« 上一頁繼續 »
333 In brief, if Johnson rendered turbid the pure well of English,' it was not by pouring in a foreign admixture, but by stirring up the sediment which had sunk or was sinking to the bottom. Of his Latinisms, those in his well-known definition of network may be taken as a specimen; they were not new; but what a heap of them in the same sentence ! Any thing reticulated or decussated, with . interstices at equal distances between the intersections.'
It is not easy for those who have not inspected contemporaneous literature, - especially its second-rate productions, — to conceive to what an extent Johnson's style was imitated by his admirers. His genius and long undisputed literary reign would indeed have secured for him a train of this kind, had his style been difficult of imitation; unhappily, it was imitated with the greatest ease, — and its chief faults most easily of all. They even fell in with the universal tendencies of all young writers. As regards his diction, for example, young writers have uniformly a strong appetite for the ornate and sonorous; for fine words' as they are usually called. They think that terms of foreign or learned origin give to their compositions greater dignity ; forgetting that frigid stateliness is but a poor exchange for idiomatic strength and simplicity; and that if the coveted terms are more sonorous, they are less vivid. Even when they are fully understood, they are feebler, because they are not those long-established symbols, the very voice of which clusters around them the whole band of appropriate associations. Between sounding Latinisms and homely idiomatic Saxon, there is all the difference as to power of awakening association that there is between a gong and a peal of village bells. Similar remarks apply to Johnson's profuse use of antithesis. Contrast, in which it originates, and in which its power consists, heightens effect, and therefore the young writer thinks he cannot employ antithesis too frequently; not aware as yet that a figure which is constantly employed not only loses its effect, but wearies by its repetition. But what is worse, the love of antithesis is apt to mislead ordinary writers, as it did indeed Johnson himself, into an antithesis of words, where there is little or none in the ideas. . Extensive as the imitation of Johnson was, it could not last long. The rage of imitation is always a violent, but transient epidemic. Meantime Sir James Mackintosh (no incompetent judge) had so strong a sense of the pernicious influence of Johnson's style on our language generally, that so late as 1831 he declared, that from the corruptions introduced " by Dr. Johnson, English style was only then recovering.' Other critics, besides Dr. Parr, would probably think this an exaggeration. True genius, even in Johnson's time, witness Goldsmith and Burke, could not descend to imitate ; and, long before 1831, Johnson's writings, though always and deservedly popular, had ceased to exercise any appreciable influence on mere style.
One of the most extravagant caricatures of the imitations of Dr. Johnson's style we recollect to have seen was a new model of a translation of the 23rd Psalm. Two of the verses, if we remember rightly, ran thus, Deity is my pastor, I shall not be indigent. .... Thou anointest my locks with odoriferous unguents — my chalice exuberates.' And perhaps the absurdity of this style is best seen by thus trying its effect on a composition of exquisite simplicity. We recommend all who aspire to this species of style to study the peroration of Sir Thos. Urquhart's Jewel :
I could have introduced, in case of obscurity (!), synonymal, • exargastic, and palilogetic elucidations; for sweetness of phrase, 'antimetathetic commutations of epithets; for the vehement
excitation of matter, exclamations in the front, and epiphonemas • in the rear. I could have used, for the promptlier stirring up of
passion, apostrophal and prosopopoeial diversions; and for the appeasing and settling of them, some epanorthetic revocations, and aposiopetic restraints. I could have inserted dialogisms, displaying their interrogatory part with communicativelypysmatic and sustentative flourishes, or proleptically, with the • refutative schemes of anticipation and subjection: and that part
which concerns the responsory, with the figures of permission * and concession.'
Since 1830, the tendency to innovate has been on the part of students of the German. So far as this tendency confines itself to occasional, gradual, and cautious transplantation of genuine and expressive words from the German vernacular; or, better still, so far as it leads us, by a reflex influence, to cherish the Saxon element in our own language, to keep the other elements in check, and to give this its proper place, it is matter of congratulation.
The influence of the study of the German within these limits is wholly beneficial. But wholesale, tasteless importations of unsanctioned words, even though less pernicious than when introduced from languages of less affinity with our own, would be still pernicious. To quote a sentence from our former article: 'A * philosophical mind will consider that whatever deflection may • have taken place in the original principles of a language, what
ever modification of form it may have undergone, it is, at each period of its history, the product of a slow accumulation, and · countless multitude of associations, which can neither be hastily • formed, nor hastily dismissed; that these associations extend even • to the modes of spelling and pronouncing, of inflecting and com1850.
The Germanised Style.
• bining words; and that anything which does violence to such associations, impairs, for the time at least, the power of the language. · In truth, however, the words we have really naturalised from the German have been very few. • Handbook,' • fatherland, and a score more, would exhaust the catalogue. Unhappily, the Germanised style, of which we have so much reason to complain at the present day, consists either in an absurd imitation of German idiom and construction ; or in a free resort to compounds founded in the intermarriage of words within the prohibited degrees, and which is apt to result in a progeny of illegitimates, or downright hybrids; or (especially in relation to philosophy), in an eminently Latinistic diction, partly made up of a literal rendering of Latin terms which the German has itself incorporated, and partly (which is still worse) of translations of their vernacular philosophic terms into Latin derivatives, often previously appropriated in another sense, and sometimes in many other senses by ourselves. Objective,' subjective,' 'momentum,''transcendental,'' egoism,' concrete,' the absolute,' the reason,' &c. are instances in the one kind or the other; and by conjuring with these, aided by a due abstinence from definitions, and by a certain mixture of German constructions, a man may, and sometimes does, write volumes which neither his reader nor himself understands.
There is nothing for which we more deeply regret the loss of those variable terminations of our once homogeneous language, which gave it an unlimited power of forming compounds, — the significance of which may be gathered immediately from the separate elements, — than the consequent multiplication of scientific terms, having a foreign origin. The evil is becoming almost intolerable; and we should be thankful to believe that there is any mode of successfully checking it. We are not ignorant that there are some advantages attending the present practice; but as the nomenclature of science increases without limit, its exotic character becomes a serious nuisance; the memory cannot retain it; and, what is worse, it loses all power of association, and renders the scientific style intelligible only to the deeply initiated. It is a hieroglyphic for a priesthood. *
* Many think that the evil is capable of being checked by a free resort to the Saxon: whether they would go so far as the man mentioned in an instructive paper on English Adjectives' in the Philological Museum, who suggested that the impenetrability of matter' might be expressed by the 'unthoroughfaresomeness of stuff,' we know not. By the way, we strongly recommend the above paper, The number of Greek and Latin derivatives which have been introduced in the course of the last fifty, and especially the last thirty years, in consequence of the immense extension of the physical sciences, must be immense. In botany, geology, conchology, mineralogy, and, above all, chemistry, the nomenclature has increased at a most prodigious rate. If all these terms were considered as much English words as those which enter into the dialect of common life, of poetry, of eloquence, of historic composition, we could hardly say that the Anglo-Saxon now forms so decidedly preponderant an element as it has done throughout the whole previous course of our literary history. At all events, the ratio of that element to the sum of all the others which enter into competition with it, would be very appreciably diminished. In fact, however, a vast number of these terms are found exclusively in works of science; rendered really, or apparently, necessary by our difficulty of compounding words from the vernacular. They are regarded simply as a concise notation, and as little affect the general relations of the language as the symbols of algebra. When, for example, the zoologist tells us, that if we take the head of an opossum, contract the cra• nium, widen the orbits and parietal crests, elevate the occiput,
shortening at the same time the basilary part, &c., and we shall only require the differences of projection of some parts, the presence of an external pterygoid apophysis, the direction downwards of the curvature of the zygomatic arch, &c., to 6 arrive at the head of a hog;' or wben the botanist tells us that a genus of plants has a '3-parted half-inferior calyx, rotate mono* petalous 5-10-parted corolla, imbricate in æstivation, indefi• nite stamens inserted in the lobe of the corolla, with the
filaments cuspidate at the apex, and polyadelphous at the • base;' or when the chemist tells us that æther is supposed to • be an oxide of ethereum, alcohol a hydrated oxide, and sul* phovinic acid a hydrated bisulphate of oxide of ethereum;' or discourses of a gas which boasts of the three brief names,
superolefiant gas,' • terhydrocarbon,' and 'tritocarbohydrogen;' every one feels that, convenient to science as may be such a peculiar style, it is disguised Greek and Latin that he is reading rather than English.
But though, in strictly scientific treatises, the unsparing use of terms of art may be very necessary, and not only tend to economise expression, but (by obviating prolixity) be even conducive to clearness, at least for those who previously understand the
and some others on related topics in the same publication, to the perusal of every student of the English language.
they are relate
d present in the same publicatio
terminology, there is often in half scientific men an excessive fondness for this species of language, when they are not addressing scientific readers or not addressing them exclusively. Under the notion of being more philosophical, they commit the same error as the young writer or speaker who employs the most general and abstract terms he can find, instead of the most specific and vivid, or who substitutes the sonorous Latin for the strong homely Saxon. It would be well for every scientific writer, who is addressing his discourse in any degree ad populum, or not exclusively to the scientific world, to peruse with care the observations of Whately in his “Rhetoric,' on the use and abuse of technical language; and to study as models the writings of such men as Paley, Sir John Herschel, and Sir Charles Bell. To express the results of science without the ostentation of its terms, is an excellent art indeed, and known to but few. An amusing example of the impropriety in question not unfrequently occurs in courts of justice, when a surgeon undertakes to enlighten a wondering jury as to the results of a post mortem examination: he finds a wound in
the parietes of the abdomen, opening the peritoneal cavity ;' or an injury of some vertebra in the dorsal or lumbar region.' A judge lately rebuked a witness of this character by saying, "You mean so and so, do you not, sir?' — at the same time translating his scientific barbarisms into a few words of simple English. I do, my Lord.' Then why can't you say so ?' He had said so, but not in English.
If the Saxon cannot supply us with a nomenclature, science must continue her demands on the plasticity of Greek and the condensation of Latin, to aid her in giving expression to her novel thoughts and teeming discoveries. Such an alternative leaves us no choice. But the precedent is contagious; and it is too much to be threatened with a wanton inundation of similar learned terms, to dignify the achievements of the common arts of life, and of the most vulgar handicrafts. It is to degrade these languages, not less than to insult our own, to employ them, as they too often are employed, to stimulate public curiosity towards some obscure nostrum, or some novelty of dress or furniture. •Eureka Shirts,' • Resilient Boots, Eupodistic Bootmaker,' • Panklibanon Iron
works,' • Antigropelos,' • Euknemida,' • Soterion,' are a few examples of this most classical vulgarity *; we only wonder that the Patent Knife Cleaner' has been contented to be unbaptized in ‘well-sounding Greek.'
* Punch is the proper party to deal with such follies.