The first version of Roget's Thesaurus was written in 1805. Since then over 32 million copies have been printed to inspire writers, students and people who simply love the English language.
It is one of the most successful and loved reference books ever produced.
But no one has ever produced a comprehensive thesaurus of phrases.
That seems like a big omission.
[Follow the project at @phrasehq]
What is a Phrase Thesaurus?
The Phrase Thesaurus will be to phrases what Roget's Thesaurus is to synonyms.
You will be able to type in a single word and get a list of all the related phrases. For example type in 'dog' and you will get back dozens of phrases including:
- it's a dog-eat-dog world
- barking dogs seldom bite
- a dog is man's best friend
- a dog's life
- dog in a manger
- call off the dog's
- dog and pony show
You will also get back related phrases like:
- his bark is worse than his bite
- barking up the wrong tree
- run with the hare and hunt with the hounds
- the mutt's nuts
- barking mad
There are tens of thousands of fun, inspirational and descriptive phrases that will make any prose, copy or conversation sparkle.
Why is a phrase thesaurus important?
Phrases are integral to the way we communicate. They are part of the fabric of our lives. Everyday we come across cliches, catchphrases and idioms...in the news, novels, magazines, on TV and in everyday discussions.
Everyone uses phrases, some for pleasure and others for their work, and the world is a much, much richer place for it.
Phrases make us smile - "a face like a bulldog licking lemon juice off a nettle"; they encapsulate experience and wisdom - "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"; and capture big ideas simply - "catch 22". They help our language evolve - "omni-shambles"; they cross international borders - "je ne sais quoi"; and express what we think in ways that other people remember - "99 percent of bankers give the rest a bad name".
Phrases are like a nice French dressing on a green salad; they take something bland and make it exciting, delicious and more memorable.
And that is why we need to create a thesaurus which brings all of these wonderful phrases together in one place. Once it is created it will be available for generations to come.
What is unique about the phrase thesaurus?
Currently there is nowhere that you can go to find a comprehensive list of phrases.
Of course there are hundreds of reference books like the 'Oxford Dictionary of Idioms' and 'Brewer's Dictionary of Phrases'. There are dozens of websites like Thesaurus .com and UrbanDictionary .com. But there is nowhere that brings idioms, proverbs, catchphrases, cliches, euphemisms, quotes, slang and jargon together in one place.
That is what we want to do.
Tens of thousands of phrases
This will be a unique and very valuable resource for journalists, authors, headline writers, marketers, speech writers, song writers, publishers, PR agencies, students, bloggers, tweeters.... indeed anyone curious about language.
What will the pledged money pay for?
Over the last 10 years I have built a list of over 20,000 phrases.
This needs to be edited by language experts. They will check spellings, meanings, sources and metatags. They will also add new phrases. The website will launch once we have 30,000 phrases ...that means adding another 10,000. Given the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms has just 6,000 phrases and the Oxford Dictionary of Euphemisms has 3,000, building an initial database of 30k is huge and exciting challenge.
We need to build a very clever search engine. It will have to search the database by matching words and, more importantly, by phrase meaning i.e. it will need to do a search for 'hypocrite' and find phrases like "pot calling the kettle black" and "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". It will need to know the difference between taxi and cab, bum and tush, color and colour. It will need to know that goose and geese, thief and thieves, and mouse and mice relate to the the same search words.
Finally we need to build a simple, but beautiful website to make the phrase thesaurus accessible to the world. The design will be driven by clarity and usability.
A team of volunteers and paid experts are ready to go once we raise the money.
How long will it take?
We are confident that we can have a really good phrase thesaurus ready to go by April 2013.
There will be a free website and a premium service. The premium service will be faster, have no ads, allow the user to create lists of favorite phrases, allow users to add and edit phrases, give access to additional resources for writers, have advanced filters to make finding relevant phrases much easier and will have a mobile version for tablets and smartphones. We are also planning to add three more databases over the next year for premium users.
This is your opportunity to help create something really unique and special.
Phrases capture the wisdom, wit and emotions of different generations. They are an integral part of our heritage and culture. They need to be preserved and passed on to our children ... and their children after that.
We want the Phrase Thesaurus to become the most comprehensive resource of its kind in the world and you can be part of its birth and be acknowledged as a founder on a special sponsors page.
Make it happen. Pledge today.
P.S. Please can you tell your friends, neighbours, enemies, pet dog, fellow commuters, state Senator, and any passersby about this project. Thanks :)
P.P.S Follow us on @phrasehq
Music in the video by DJ Chuckie and Junxter Jacks
Risks and challenges
I have overcome the biggest risk, which is gathering enough phrases to give valuable answers to most searches. Seventeen thousand is pretty good, but I want to increase this to 30k. I know where and how to expand the list, and have access to qualified people to help me.
The other risk is writing a search algorithm which can find phrases by their meaning, not just by matching words. No one has achieved this before, but I have a computer scientist from Cambridge University in the UK who is confident that he can make it happen within the deadline. I have worked with him on several other search projects and he has never let me down.
As for me, I have been involved with launching hundreds of websites through a business I co-founded called SubHub.com. I have run two other successful internet start-ups, worked with a venture capitalist company and been involved with online businesses since 1995. Do a Google search on Miles Galliford and you will be able to dip into my past!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)