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How About a Nice 5-Drawer Cherrywood Salt Mines?

02/05/2011

Nobody’s perfect, and even with all the double-checking and triple-checking in the world, when you publish anything there is bound to be an error somewhere. That’s why I really don’t give much thought to it when I repeatedly discover grammar and spelling errors in novels that I read, articles from respectable new agencies, and other “professionally” produced content on the internet.

But sometimes I’ll come across something that it’s hard to believe nobody caught. I can’t decide if I’m missing some key piece of information, or if I found a really amazing mistake. Like the following:

I was using Thesaurus.com to look up synonyms to the word “bureau.” This was the result:

SALT MINES?!? Are they serious? But the more I looked into it, it seems like they are:

BWAHHH?!? It’s never even marked with an asterisk to signal that it’s informal usage. Maybe I’m just displaying my ignorance, but I’ve never heard “work” referred to as “salt mines.” Like “Wow, this is really hard salt mines!” or, “All salt mines, no play makes Jack a dull boy.” At least if you plugged any of the other words in those sentences, they would make sense! But wait there’s more…

I looked up “salt mine” on Dictionary.com (the sister website to Thesaurus.com) and here’s part of the definition:

OK, I can kind of get it, based on that definition… But wait, no I can’t, working at a bureau or office may be boring but that doesn’t make “salt mines” synonymous with bureau or office. And now we’ve got a new synonym, “treadmill.” This is getting ridiculous.

Even though they cite Princeton University and Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, this seems to me to be a case of “One guy said it and, and it got published in a thesaurus somewhere, and now every other thesaurus has to repeat it.”

If I’m wrong, please tell me how. But better yet, show how you would use “salt mines” in a sentence. Like “I have a ‘treadmill’ at the salt mines of Labor and Industries, where I have a corner salt mines, with a view!”

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2 Comments
  1. Debbie permalink

    Actually, it is an old expression, “Well, back to the salt mines”. Meaning, back to work.

    • Brian permalink

      OK, that makes some sense, at least. They still should mark it as informal, or out of date, or something. Because if someone said that to me, I’d be totally confused. When I think of boring work that’s a chore to do, I don’t automatically think of salt mining.

      I mean, to be honest, salt miners get to blow stuff up all day. I’ve seen it on Discovery Channel. How boring could that be? =)

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