Man of Many Words

Roget

Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), scientific writer, lecturer, and author of the Thesaurus, a project that he did not even begin to pursue seriously until his 70s. That ought to encourage the rest of us slowpokes. Roget was a lifelong and compulsive list-maker, a practice that apparently comforted him and helped sustain him through the terrible depressions that plagued him and his extended family, although he suffered tragedy enough throughout his life to justify serious despair. I love my Thesaurus and was inspired by this birthday to get on the library waiting list (speaking of lists) for a recent biography of Roget, Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists. Among Roget’s many other admirers is J.M. Barrie:

“The night nursery of the Darling family, which is the scene of our opening Act, is at the top of a rather depressed street in Bloomsbury. We have a right to place it where we will, and the reason Bloomsbury is chosen is that Mr. Roget once lived there. So did we in days when his Thesaurus was our only companion in London; and we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment. The Darlings therefore lived in Bloomsbury.” —Introduction to Act I of Peter Pan

Natsukashii: A Japanese word used to express the feeling described above. It is not yet in the Thesaurus.

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3 Responses to “Man of Many Words”

  1. Ellen Symons says:

    Natsukashii: I have been looking for this word all my life.

  2. Sheila says:

    I am so glad you found it at last.
    I wonder how many other words we haven’t yet found! in Arabic… Swahili… Hindustani…

  3. Ellen Symons says:

    My working title for one manuscript has been the very heavy-handed Elegy for an Ocean Planet. Now I have a new working title: Natsukashii.

    My life seems too short to learn all the languages that tempt me: i.e., all the languages!