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phrafes of this fort, as some writers have affected to do, under the ridiculous notion of a familiar and eafy manner, is not to fet off the riches of a language, but to expofe its rags. As such idioms, therefore, err alike against purity, fimplicity, perfpicuity, and elegance, they are entitled to no quarter from the critic. A few of these in the writings of good authors, I shall have occafion to point out, when I come to fpeak of the solecism and the impropriety.
So much for the canons of verbal criticifm, which properly fucceed the characters of good ufe, proposed in the preceding chapter for the detection of the moft flagrant errors in the choice, the construction, and the application of words. The first five of these canons are intended to fuggeft the principles by which our choice ought to be directed, in cases wherein use itself is wavering, and che four last to point out chofe farther improvements which the criticat art, -without exceeding her legal powers, may affift in producing. There are, indeed, who feem difpofed to extend her authority much further. But we ought always to remember, that as the principal mode of improving a language, which He is empowered to employ, is by condemning
and exploding, there is a confiderable danger, left the carry her improvements this way too far. Our mother-tongue, by being too much impaired, may be impoverished, and so more injured in copiousness and nerves, than all our refinements will ever be able to compensate. For this reason there ought, in support of every sentence of profcription, to be an evident plea from the principles of perfpicuity, elegance, or harmony.
If so, the want of etymology, whatever be the opinion of some grammarians, cannot be reckoned a sufficient ground for the suppression of a fignificant term, which hath come into good use. For my part, I Thould think it as unreasonable to reject, on this account, the assistance of an expressive word, which opportunely offers its service, when perhaps no other could so ex. actly answer my purpose, as to refuse the needful aid of a proper person, because he could give no account of his family or pedigree. Though, what is called cant is generally, not necessarily, nor always, without etymology, it is not this defect, but the baseness of the use which fixeth on it that difgraceful appellation. No absolutę monarch hath it more in his power to nobilitate a person of obscure birth, than it is in the power . ' 5.
of good use to ennoble words of low or dubious extraction ; such, for instance, as have either arisen, nobody knows how, like fib, bunter, ligot, fop, flippant, among the rabble, or like flimsy, sprung from the cant of manufacturers. It is never from an attention to etymology, which would frequently mislead us, but from custom, the only infallible guide in this matter, that the meanings of words in present use must be learnt: And indeed, if the want in question were mate: rial, it would equally affect all those words, no inconfiderable part of our language, whose descent is doubtful or unknown. Besides, in no case can the line of derivation. be traced backwards to infinity. We must always terminate in some words of whose genealogy no account can be given to.
Іт + Dr. Johnson, who, notwithstanding his acknowleiged Yearning, penetration, and ingenuity, appears sometimes, if I may adopt his own expression, “ loft in lexicography,'' hath declared the name punch, which fignifies a certain mixi liquor very well known, a cant word, becaule, being to appearance without etymology, it hath probably arisen from some flly con: ceit among the people. The name sherbet, which fignifies ancther known mixture, he allows to be good, because it is Arabic ; though, for aught we know, its origin among the Arabs, hath been equally ignoble or uncertain. By this way of reckoning, if the word punch, in the sense wherein we use it, should by any accident be imported into Arabia, and come into use
If ought, at the same time, to be observed, that what hath been said on this topic, relates only to such words as bear no diftinguishable traces of the baseness of their source; the case is quite different in regard to those terms, which may be said to proclaim their vile and despis câble origin, and that either by associating disagreeable and unsuitable ideas, as bellytimber, thorowstitch, dumbfound; or by betraying fome fri: volous humour in the formation of them, as transmogrify, bamboozle, topsturvy, pellmell, helterskelter, hurlyburly. These may all find a place in burlesque, but ought never to fhow them felves in any serious performance. A person of no birth, as the phrase is, may be raised to the rank of nobility, and, which is more, may become it ; but nothing can add dignity to that man, or fit him for the company of gentlemen, who bears indelible marks of the clown in his look, gait, and whole behaviour,
there, it would make good Arabic, though it be but cant Eng. lith; as their perbet, though in all likelihood but cant Arabic, makes good Englith This, I own, appears to me very capricious,
IT was remarked formerly *, that though the
grammatical art bears much the fainc relation to the rhetorical, which the art of the mason bears to that of the architect, there is one very memorable difference between the two cases, In architecture it is not necessary that he who designs should execute his own plans; he may therefore be an excellent artist in this way, who has neither till nor practice in mafonry : on the contrary, it is equally incumbent on the orator to design and to execute. He ought therefore to be master of the language which he speaks or writes, and to be capable of adding to grammatic purity, those higher qualities of elocution, which will give grace and energy to his discourse: I propose, then, in the first place, by way of laying the foundation , to confider that purity which he hath in common with the grammarian,
• Chap. II. + Solum quidem et quafi fundamentum oratoris, vides locutionem emendatam et Latinam. Cic. De clar, Orat. The fame holds equally of any language wbich the orator is obliged to use.