Forty-four years. That's how long it took the English Language Department at the University of Glasgow to compile the world's largest thesaurus. Entitled Historical Thesaurus Of The Oxford English Dictionary, this 4,448 page, two-volume tome contains more than 920,000 words and over 300 categories.
The printed version isn't due out until October 2009, so I decided to satiate my curiosity by perusing its somewhat basic but ultimately effective web site. The home page for the Historical Thesaurus of English offers a lexicographical smorgasbord for word lovers of every variety. The book is divided into three major sections: The External World, The Mind, and Society with each section further broken down into a panoply of smaller categories. The interesting and varied taxonomy is sure to produce many librarian "ooh" and "ahh" moments.
The synonym search function is incredibly robust and a heck of a lot of fun. I spent more time than I care to admit looking up synonyms for terms as illustrious as "bogus" (suppository, pasteboard, mock-made ), "smelly" (reechy, stinkardly, puant) and "petulant" (nervy, snouty, effrontuous). What can I say? Not only is the Historical Thesaurus Of The Oxford English Dictionary destined to become a classic in the annals of reference materials, it's also destined by provide hours of good clean semantic fun.