I hate those lists. In the wrong hands, they often do more harm than good. And in the right hands, they‘re just sort of useless.
There's one going around I do rather like, because it points out the idiocy of these lists. At the top, it says, 'instead of whispered, consider…' and lists off a whole bunch of words. One of those words is 'insinuated'. And the very first response to that list? 'Aye lil mama, let me insinuate in ya ear.' Now, that sentence sounds utterly ridiculous, because whisper and insinuate do not mean the same thing. Not even close. But these lists are often rife thesaurus copypasta like this that upon closer inspection make very little sense.
Let's take the word 'got' for a moment. It's a fairly flabby word, as words go. But if you plug that into thesaurus.com, you get the following synonyms:
access, accomplish, acquire, annex, attain, bag, bring, bring in, build up, buy into, buy off, buy out, capture, cash in on, chalk up, clean up, clear, come by, compass, cop, draw, earn, educe, effect, elicit, evoke, extort, extract, fetch, gain, get hands on, glean, grab, have, hustle, inherit, land, lock up, make, make a buy, make a killing, net, obtain, parlay, pick up, procure, pull, rack up, realize, reap, receive, score, secure, snag, snap up, snowball, succeed to, take, wangle, win
Man, that's a lot of alternative ways to say 'got.' We'll never have to use that flabby, empty word again!
But let's think about that for a moment. What about, "Tony got a phone call from the headmaster"? You could always rephrase that so the headmaster is the subject, rather than Tony. "The headmaster phoned Tony." We no longer have 'got' in that sentence. But we want Tony to be the subject of this sentence, so that the verb applies to him. "Tony captured a phone call from the headmaster"? No, that's not right. "Tony educed a phone call from the headmaster"? No, I know. It's definitely "Tony accomplished a phone call from the headmaster." He inherited the phone call. He extorted it. Locked it up?
None of those make any real sense. 'Receive' is on that list, would actually work in this context, and sounds better than 'got'. "Tony received a phone call from the headmaster." But for one word that does work, there are literally dozens more that don't.
I don't recall who said it originally, but it's a quote I've used before in another one of these things. Never use a large word where a small word will suffice. If you describe something large as 'infinite,' you no longer have a word to describe something which truly is infinite. On a slightly smaller scale, imagine a character coming across a German shepherd, and describing the dog as enormous. Well, what happens when she later comes across a bull mastiff, or a great Dane? How do you convey a larger size? You've already used enormous to describe the smaller dog, so now you have to think of something even bigger than enormous. Which is a shame, because that word might have better applied to the great Dane.
William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway once had a mild dirt-slinging contest, as writers are sometimes wont. After Faulkner insulted the size and scope of Hemingway's vocabulary, Hemingway responded by asking if Faulkner thought "big emotions come from big words?" To which the answer is no, of course they don't. Your Freshman English teacher might have told you that if you're not making your reader reach for the dictionary, then your writing isn't strong enough. Well, I don't know about you, but if I have to keep reaching for the dictionary, I'm not going to be reading your story for much longer because I don't like having to keep stopping to look things up just to understand what's going on. I'm going to get annoyed and find something else to read that doesn't sound so pretentious.
But this isn't to say that you shouldn't ever use big words. If you know how to use a word correctly, and can insert it into the prose in a way that a reader should be able to reasonably infer the meaning from the context, then use the word. But if you're picking up the thesaurus just to keep from using 'said' all the time, you're only going to wind up with the verbal equivalent of a clown car. And no-one takes clown cars seriously.