There are people I love, and things that I value, but why would I talk about “a treasure I have”? Today’s prompt conjures images of Gollum – “my treasure, my preciousssssss…” – images of bragging in some seedy pub and begging for pirates to show up with shovels to dig holes in my lawn.
But one treasure that is sometimes hidden, sometimes buried, and impossible to steal is my imagination and love of wordplay. Did you know that the word “thesaurus” comes from Latin and Greek words meaning a treasury of words?
thesaurus (n.) 1823, “treasury, storehouse,” from Latin thesaurus “treasury, a hoard, a treasure, something laid up,” figuratively “repository, collection,” from Greek thesauros “a treasure, treasury, storehouse, chest,” related to tithenai “to put, to place,” from reduplicated form of PIE root *dhe- “to set, put.” The meaning “encyclopedia filled with information” is from 1840, but existed earlier as thesaurarie (1590s), used as a title by early dictionary compilers, on the notion of thesaurus verborum “a treasury of words.” Meaning “collection of words arranged according to sense” is first attested 1852 in Roget’s title. Thesaurer is attested in Middle English for “treasurer” and thesaur “treasure” was in use 15c.-16c.
“Thesaurus.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed July 7, 2017. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=thesaurus&allowed_in_frame=0.
My parents would never just give me a straight answer to questions like, “What does eleemosynary mean?” or “How do you spell broccoli?” They would point to the unabridged dictionary on its stand, saying, “We never guess; we look it up.” For a brief time, that threatened to squelch my curiosity, not encourage it. But in the end, that treasure trove of tempting words beckoned, and I, grudgingly curious, trundled across the room to look it up. Not only did I acquire a head full of words, I learned to do my own research – digging into the treasury before my parents could point and send me there. A new dictionary rests, open, on that stand today. And my kids know how to use it, before I have a chance to say, “We never guess, we look it up.”
That’s a treasure that lasts.
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