Looking for the Best Word? Tip #19

Word cloud via tagul.com

A series offering help for writers to make their work more accessible, interesting, varied, accurate and effective by exploring similar and dissimilar words. Also for language learners.

A good thesaurus gives substitutes for the idea of a word, but not all suggestions are true synonyms. Context is vital. Placing alternative words in the same sentence to see if they actually make sense is one way of checking suitability. But it’s not foolproof, so a good dictionary is essential.

I prefer the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection; it’s always close. And my dictionary of choice is the 2 volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. But I try to dig the best word from my crowded memory first: it’s good mental exercise. Other books of words, which I consult when the appropriate term escapes me, reside on the reference shelf behind me.

By the way, today’s Google search for ‘Writers Help’ brought up 291,000,000 results. One post from this series was 4th in the list and a second was 6th! So, it looks like you’re in good company when you read this post.

So, to this week’s word: Happy

Happy – Roget lists these headers: apt, opportune, comfortable, elegant, willing, good, well-made, concordant, pacificatory, successful, prosperous, happy, pleased, pleasurable, content, cheerful, drunk, paradisiac. Under the sub-heading ‘happy’ are another 35 alternatives, including happy as a pig in muck, joyful, radiant, blissful and last week’s word, merry.

Let’s look at usage.

‘It’s the end of one year in the Gregorian calendar and the start of a new one, so, in the spirit of that season, let me wish all my readers a truly Happy New Year.’

An alternative greeting replaces ‘happy’ with ‘prosperous’, but that carries too many connotations of a material nature, so I prefer to use the more generic ‘happy’ in this wish for all of you.

‘At the New Year party, many of the guests were happy after consuming ample quantities of wine.’

Here, we could substitute ‘drunk’ for ‘happy’, but the two words express different degrees of inebriation. A drunk is definitely the worse for drink, but someone who’s happy from alcohol intake is simply a little ‘tiddly’ or, euphemistically, ‘merry’ due to a little more drink than might be wise.

For a short introduction to this series, please click this link. I welcome your comments and suggestions here. Please use the comments section for your ideas and thoughts.

For language learners, there’s a particularly useful group page on Facebook, which you can access via this link.

I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.

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