Looking for the Best Word? Tip #30

Red Nose symbol courtesy of BBC

Something a little different this week. A small insight into the British psyche and an exploration of a two-word phrase instead of a single word.

There’s help here for writers trying to make their work more accessible, interesting, varied, accurate and effective by exploring similar and dissimilar words. The series also gives language learners insights into some peculiarities of the English language.

A good thesaurus provides alternatives for the idea of a word, but not all those are true synonyms. Context matters. Placing synonyms into a sentence to see if they make sense is one way of checking suitability. But it’s not foolproof, so a good dictionary is also essential.

My chosen dictionary is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I use the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. But I also have the WordWeb app installed for those occasions when the apposite word evades me and I’m in a hurry.

However, I’ve also now downloaded a Kindle book to my Mac so I can consult it whilst editing my fiction books. It’s a new work, ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ by Kathy Steinemann. You’ll find my review of this great book if you click this link.

the writers lexicon

I generally try to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first, though: it’s good mental exercise. Other books of words, which I consult when an appropriate term eludes me, live on the reference shelves behind me.

So, to this week’s word: red nose.

The phrase, ‘red nose’ has a couple of uses. It can be a description of someone who has imbibed a little too much alcohol. But it can also be used for a clown. And, of course, it has the cold weather connotation in connection to ‘Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, a popular Christmas song. You need to be careful how you use it!

‘Syd loved his beer, as was often shown by the red nose he exhibited when leaving the pub.’

‘The much-loved comedian, Sir Lenny Henry, will be one of several hosting tonight’s extravaganza on BBC TV, ‘Red Nose Day’, also known as ‘Comic Relief’, a show that raises money for charitable causes.’

The red nose was chosen as a symbol of comedy as clowns have traditionally worn large red noses for their performances.

The Brits are a generous lot. This show, a bi-annual event, is performed by artists who give their time freely and help raise £millions for good causes. Last time, 2015, the show raised an incredible £99,418,831, which means that, over the 30 years the show has been running, it’s raised more than £1 billion!

You can find details of the broadcast by clicking this link.

For language learners, there’s a great group page on Facebook, which you can find through this link.

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