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used; the other is selfexistence, a favourite word of some metaphysicians, which, if it signify any thing more than what is properly and clearly expressed by independency and eternity, signifies I know not what. In new formations, however, the rule ought to be followed, and not the exceptions. But what shall be said of such monsters, as self practice, bellyjsense, and mirrourwriting? These, indeed, might have been regarded as flowers of rhetoric in the days of Cromwell, when a jargon of this sort was much in vogue, but are extremely unsuitable to the chaster language of the present age.
Again, under this class may be ranked another modern refinement, I mean the alterations that have been made by some late writers on proper names and some other words of foreign extraction, and on their derivatives, on pretence of bringing them nearer, both in pronunciation and in spelling, to the original names, as they appear in the language from which those words were taken. In order to answer this inportant purpose, several terms which have maintained their place in our tongue for many centuries, and which are known to every body, must be expelled, that room may be made for a set of uncouth and barbarous sounds, with which our ears are unacquainted, and to some of which it is impossible for us to adapt our organs, accustomed only to English, as rightly to articulate them.
It has been the invariable custom of all nations, as far as I know; it was particularly the custom of the Grecians and the Romans, when they introduced a foreign name into their language, to make such alterations on it as would facilitate the pronunciation to their own people, and render it more analogous to the other words of their tongue. There is an evident convenience in this practice; but where the harm of it is, I am not able to discover. No more can I divine what good reason can be alleged for proscribing the name Zoroaster, till of late universally adopted by English authors who had occasion to mention that eastern sage, and the same, except in termination, that is used in Greek and Latin classics. Is Zerdusht, which those people would substitute in its place, a more musical word? Or is it of any consequence to us, that it is nearer the Persian original ? Will this sound give us a deeper insight than the other into the character, the philosophy, and the history of the man? On the same principles we are commanded by these refiners to banish Confucius for the sake of Con-ful-cee, and never again, on pain of the charge of gross ignorance, to mention, Mahomet, Mahometan, Mahometism, since Mohamed, Mohammedan, Mohammedism, are ready to supply their room. Mussulman must give place to moslem, hegira to hejra, and alkoran to koran. The dervis too is turned to dirvesh, and the bashaw is transformed into a pacha. 5
But why do our modern reformers stop here? Ought not this reformation, if good for any thing, to be rendered more extensively useful? How much more edifying would holy writ prove to readers of every capacity, if, instead of those vulgar corruptions, Jacob, and Judah, and Moses, and Elijah, we had the satisfaction to find in our Bibles, as some assure us that the words ought to be pronounced, Yagnhakob, and Yehuda, and Moschech, Eliyahu ? Nay, since it seems to be agreed amongst our oriental scholars, that the Hebrew
jod sounds like the Englis y before a vowel, and that their vau is the same with the German w, the word Jehovah ought also to be exploded, that we may henceforth speak of the Deity more reverently and intelligibly by the only authentic name Yehowah. A reform of this kind was indeed for the benefit of the learned, attempted abroad more than two centuries ago, by a kindred genius of those modern English critics, one Pagninus a Dominican friar. In a translation which this man made of the scriptures, into a sort of Monkish gibberish that he called Latin, he hath, in order to satisfy the world of the vast importance and utility of his work, instead of Eve, written Chauva, and for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel given us Jesakiahu, Irmeiahu, Jechezechel. But I know not how it hath happened, that in this he hath had few imitators among men of letters. Probably upon the trial, people have discovered that they were just as much edified by the old names as by the new.
Again, why this reformation should be confined almost entirely to proper names, for my part I can discover no good reason. Appellatives are doubtless entitled to a share. Critics of this stamp ought, for example, boldly to resolve, in spite of inveterate abuses and piebeian prejudices, never whilst they breath, either to write or to pronounce the words pope, popery, and popedom, but instead of them, pape, papery, and papedom ; since, whether we derive thesewords immediately from the French,* the Latin, t or the Greek, I still it appears that the o is but a base usurper of a place which rightfully belongs to the a. The reason assigned for saying koran, and not alcoran, is truely curious. Al, say they, is the Arabic article, and sig. nifies the ; consequently, if we should say the alcoran, we should fall into a gross perissology. It is just as if we said the the book. A plain illiterate man would think it sufficient to reply, What though al signi-. fies the in Arabic, it hath no signification in English, and is only here the first syllable of a name which use hath appropriated, no matter how, to a particular book. But if ye who are such deep scholars, and wonderful improvers of your mother-tongue, are determined to exclude this harmless syllable from alcoran, act at least consistently, and dismiss it also from alchymy, alcove, alembic, algebra, almanac, and all the other words in the language that are derived in the same way, and from the same source. Indeed, it is not easy to say where ye will stop; for if ye attend to it, ye will find many words of Latin or French origin, which stand equally in need of reformation.
fruntas. $ Suppose one of these Aristarchs advancing in such ingenious refinements, and thus criticising on the word aversion: “ This substantive is by divers authors diversely construed. Some say aversion to a change, others version from a change : both, I affirm, from a blind attachment to vernacular idioms, have alike deviated into the most ugly and deformed faults. This judgement, how severe soever, I am able to support by an irrefragable argument. Aversion, according to its etymology, denotes turning from. The first syllable a is, in the original language, a proposition signifying from. It would therefore be absurd to conjoin in the same phrase with it the preposition to, which hath a contrary signification: and to use from after aversion, would render the expression his deously pleonastic. In defiance therefore of a habitude, which, however ancient and universal, is the offspring of ignorance, we must if we would speak
It is necessary to add, that if the public give way to a humour of this kind, there will be no end of innovating. When some critics first thought of reforming the word bashaw, one wouid have it bassa, another pacha, and a third pasha; and how many more shapes It may yet be transformed into, it is impossible to say. A late historiographer hath adopted just the half of Sale's reformation of the name Mahomet. He restores the vowels to the places which they formely held, but admits his alteration of the consonants, never writing either Mahomet or Mahammed, but Mahommed. In regard to such foreign names of persons, officers, eras, and rites, it would be obliging, in writers of this stamp, to annex to their works a glossary, for the sake of the unlearned, who cannot divine whether their newfangled terms belong to things formerly unknown, or are no more than the old names of things familiar to them, newly vamped and dressed. Surely, if any thing deserves to be branded with the name of pedantry, it is an austentation of eruditon, to the reproach of learning, by affecting singularity in trifles.
I shall just mention another set of barbarisms, which also comes under this class, and arises from the abbreviation of polysyllables, by lopping off all the syllables except the first, or the first and seconed. Instances of this are hyp for hypochondriac, rep for reputation, ult for ultimate, penult for penultimate, incog, for incognito, hyper for hypercritic, extra for extraordinary. Happily all these affected terms have been denied the public suffrage. I scarcely know any such that have established themselves, except mob for mobilé.* And this it hath affected at last, notwithstanding the unrelenting zeal with which it was persecuted by Dr. Swift, wherever he met with it. But as the word in question hath gotten use, the supreme arbitress of language on its side, there would be as much obstinacy in rejecting it at present, as there was perhaps folly at first in ushering it upon the public stage.
As to the humour of abbreviating, we need say very little, as it seems hardly now to subsist amongst us. It only arose in this island about the end of the last century; and when, in the beginning of the present, it assumed to figure in conversation, and even sometimes to appear in print, it was so warmly attacked by Addison and Swift,
correctly, either say aversion a change, the first syllable a having the force of the proposition; or, cutting off this prepositive, we must say version from a change." If any should think this representation exaggerated, let him compare the reasoning with that which hath been seriously used for mutilating the word alcoran, and he will find it in all respects the same. It is, I acknowledge, of no consequence, whether we say alcoran or koran ; but it is of consequence that such a silly argument shall not be held a sufficient ground for innovation.
* As I am disposed to think that, in matters of this kind, the public is rarely in the wrong, it would not be difficult to assign a plausible reason for this preference. First, the word mobilé, from which it is contracted, can scarcely be called English, and, I suspect, never had the sanction of the public voice. Secondly, there is not another word in the language that expresseth precisely the same idea, a tumultuous and seditious rout: the words mobility, adopted by some writers, is a gross misapplication of the philosophical term, which means only susceptibility of motion ; lastly, the word mob is fitter than either of those for giving rise, according to the analogy of our tongue, to such convenient derivatives as to mob, mobbed, mobbish, mobber.
and other writers of eminence, that since then it hath been in general disgrace, hardly daring to appear in good company, and never showing itself in books of any name.
The two classes of barbarisms last mentioned, comprehending new words and new formations from words still current, offend against use, considered both as reputable and as national. There are many other sorts of transgression, which might be enumerated here, such as vulgarisms, provincial idioms, and the cant of particular professions. But these are more commonly ranked among the offences against elegance, than among the violations of grammatical purity, and will therefore be considered afterwards.
I now enter on the consideration of the second way by which the purity of the style is injured, the solecism. This is accounted by grammarians a much greater fault than the former, as it displays a greater ignorance of the fundamental rules of the language. The sole aim of grammar is to convey the knowledge of the language; consequently, the degree of grammatical demerit in every blunder can only be ascertained by the degree of deficiency in this knowledge which it betrays. But the aim of eloquence is quite another thing. The speaker or the writer doth not purpose to display his knowledge in the language, but only to employ the language which he speaks or writes, in order to the attainment of some further end. This know-9 ledge he useth solely as the instrument or means by which he intends to instruct, to please, to move, or to persuade. The degree of demerit, therefore, which, by the orator's account, is to be found in every blunder, must be ascertained by a very different measure.. Such offence is more or less heinous, precisely in proportion as it proves a greater or smaller obstruction to the speaker's or writer's aim. Hence it happens, that when solecisms are not very glaring, when they do not darken the sense, or suggest some ridiculous idea, the rhetorician regards them as much more excusable than barbarisms. , The reason is, the former is accounted solely the effect of negligence, the latter of affectation. Negligence in expression, often the consequence of a noble ardour in regard to the sentiments, is at the worst a venial trespass, sometimes it is even not without energy ; affectation is always a deadly sin against the laws of rhetoric.
It ought also to be observed, that, in the article of solecisms, much greater indulgence is given to the speaker than to the writer ; and to the writer who proposeth to persuade or move, greater allowances are : made, than to him who proposeth barely to instruct or please. The more vehemence is required by the nature of the subject, the less
correctness is exacted in the manner of treating it. Nay, a remarkable deficiency in this respect is not near so prejudicial to the scope of the orator, as a scrupulous accuracy, which bears in it the symptoms of study and art. Eschines is said to have remarked, that the orations of his rival and antagonist, Demosthenes, smelled of the lamp; thereby intimating that their style and composition were too elaborate. If the remark is just, it contains the greatest censure that ever was passed on that eminent orator. But as the intermediate degrees between the two extremes are innumerable, both doubtless ought to be avoided.
Grammatical inaccuracies ought to be avoided by a writer, for two reasons. One is, that a reader will much sooner discover them than a hearer, however attentive he be. The other is, as writing implies more leisure and greater coolness than is implied in speaking, defects of this kind, when discovered in the former, will be less excused than they would be in the latter.
To enumerate all the kinds of solecism into which it is possible to fall, would be both a useless and an endless task. The transgression of any of the syntactic rules is a solecism; and almost every rule may be transgressed in various ways. But as novices only are capable of falling into the most flagrant solecisms, such, I mean, as betray ignorance in the rudiments of the tongue, I shall leave it to grammarians to exemplify and class the various blunders of this sort which may be committed by the learner. All I propose to do at present is, to take notice of a few less observable, which writers of great name, and even of critical skill in the language, have slidden into through inattention; and which, though of the nature of solecism, ought perhaps to be distinguished by the softer name inaccuracy.*
The first of this kind I shall observe is a mistake of the plural number for the singular, “ The zeal of the seraphim breaks forth in
a becoming warmth of sentiments and expressions, as the character 11 OkCu laccwhich is given us of him denotes that generous scorn and intrepidity
which attends heroic virtue.”+ Cherub and seraph are two nouns in
V dhe singular number, transplanted into our language directly from the U ille Hebrew. In the plural we are authorized both by use and by
. analogy, to say either cherubs and seraphs, according to the English a bb idiom, or cherubim and seraphim, according to the oriental. The
former suits betier the familiar, the latter the solemn style. It is surprising that an author of Mr. Addison's discernment did not, in criticising Milton, take notice of a distinction which is everywhere
* I am sensible, that, in what concerns the subject of this section, I have been in a great measure prevented by the remarks of Lowth and Priestley and some other critics and grammarians, who have lately favoured the world with their observations. Since reading their publications, I have curtailed considerably what I prepared on this article; for though I had rarely hit upon the same examples, there was often a coincidence in the matter, inasmuch as the species of fault animadverted on was frequently the same. I have now almost entirely confined myself to such slips as have been overlooked by others. I say almost enlirely; for, when any error begins to prevail, even a single additional remonstrance may be of consequence: and in points in which critics are divided, I thought it not unreasonable to offer my opinion.
† Spectator, No. 327.