Diction and the thesaurus

I am beginning to suspect that using a thesaurus is actually bad for my diction. It seems to prevent me from pulling the right word out of my brain.

As I was typing the previous post about LinkedIn, I was struggling for a word to replace "populations" in the first line. I was thinking of something that probably starts with an "m" and has three or so syllables. Not coming up with it, I went to thesaurus.com and searched for "population". From there I went to "community" and then to "association". The "m" word wasn't in any of the lists. I gave up.

But the interesting thing is that the longer I searched, the more I lost that it's-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue feeling. The feeling that I would recognize the "m" word when I saw it. Reading and processing all those synonyms watered down my own impression of what I wanted to convey. I was trying to connect with a meaning that had formed, but not revealed itself, in the back of my mind. The impostor ideas hid it like a zebra in a herd.

It's entirely possible that "demographic" was the word I was searching for. I no longer know.


I think Panlexicon would serve me better. It's a tag-cloud-based analog to a thesaurus. If the underlying database was an actual thesaurus, so much the better. Though in this case it still hasn't given me the right answer ... and it doesn't recognize the word "demographic".