Thursday, March 12, 2009


It’s time for another episode of Thesaurus Thursday. As today’s contestant, we have Ernest Hemingway and THE SUN ALSO RISES. I’ve a paperback copy, and the back of it says, “Ernest Hemingway did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer in the twentieth century. <…> Hemingway wrote in short, declarative sentences, and was known for his tough, terse prose.”

So, you’d expect a short sentence for today, right? Not so much. I read this book the last time I went to Spain which has been 5+ years ago so my memory of it is somewhat sketchy. That caveat aside, I’ve turned to the opening of Chapter 4 wherein Jake is drunk in Paris and has just gotten into a cab with Brett (an attractive female). They tell the cabbie to get away from the dancing club and drive around. Here’s our sentence:

The street was torn up and men were working on the car tracks by the light of acetylene flares.

First, in case you don’t know here’s definition of acetylene:
A colorless gas, C2H2, having an etherlike odor, produced usually by the action of water on calcium carbide or by pyrolysis of natural gas: used esp. in metal cutting and welding, as an illuminant, and in organic synthesis.

Let’s break out the thesaurus for some grins and see how different we can make Hemingway’s sentence sound. Here’s my try:

Glaring torches revealed zombie like workers clanging away at rehabilitating the doleful street.

Go ahead, Frankenstein. You’re turn. Create. You can do better than doleful, rehabilitating zombies, right?


  1. I see men toiling in the blue flame, moving chunks of the shattered pavement.

    How's that for a first person, present tense version?

  2. Sounds just like Hemingway, PJ. I think he'd like to use the words "chunks" and "toiling."