikes me about this list is that there are probably three what might
be called good quote mean quotes or words and the rest are colloquial. Yes. Of course we're dealing with something here which is antisocial I start with as so that the lower classes would probably furnish most of these words. But it's an interesting twist that's sure. I like to read this to like little explanations we have snitched like pilferer suggest the stealing of a small amount of something a little value. So yes you know that you wouldn't snip something that's of enormous Like thousand dollars no. Snitch often has a humorous or affectionate tone like snitching cookies from the cookie jar. That's right so it's not a very serious act of theft no. Whereas Pearl I would be much more Syrian and highest. Yes that's of the have that are very professional burglar ears and ear pinch I suppose is pretty colloquial and used for more than picking up in a little thing that are most often suggest in fact a direct physical encounter as in a crowded street
between a pickpocket his victim. For example teaching his ragamuffins how to pinch a gentleman's wallet without his noticing. Yes. Well these are certainly words worth knowing and responding to. Is there one more that we might turn to. Embarrassment is nice and our estimates are grim discomposure humiliation mortification shame is so closely related you know that still are so very different and are they not. Embarrassment is at its mildest may refer to merely social uneasiness. Their embarrassment at having to introduce your fiancé or it may refer to a cringing from indelicacy her embarrassment over hearing the coarse talk of the soldiers. This composure is more formal as is restricted to the mildest sense of embarrassment used to suggesting social uneasiness for any reason whatsoever. Greeting his unexpected guest without being able to conceal his
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