The Describer's Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms and Literary Quotations

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W. W. Norton & Company, Aug 1, 1995 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 416 pages
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Ever found yourself grasping in vain for that ideal descriptive word lost somewhere within the misty recesses of your vocabulary? Or felt frustrated that an oddly shaped structure or pretty setting you wished to portray in writing didn't quite translate clearly to paper? If you've ever stalled trying to depict the look of an object or animal or the looks of a particular person, The Describer's Dictionary is exactly the book you need. Open it, and you have not only just the right words but - bringing them to life - stellar literary examples of descriptive writing as well. The Dictionary concerns itself with the observable, from discrete shapes and patterns to buildings, terrain, furry and unfurry creatures, and human beings. "Referably" organized, the book uses a handy reverse, definition-to-term format that makes it easy for you to zero in on the term or terms you're seeking. For example, for a word that denotes an object's proper or harmonious dimensions, flip to the "Shapes" category and there you'll find "proportional", "proportionate", "commensurate", and "eurythmic". In some instances, where meanings are self-evident, simple listings of apt words are provided. As an inspiration to any writer - showing how it's done by the best - hundreds of colorful and evocative descriptive passages appear on facing pages, making this a singularly and richly different kind of reference book. The quotations are first-rate examples of how the book's terminology can be used. The excerpts are drawn from the best American and British novelists, naturalists, and other nonfiction writers, from Dickens to Updike, from Darwin to McPhee. The Describer's Dictionary - uniquely focused on the physical and freeof the categorical and multiple-meaning confusions of a thesaurus - is a must for anyone wanting to have at hand just the right words to describe exactly what is being observed or depicted. Within these covers you will find the answers to such questions as: What is the adjective for something shaped like a keyhole? How many words are there that mean silvery white in color? What do you call a treeless plain, or a lake situated in a mountain basin? What features of an animal are important to keep in mind in describing it? What is a woman's conical coil of hair worn at the back of the neck called? The craft of description lives not only in great literature but in conversation, journalism, and personal letters written every day. For help in painting pictures with the English language, The Describer's Dictionary is one of the most indispensable reference tools you could own.
 

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The describer's dictionary: a treasury of terms and literary quotations

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Having previously assisted wordsmiths with his Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers ( LJ 11/1/90), Grambs now focuses his attention on precision of description. His new work boasts more ... Read full review

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As one of those writers who built an entire room onto her house to store all the books with scribbles in the margins, post-it notes, bookmarks, and dog-eared books marking my favorite passages, when the time comes to edit my -own- works, it can be very time consuming (and so much more fun than eradicating adverbs) to sit down in the library and reintroduce myself to my old friends, searching for just the right inspiration to spice up that clunky character description or scene. This book collects many of the best of those descriptions into a convenient form, broken into general categories of description, as well as a thesaurus type listing of many less-used descriptive words. It was what I wanted after reading the reviews, and I am very happy with this concise collection which will give inspiration without making me forget I need to be editing, and not re-reading Atlas Shrugged.  

Contents

Preface
13
About the Books Terminology
21
Things
28
Patterns and Edges
85
Surfaces and Textures
100
Size Position Relation
115
Common Emblems and Symbols
137
Light and Colors
144
Types of Organisms 27 9
279
Necks 389
292
Zoological Technical Terminology
295
People
316
Heads
333
Eyes
353
Skin Coloring and Complexion
369
Air or Manner 3 9 1
393

Buildings and Dwellings
165
Terrain and Landscape
208
Climate
248
Animals
259
Looks with the Eyes or Tacit
403
Dress and General Appearance
409
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

David Grambs has worked as a lexicographer, editor, travel reporter, and translator. He is the author of five other books pertaining to the English language, including The Endangered English Dictionary, and is coauthor of So You Think You Can Spell? with Ellen S. Levine.

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