street and his small companion demurely trotting by his side."
(From Some Men and Women by B. Lowndes)
The synonyms stroll and trot vividly describe two different styles of walking, the long slow paces of the young man and the gait between a walk and a run of the short-legged child.
In the following extract an irritated producer is talking to an ambitious young actor:
"Think you can play Romeo? Romeo should smile, not grin, walk, not swagger, speak his lines, not mumble them."
Here the second synonym in each pair is quite obviously and intentionally contrasted and opposed to the first: "... smile, not grin." Yet, to grin means more or less the same as to smile, only, perhaps, denoting a broader and a rather foolish smile. In the same way to swagger means "to walk", but to walk in a defiant or insolent manner. Mumbling is also a way of speaking, but of speaking indistinctly or unintelligibly.
Synonyms are one of the language's most important expressive means. The above examples convincingly demonstrate that the principal function of synonyms is to represent the same phenomenon in different aspects, shades and variations.
And here is an example of how a great writer may use synonyms for stylistic purposes. In this extract from Death of a Hero R. Aldington describes a group of survivors painfully retreating after a defeat in battle:
"... The Frontshires [name of battalion] staggered rather than walked down the bumpy trench ... About fifty men, the flotsam of the wrecked battalion,