After writing about discovering the magic of Roget’s Thesaurus, I started getting really interested in what reference books writers keep near their desk.
What I did not anticipate is this photo of Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford with his MacBook and a big stack of reference books:
- Slang and Euphemism: A Dictionary of Oaths, Curses, Insults, Sexual Slang and Metaphor, Racial Slurs, Drug Talk, Homosexual Lingo, and Related Matters (ed. Richard Spears)
- The Highly Selective Thesaurus For The Extraordinarily Literate (Eugene Ehrlich)
- Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
- Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage
- Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs
- War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases since the Civil War by Paul Dickson
- 2000 Most Challenging and Obscure Words
- Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus
From his Fresh Air interview:
I love the English language. My favorite book is a thesaurus, you know. I’m constantly looking to find words and language that some bands would maybe hesitate to use or they’re not able to because of the arena that they work in.
In his memoir, Confess, Halford writes about Roget’s Thesaurus being “worth its weight in gold!” and bringing it into the studio with him:
When I wasn’t recording vocals, I was low-profile in the studio and usually sitting on my own in the corner, studying hard from a book. Roger was obviously curious, and after a few days he wandered over to have a word with me.
“You’re very engrossed in that book, Rob,” he noted. “Is it a… Bible?”
“Hardly!” I laughed, showing him the book. “It’s Roget’s Thesaurus!” Roger looked pretty relieved.
Mr. Roget and I were coming up trumps. I have always been keen to widen my songwriting vocabulary and still have that same tome today.
He writes more in Biblical:
I have a book that is very dear to my heart. It’s forty-five years old, but it’s in extremely good nick for its age. Published in 1977, it’s my well-thumbed copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, and it has helped me to write the lyrics for every single Judas Priest album from Sin After Sin onward.
What you need to write a hit, Halford says, is “paper, pencil and a good Thesaurus.”
Hell yeah! (Big thanks to my pal Julien.)