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Sect. I. Good use not always uniform in ber decisions...Canon IV.
ral active verbs, which are used either with or without a preposition indiscriminately. Thus we say either accept or accept of, admit or admit of, approve or of; in like manner address or address to, attain or attain to. In such instances it will hold, I suppose, pretty generally, that the simple form is preferable. This appears particularly in the passive voice, in which every one must see the difference. ‘His present was “accepted of by his friend.” “His excuse was admit“ted of by his master.’ ‘The magistrates were ad“dressed to by the townsmen, are evidently much worse than, “His present was accepted by his friend.” “His excuse was admitted by his master.” “The ma‘gistrates were addressed by the towsmen.” We have but too many of this awkward, disjointed sort of compounds, and therefore ought not to multiply them without necessity. Now if once the preposition should obtain in the active voice, the rules of syntax will absolutely require it in the passive. Sometimes indeed the verb hath two regimens, and then the preposition is necessary to one of them, as “I address myself to “my judges.” “They addressed their vows to Apollo.’ But of such cases I am not here speaking.
Both etymology and analogy, as well as euphony and simplicity, determine us in preferring subtract to substract, and consequently subtraction to substraction*,
* Subtract is regularly deduced from the supine subtractum of
The nature and use of verbal criticism, withos principal canons.
Canon the fifth.
THE fifth and only other canon that occurs to me on the subject of divided use, is, In the few cases wherein neither perspicuity nor analogy, neither sound nor simplicity, assists us in fixing our choice, it is safest to prefer that manner which is most conformable to
THIS is founded on a very plain maxim, that in language, as in several other things, change itself, unless when it is clearly advantageous, is ineligible. This affords another reason for preferring that usage which distinguishes ye as the nominal plural of thou, when more than one are addressed, from you the accusative. For it may be remarked, that this distinction is very
the Latin verb rubtraho, in the same way as act from actum, the supine of ago, and translate from translatum, the supine of transfero. But it would be quite unexampled to derive the English verb from the French fourtraire. Besides, there is not another instance in the language of a word beginning with the Latin preposition rub, where the sub is followed by an f, unless when the original word compounded with the preposition, begins with an r. Thus we say subscribe from sub and scribo, subsist from rub, and rioto, rubrtitute from rub and statuo. But we cannot say substract from sub and straho, there being no such word. There can be no doubt, therefore, that a mistaken etymology, arising from an affinity to the French term, not in the verb, but in verbal noun, has given rise to
this harsh anomaly.
Sect. II. Good use not always uniform in her decisions....Canon V.
regularly observed in our translation of the Bible, as well as in all our best ancient authors. Milton too is particularly attentive to it. The words causey and causeway are at present used promiscuously, though I do not know whether there be any difference but in the spelling. The old way is causey, which, as there appears no good reason for altering it, ought to be held the best. The alteration, I suppose, hath sprung from some mistaken notion about the etymology; but if the notion had been just, the reason would not have been sufficient. It tends, besides, either to introduce a vitiated pronunciation, or to add to the anomalies in orthography, (by far too numerous already), with which the language is encumbered. Much the same may be said of jail and gaol, jailer and gaoler. That jail and jailer have been first used is probable, from the vulgar translation of the Bible +. The quotations on the other side from Shakespeare, are not much to be minded, as it is well known that his editors have taken a good deal of freedom with his orthography. The argument, from its derivation from the French geole, is very puerile. For the same reason we ought to write jarter, and not garter, and plead the spelling of the French primitive jartiere. Nor would it violate the laws of pronunciation in English, more to sound the [ja] as though it were written [ga], than to sound the [ga] as though it were written [jaj.
- + Acts xvi. 23.
The nature and use of verbal criticism, with its principal canons.
SECT. II....Every thing favoured by good use, not on that account worthy to be retained.
I come now to the second question for ascertaining both the extent of the authority claimed by custom, and the rightful prerogatives of criticism. As no term, idiom, or application that is totally unsupported by use, can be admitted to be good; is every term, idiom, and applieation, that is countenanced by use, to be esteemed good, and therefore worthy to be retained? I answer, that though nothing in language can be good from which use withholds her approbation, there may be many things to which she gives it, that are not in all respects good, or such as are worthy to be retained and imitated. In some instances custom may very properly be checked by criticism, which hath a sort of negative, and though not the censorian power of instant degradation, the privilege of remonstrating, and by means of this, when used discreetly, of bringing what is bad into disrepute, and so cancelling it gradually; but which hath no positive right to establish any thing. Her power too is like that of eloquence; she operates on us purely by persuasion, depending for success on the solidity, or at least the speciousness of her arguments; whereas custom hath an unaccountable and irresistible influence over us, an influence which is prior to pèrsuasion, and independent of it, may sometimes even in contradic
Sect. II. Every thing favoured by good use, not worthy to be retained....Can. V.
tion to it. Of different modes of expression, that which comes to be favoured by general practice may be denominated best, because established; but it cannot always be said with truth, that it is established because best. And therefore, though I agree in the general principles maintained by Priestley i on this subject, I do not concur in this sentiment as holding universally, that “ the best forms of speech will in “ time establish themselves by their own superior ex“ cellence.” Time and chance have an influence on all things human, and on nothing more remarkably than on language; insomuch that we often see that, of various forms, those will recommend themselves, and come into general use, which, if abstractly considered, are neither the simplest nor the most agreeable to the ear, nor the most conformable to analogy. And though we cannot say properly of any expression which has the sanction of good use, that it is barbarous, we must admit that, in other respects, it may be faulty.
IT is therefore, I acknowledge, not without meaning, that Swift, in the proposal above quoted *, affirms, that, “ there are many gross improprieties, which, “ though authorised by practice, onght to be dis“carded.” Now, in order to discard them, nothing more is necessary than to disuse them. And to bring
1 Preface to the Rudiments of English Grammar. § For ascertaining the English tongue; see the Letter to the Lord High Treasurer.