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of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.
and jealousy, courage and resolution, intents and purposer. The frequent recurrence of such phrases is not indeed more repugnant to vivacity than it is to dignity of style.
BUT, is there no occasion on which synonymous words may be used properly 2 I answer, There are two occasions; and I do not at present recollect any other. One is, when an obscurer term, which we cannot avoid employing, on account of some connection with what either precedes or follows, needs to be explained by one that is clearer. The other is, when the language of the passions is exhibited. Passion naturally dwells on its object: the impassioned speaker always attempts to rise in expression; but when that is impracticable, he recurs to repetition and synonymy, and thereby in some measure produces the same. effect. The hearer perceiving him, as it were, overpowered by his subject, and at a loss to find words adequate to the strength of his feelings, is by sympathy carried along with him, and enters into all his sentiments. There is in this case an expression in the very effort shown by recurring to synonymas, which supplies the deficiency in the words themselves. Bolingbroke exclaims in an invective against the times, “But all is little, and low, and mean among us *.” It must be owned, that there is here a kind of amplification, or at least a stronger expression of indigna
* Spirit of Patriotism.
Sect. II. The offences against brevity considered....Part L. Tautology.
tion, than any one of these three epithets could have effected alone; yet there is no climax in the sentence, and in this metaphorical use of the words, no sensible difference of signification +. But every body must perceive that this manner suits only the popular and declamatory style, and that in those compositions which admit no species of the pathetic, it can have no place.
I observe further, that an adjective and its substantive will sometimes include a tautology. This happens when the former expresses nothing but what is implied in the signification of the latter. “Let them,” says the Craftsman, “throw as much foul dirt at me “as they pleasef.” Of the same stamp are, the verdant green, the umbrageous shade, the sylvan forest, expressions not frequently to be met with, except perhaps in the writings of some of our minor poets. First aggressors, standard-pattern, subject-matter, and some few, are much commoner, but deserve to be exploded for the same reason.
LASTLY, in some single words there is so much of the appearance of tautology, that they ought in prose at least to be avoided. Such are, Mort-highest, worrer,
+ In these words of Cicero concerning Catiline, “Abiit, exces“sit, evasit, erupit,” there is a stronger expression of triumph than in any of them singly. f No. 232.
Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.
lesser, chiefest, extremest ; for Mort-high, worse, less, chief, extreme. The first occurs often in the translation of the psalms inserted in the liturgy, and has thence acquired something venerable in its appearance”; the second, though used in Shakespeare's time, is at present obsolete. I know not why the other three have not before now shared the same fate.
ANOTHER trespass against this species of vivacity is the pleonarm, which implies barely superfluity, or more than enough. Here, though the words do not, as in the tautology, repeat the sense, they add nothing to it. For instance, “They returned back again to the “same city from whence they came forth ;” instead of “They returned to the city whence they came.” The five words back, again, fame, from, and forth, are mere expletives. They serve neither for ornament nor for use, and are therefore to be regarded as encum
* It is to this, I think, solely that the approbation of those whose ears are accustomed to that expression in public worship, is to be ascribed, and not, as Dr Lowth supposes, [Introd. Adject.] to a singular propriety from the subject to which it is applied, the Supreme Being, who is higher than the highest. For if this reason were good, we should also find a singular propriety in the phrases most wirest, and most best, when applied to God, because he is as certainly wiser than the wisest, and better than the best. By the same rule, the Supremert Being would be a title much more emphatical than the Supreme Being.
sect. II. The offences against brevity considered....Part II. Pleonasm.
brances. “I went home,” says the Guardian, “full of “a great many serious reflections *;” much better, “full of serious reflections.” “If he happens,” says the Spectator, “to have any leisure upon his hands f.” To what purpose upon his hands & “The everlasting “ club,” says the same author, “treats all other clubs “with an eye of contempt f ;” for “treats all other “ clubs with contempt.” To treat with the eye, is also chargeable with impropriety and vulgarism. “ Flavia, “who is the mamma,” says the Tatler, “ has all the “charms and desires of youth still about her $.” The two last words are at least superfluous.
IN such a phrase as this, “I wrote a letter to you “yesterday,” the French critics would find pleonasm; because it means no more than what is clearly expressed in these words, “I wrote to you yesterday.” Yet in the last form there is an ellipsis of the regimen. of the active verb ; and one would imagine, that the supplying of an ellipsis could never constitute a pleonnasm. It is at least certain, that where the supply is so necessary, as it is here, it is better to follow the usual mode of speaking. But when any additional circumstance requires the insertion of the noun, the nicest judge will not condemn the expression as pleonastic; as, “I wrote you a long letter yesterday.”
* No. 34. + No. 43. f N. 73. § No. 2:6. VoI. II. . Q_
Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.
“This is the third letter I have written you on the “same subject”
It may not be improper here to remark, that every word that is accounted an expletive, doth not always constitute a pleonasm. For example, the do and the did, as the signs of the tenses, are frequently necessary and sometimes emphatical. The idiom of the language renders them for the most part necessary in negation and interrogation; and even in affirmation they are found in certain circumstances to give an emphasis to the expression. For instance, “Did I “object to this measure formerly 2 I do object to it “still.” Or, “What I did publicly affirm then, I do “affirm now, and I will affirm always.” The contrast of the different tenses in these examples, is more precisely marked by such monosyllables as are intended singly to point out that circumstance, than they can be by the bare inflections of the verb. The particle there, when it is not an adverb of place, may be con
It deserves our notice, that on this article, the idiom of the tongue hath great influence, insomuch that an expression in one language may contain a pleonism, which, if literally rendered into another, would express no more than is quite necessary. Thus the phrase in French, “Il lui donna des coups de ra main,” is pleonastic; but there is no pleonism in these words in English, “He gave “him blows with his hand.” On the contrary, “Il lui donna des “coups de main,” is proper in French. “He gave him blows with “hand,” is defective in English. The sense, however, may be expressed in our language with equal propriety and greater brevity in this manner, “He gave him handy blows.”