Growing up in a Bengali household in Kolkata, speaking ‘fluent’ English was a dream for many that only some got to live. The ones who did were constantly asked by family, neighbours, and distant relatives to carry the Oxford Dictionary around at all times. “Learn one word every day from the dictionary,” was the guideline.
While the dictionary may have increased your vocabulary count, what you really needed in life was a thesaurus. Unless you’re Gen Z. We’ve evolved from writing love letters and sonnets for our beloved to sending three heart-eye emojis in a row and calling it a day. Hashtag dunzo.
But for the more literature inclined, and for the occasional trawler of Twitter, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s English is what sets the benchmark for many Indians. The complex-sounding words that are difficult to pronounce have to be Googled if you are to understand the meaning. Or, as those relatives would say: check the Oxford dictionary.
Tharoor’s new book, The Tharoorosaurus, is written in the style of a thesaurus and addresses just that – there is a word to make all your simple words sound complex, and thus, in turn, more eloquent.
Imagine if instead of saying, “Issa whole mess,” you could say, “It was such a kerfuffle.”
Comprising of 52 words and “one for every week” as Tharoor puts it, the book takes you through A-Z and you emerge having learned more words to use during arguments instead of saying, “Not cool.” And to sound cool on the Internet.
Starting with ‘Agathokakological’, the book itself has words which mean just this: a mixture of good and evil. Or in Gen-Z terms, this overlaps with our meaning of ‘chaotic good.’
The book also use ‘Aptagrams’ (Which itself is another definition in the book) and explains “an anagram that incorporates the meaning of a word.” Remember the ‘real eyes, realize, real lies,’ image you kept sharing as a 13-year-old? That’s it, basically.
But if you’re not Gen-Z and don’t really get the references, Tharoor basically explains every single word in simple language, with meaning, background and how to use it in a sentence, alongside a perfect example of how you should be using it.
For example, ‘Claque,’ which means ‘a group of people hired to applaud,’ is different from what we today know as stan and fanboys, and Tharoor’s explanation of the word explains exactly why that is.
Reading the thesaurus you may just learn a lot more than words to sound cooler but things which genuinely make you pause and go, ‘It really do be like that,’ like ‘Cwtch’ which means a hug, but a more intimate hug, the kind you gotta give your best-friend after she has a bad day.
We also learnt that they’re an actual, legitimate, much cooler sounding word to ‘yeet’ : ‘Defenestrate,’ which means “literally, to throw out of the window; metaphorically, to jettison,” so you know its the exact same word as ‘yeet.’
Even words like ‘Quarantine,’ and ‘Curfew’ make the cut, which we’re all slowly learning to adjust to in our new normal. While the generational divide in increasing characters and decreasing vowel count has changed from the 90’s to today, Tharoor’s book breaches the gap one word at a time, in a sense crossing over from one generation to another, and still having the same impact Boomers reading it will feel.
The Tharoorosaurus is definitely not an exercise in ‘Floccinaucinihilipilification’, and is a must-read for people with ‘Epistemophilia’ and for ‘Opsimaths’. (And especially if you suffer from ‘Lethologica’ you’d now have a much cooler backup word to use.)