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employed, you cannot get the writer's meaning. Then, there are references to persons and places which you must understand in order to know what bearing these have upon the subject, and what is added to the author's meaning by them. If you
do not already know the meaning of the following words, find their meanings in a dictionary:
Reputation, vulgarity, ballasted, lunacy, catbird, mavis, forfeited, distilled, relished, drought, congenial, secreted, vintage, vintagers, veterans, confiscation, neutral, profounder, paltry, frugal, primitive, unrivaled, gulped, virtuous, challenge, ascetic.
If you do not understand all the allusions and references which the writer makes, a study of these as suggested in the following will be helpful.
Who was Poor Richard, and what is meant by the “Poor Richard school”? What does the writer mean by the "intervals of lunacy" into which he says the catbird and the mavis are apt to fall? Where is Asia Minor, and why do you think the cherries of this country are mentioned ? What is the Horticultural Society, and why is the robin's taste in fruit compared to that of the committees of this society ? Find out who Dr. Johnson was, and what habit of his is referred to here. Where is Argos? Explain the reference to it. Find out about the sending of spies into the promised land. Who
Wellington ? Find out about the character of his warfare in Spain. Explain what is meant by the “confiscation of neutral chickens.” Who were the fire-worshipers ? What the practice to which the writer refers ? Who was Pecksniff ? What was his character and why does Mr. Lowell call the robins “feathered Pecksniffs"? What are lobby members, and in what way do the robins here mentioned resemble them?
Reread the selection, and consider how much your enjoyment of this interesting and humorous sketch is increased
by knowing the sense in which the words are used, and understanding the comparisons and allusions.
We may sum up briefly the knowledge which you must have in order to understand and enjoy this selection as follows:
(1) The meaning of the words must be known.
(2) The allusions to persons and places must be understood.
(3) You must have some previous knowledge of the robin.
(4) You must have a nature that will respond to humor and pleasantry.
If you must have this preparation before you can rightly understand and enjoy this pleasing sketch, the writer must have had the same preparation before he could write it; and added to this he must have had the ability to put his knowledge into such words, and express his thoughts in such a way as to make his meaning clear to others. Two things, then, are necessary in order to write for the pleasure and benefit of others: first, the writer must have the necessary information, and second, he must be able to present it so that others may receive it. In other words he must have something to say, and know how to
A piece of literature, or any written composition, may, therefore, be viewed from two standpoints: that of the writer, and that of the reader. The one produces it and the other interprets it. There are thus two things that can be done with language: it can be made, and it can be interpreted.
Composition Explained COMPOSITION, whether spoken or written, is the expression of thought in words. Every time you ask or answer a question, or speak upon any subject, you use language, and consequently compose or make some form of composition. Oral composition is, then, the form of expression most commonly employed. Conversation, as well as recitation, extempore speaking, and the formal address are all forms of composition.
Language. — In all composition the first consideration is the thought to be expressed. When, however, you have some information which you wish to impart, or some thought to express, you direct your effort to the selection of fitting language in which to state what you have to say. As the language you use is largely the result of habit, it is important that in all your conversation - and this is the form of oral composition most frequently used — you should be careful to use proper words and those that will best express your meaning. If you always do this, you will naturally clothe your thoughts in correct and appropriate language when you write.
Talking may seem a very simple matter, but it is really an art to be able to converse well. Not only must a person have something of interest to say, but he must have language at command to be able to impart his information or his ideas
to others. A person is often hindered in his efforts to describe something he has seen, or to tell something he has heard, by an insufficient vocabulary, or by lack of the ability to put together skillfully the words he uses.
When talking, as well as when writing, you should use only such language as you know to be correct, selecting carefully those words that will express your thoughts most clearly and forcibly. Many specific directions might be added for learning to talk well, but this one in a general way includes all.
1. Repeat a conversation which you have heard recently, at home or elsewhere, upon some important item of news. If you do not recall such a conversation, an imaginary one may be given instead.
2. With the class turned into an informal round table for a few moments, select a leader and discuss some historical event such as the settlement of New England, the causes of the Revolutionary War, the war between Russia and Japan, or any other event which your teacher may suggest.
3. Quote the conversation between two boys whom you may imagine to be discussing a game of football which they had just witnessed.
4. After reading the following selection repeat in direct quotation the conversation as you may imagine it to have taken place between the writer and the three boys. Give each boy a name.
I had three rosy-cheeked boys for my fellow-passengers inside, full of the buxom health and the manly spirits which I have observed in children of this country. They were returning home for the holidays and were in high glee, and were promising themselves a world of enjoyment. It was delightful to hear the gigantic plans of the little rogues, and the impracticable feats they were to perform during their six weeks' emancipation from the abhorred thralldom of book, birch, and pedagogue. They were full of anticipation of the meeting with the family and household, down to the very cat and dog, and of the joy they were to give their little sisters by the presents with which their pockets were crammed; but the meeting to which they seemed to look forward with greatest impatience was with Bantam, which I found to be a pony, and according to their talk, possessed with more virtues than any steed since the days of Bucephalus. How he could trot! how he could run ! and then such leaps as he would take! There was not a hedge in the whole country that he could not clear.
From “The Stage Coach.". WASHINGTON IRVING.
Enunciation and Pronunciation In your efforts to improve your oral language much attention must be given to the correct enunciation and pronunciation of words. As you use language to impart to others information which you possess, or to express your thoughts upon some subject, it is desirable when speaking that you utter your words distinctly, and pronounce them correctly in order that those to whom you are speaking may know what you say
Careful Enunciation Necessary. - Many persons cut their words so short and run them together in such a way that one has often to put forth a special effort to understand what they say. We often hear such expressions as, —“The skatin's fine,” “You have more’n I have,”. “I dunno wha-cher doin.” When a person runs his words together in this way, it is not only difficult to understand him, but this practice stamps his language as careless and slovenly. Unless you watch your speech there is danger of falling into a careless habit