Mrs. Smith continued

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Dennis Clay

Today we continue with the story about Mrs. Mary Ellen Smith.

“There are several words which mean the same thing, so using one word over and over isn’t necessary,” Mrs. Smith once said in class.

Examples include: The lady was funny. Her humorous talk caused the audience to laugh time and again. She was hilarious.

The words funny, humorous and hilarious are synonyms. It would be boring if the word funny was used three times.

The thesaurus was my favorite reference book after this lesson. It contains lists of words with the same or similar meaning. This allowed me to use different words, as in the paragraph above, in my high school writings.

One day Mrs. Smith pulled me aside. “It is great you are using the thesaurus, but make sure you know the exact meaning of the word you select.”

My words in one paper included conflicting meanings when I didn’t research the meaning of the second word properly. Another lesson learned. Today a thesaurus is used extensively by this writer.

A group of …

Recently a group of outdoor writers were discussing the sighting of seven grizzly bears near Choteau, Montana. Part of the discussion was the word used to describe a group of grizzly bears. None knew the answer.

A check of the internet found the answer to be a sleuth of grizzly bears. However, they may also be called a pack of bears or a maul of bears.

A group of polar bears is called a celebration or an aurora of polar bears.

So how about other groups of animals and birds? A group of crows is a murder, as in a murder of crows. The list continues: owls, parliament; partridges, covey; pelicans, pod; ducks on the water, a raft or a paddling; elk, a herd or a gang; cattle driven in a group, a mob.

The officials have their say: Serious birders or bird watchers say a group of crows, or any other birds, is a flock, not a murder. But this restricts words used in describing birds and animals in the wild. How boring.

Favorite word

My favorite word is gamboling, which means frolicking, hopping, leaping, romping. When baby sheep and other animals are seen jumping around, from the ground to the hay bale to the ground, this is gamboling, as in the lambs were gamboling in the corral or the boys were gamboling in the front yard.


My life wouldn’t have included educating my readers, informing my readers and experiencing the joy of writing if not for the one special teacher. Thank you, Mrs. Smith.

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