Chambers sent me an inspection copy of their new Thesaurus last week, and I have spent many enjoyable hours browsing it. I’m not just saying that .... I often reference Chambers Dictionary in this blog (for instance, here and here), and use it a lot myself. It’s not the only dictionary I use – there is no one single dictionary which could be called perfect; they all have their advantages, disadvantages and quirks (and Chambers has more quirks than most, but those are part of its charm).
The same goes for thesauruses – they all have their own style and their own strengths. If I need a synonym of a word I will definitely use the Chambers Thesaurus, but I will also look in my New Oxford Thesaurus of English too (even though it’s not that new now) and Roget. I’ll use all three (and occasionally online thesaurus sites) as they are all different.
Just like its sister dictionary, the Chambers Thesaurus packs in lots of words. It is arranged alphabetically, making it easy to refer to (Roget’s Thesaurus, on the other hand, isn’t alphabetical, words are grouped by theme). Unlike its Oxford counterpart the Chambers Thesaurus doesn’t give example sentences, which means there is lots more space available for words. So, there are headwords in Chambers that don’t appear at all in my Oxford Thesaurus – mealy-mouthed and mind-boggling for two. Jammy is in Oxford but the reader is merely referred to the Lucky entry; in Chambers there are 13 synonyms for Jammy given - and they’re not the same as those listed at Lucky.
Oxford and Chambers give different synonyms for the same word – this is why I always use a range of thesauruses when writing something – so, for example, at the Meadow entry, Chambers has saeter, leasow, haugh and inch, which do not appear in Oxford, and Oxford has bawn, which does not appear in Chambers.
The Chambers Thesaurus, just like the Dictionary, contains a number of Scottish words. It also contains Shakespearean, Spenserian and other obsolete and archaic words, which the Oxford Thesaurus doesn’t. So, at Thunder we have intonate, upthunder and foulder, at Lord (verb) there’s overoffice and at Stupid there’s clay-brained, fatbrained and sodden-witted, as well as the Welsh twp (not archaic).
Most people aren’t ever going to use such archaic words in their essays, articles, blogs, or whatever, but one of the attractions of the Chambers Thesaurus is that it is just a great book to browse (as is Chambers Dictionary with its humorous definitions, see here). One of the features of the new edition of Chambers Thesaurus is a 52-page section entitled The Word Lover’s Gallimaufry (the definition of Gallimaufry in Chambers Dictionary is ‘an inconsistent or absurd medley, a miscellaneous gathering’). Here there are lists of words on all sorts of topics, eg 14 words to sound like an armchair general (including exit strategy, optics, and hybrid threat), 21 words to understand Blinglish (including brethren, innit, and nang), 41 words to sound like an estate agent (including deceptively spacious and fixer-upper), 18 words to understand female culture (including girl geek and guyatus), 34 words to understand male culture (yes – almost double the number! – they include man flu, himbo and moobs), 15 words to sound more elegant (including greensward and nepenthe), 34 words to understand social networking (including oversharing, sofalizing and social notworking) and very many more. No doubt they will be appearing in Virtual Linguist blog posts before long.
There's more on the Chambers Thesaurus on Chambers' own site here.