The saurus with a chorus

A chorus of semantically related words — synonyms, antonyms, hyponyms, hypernyms, derivatives — organized in a book by concept. In today’s Zippy strip, such a book literally embodied in a saurus (‘lizard, reptile, dinosaur’) very much resembling a Tyrannosaurus rex. A saurus that Griffy-daddy is cajoled into letting Zippy-boy keep as a pet:

(#1) … so long as he keeps his pet Thesaurus in his room

Not, as it turns out, the first Thesaurus rex joke out there. There’s my 10/7/12 posting “Thesaurus rex” (which I’ll get to in a while, along with a couple of Thesaurus rex books); memic Thesaurus rex t-shirts, mugs, and the like; and even an “Oh crap! It’s a Thesaurus.” sub-meme.

But first, notes on thesaurus and the jokey thesaurus rex.

thesaurus and tyrannosaurus. From my 5/28/19 posting “Why is he calling her his thesaurus?”, about Don Ottavio, singing to Donna Anna, in Mozart’s Don Giovanni: il mio tesoro ‘my treasure, my darling’:

my still sleep-addled brain was puzzling over why Don Ottavio was calling Donna Anna his thesaurus.

Attribute it to an overactive mental-association apparatus connecting It. il tesoro ‘treasure’ (but also ‘darling, honey, dear’) to Engl. thesaurus referring to a specialized type of dictionary (derived ultimately from Greek). In this case, one reproducing a historical connection between It. tesoro ‘darling’ and It. tesoreria ‘thesaurus’, which are, etymologically, second cousins, more or less.

On the etymology: Engl. thesaurus < Latin thēsaurus, from Ancient Greek θησαυρός (thēsaurós ‘storehouse, treasury’); the earlier history of the Greek is unclear.

Meanwhile, the tyrannosaurus of Tyrannosaurus rex is modern Latin < from Greek turann-os ‘tyrant’ + saur-os ‘lizard’. The point is that etymologically there’s no saur– ‘lizard, reptile, dinosaur’ in thesaurus. Thesaurus rex is a joke based on an accidental resemblance.

My 2012 “Thesaurus rex” posting cites the joke in this children’s book:

(#2) [caption:] Follow this mischievous dinosaur as he frolics, rollicks, frisks and romps. Each colorful page introduces simple synonyms and a fun-filled way to build vocabulary and word recognition. (Ages 3 to 7 years)

And in this cartoon:


More along these lines. There are of course other books, like the one below (which seems to be relentlessly educational):

(#4) Thesaurus Rex by Michael Dahl (illustrated by Bradford Kendall), 2006

[publisher’s blurb:] One night, a young student’s thesaurus disappears from her bedroom. A trail of slimy footprints leads to the bedroom window, so she looks outside and sees the thesaurus down below in the grass. Then, suddenly, a colossal monster unfolds itself from the pages of the thesaurus like an origami creation gone terribly wrong. Soon, it towers above the family’s house, constantly changing its form and sprouting a new weapon with each transformation! Who could possibly defeat this shape-shifting monster made of synonyms? This reading experience is complete with non-fiction back matter, including discussion questions, writing prompts, and glossaries, these mysteries are as educational as they are enthralling.

And then there are lines of memic merchandise. Just one example, this mug (available from a number of sellers):


And finally, a very specific cartoon meme, which I’ll call Oh, Crap!, whose ultimate source is probably not discoverable. The Oh, Crap! text seems to be fixed, but I’ve seen it with two different Stone Age images; both versions have been passed around a great many times.



(I note that, as in #1, sometimes the Thesaurus rexes are depicted wearing glasses, as you might expect with anyone who reads a great deal.)

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