Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

and then proceed to consider those qualities of speech which are peculiarly oratorical.

It was also observed before *, that the art of the logician is universal, the art of the grammarian particular. By consequence, my present subject being language, it is necessary to make choice of some particular tongue, to which the observations to be made will be adaptcd, and from which the illustrations to be produced, will be taken. Let English be that tongue. This is a preference to which it is surely entitled from those who write in it. Pure English then, implies three things ; first, that the words be English ; secondly, that their construction, under which, in our tongue, arrangement also is comprehended, be in the English idiom; thirdly, that the words and phrases be employed to express the precise meaning which custom hath affixed to them.

FROM the definition now given, it will be evident on reflection, that this is one of those qualities, of which, though the want exposes a writer to much censure, the poffeffion hardly entitles him to any praise. The trụth is, it is • Book I. Chap. iv,

a kind of negative quality, as the name imports, confifting more in an exemption from certain blemishes, than in the acquisition of any excellence. It holds the same place among the virtues of elocution, that justice holds among the moral virtues. The more necessary each is, and the more blamable the transgression is, the less merit has the observance. Grace and energy, on the contrary, are like generosity and public fpirit. To be deficient in these virtues, is not treated as criminal; but to be eminent for the practice of them, is accounted meritorious. As, therefore, in what regards the laws of purity, the violation is much more conspicuous than the observance, I am under the disagreeable necessity of taking my illustrations on this article, solely from the former,

IIOIC

Purity, it was said, implies three things. Accordingly, in three different ways it may be injured. First, the words used may not be English. This fault hath received from grammarians the denomination of barbarism. Secondly, the construction of the sentence may not be in the English idiom. This hath gotten the name of folecism. Thirdly, the words and phrases may not be employed to express the precise meaning which custom hath affixed to them. This is termed impropriety *.

SECTION 1. .

The Barbarism. The reproach of barbarism may be incurred by three different ways; by the use of words entirely obsolete, by the use of words entirely new, or by new formations and compositions, from fimple and primitive words in present use."

SETE

PART I. By the use of obsolete words. OBSOLETE words, though they once were English, are not so now; though they were both proper and expressive in the days of our forefathers, are become as ftrange to our ears, as many parts of their garb would be to our eyes. And if so, such words have no more title than foreign words, to be introduced at present; for though they are not so totally unknown as to occasion obscurity, a fault which I shall consider afterwards, their appearance is so unusual, and their form is fo antiquated, that, if not perfectly ridiculous, they at least suggest the notion of

• Quintilian hath suggested this diftribution. Inftit. lib. i. cap. 5. Deprehendat quæ barbara, quæ impropria, quæ contra legem loquendi composica.

fiffness Hiffness and affectation. We ought, therefore, not only to avoid words, that are no longer understood by any but critics and antiquarians, fuch as hight, cleped, uneath, erst, whilom; we must also, when writing in profe, and on serious subjects, renounce the aid of those terms, which, though not unintelligible, all writers of any name have now ceased to use. Such are behest, fantasy, tribulation, erewhile, whenas, peradventure, selfJame, anon. All these offend more or less against the third criterion of good use formerly given", that it be such as obtains at present. fpecies of writing is not strictly subjected to the laws of purity.

SOM E indulgence, however, on this, as well as on several other articles, as was hinted a must be given to poets, on many accounts; and particularly on account of the peculiar inconvepiences to which the laws of versification subject them. Befides, in treating some topics, passages of ancient story, for example, there may be found sometimes a suitableness in the introduction of old words. In certain kinds of style, when used sparingly and with judgment, they serve to add the venerable air of antiquity to the narrative. In burlesque also, they often produce a good effect. But it is admitted on all sides, that this

[blocks in formation]

PART II. By the use of new words. ANOTHER tribe of barbarisms much more numerous, is constituted by new words. Here indeed the hazard is more imminent, as the tendency to this extreme is more prevalent. Nay, our language is in greater danger of being overwhelmed by an inundation of foreign words, than of any other species of destruction. There is, doubtless, some excuse for borrowing the affiftance of neighbours, when their assistance is really wanted ; that is, when we cannot do our bufiness without it; but there is certainly a meanness in choosing to be indebted to others, for what we can easily be supplied with out of our own stock. When words are introduced by any writer, from a sort of necessity, in order to avoid tedious and languid circumlocutions, there is reason to believe they will soon be adopted by others convinced of the necessity, and will at length be naturalised by the public. But it were to be withed, that the public would ever reject those which are obtruded on it merely through a licentious affectation of novelty. And of this kind certainly are most of the words and phrases which

« EdellinenJatka »