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Of grammatical purity.
more, may become it; but nothing can add dignity to that man, or fit him for the company of gentlemen, who bears indelible marks of the clown in his look, gait, and whole behaviour.
Ir was remarked formerly *, that though the grammatical art bears much the same relation to the rhetorical, which the art of the mason bears to that of the architect, there is one very memorable difference between the two cases. In architecture it is not necessary that he who designs should execute his own plans ; he may therefore be an excellent artist in this
way, who has neither skill nor practice in masonry : .
on the contrary, it is equally incumbent on the orator to design and to execute. He ought therefore to be master of the language which he speaks or writes, and to be capable of adding to grammatical purity, those higher qualities of elocution, which will give grace and energy to his discourse. I propose, then, in the first place, by way of laying the foundation f, to con
* Chap. II.
+ Sclum guidem et quasi fundamentum oratoris, vides locutio
sider that purity which he hath in common with the grammarian, 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 adapted, 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 possession hardly entitles him to any praise. The truth is, it is a kind of negative quality, as the name imports, consisting more in an exemption
tionem emendatam et Latinam. CIc. De clar. Orat. The same holds equally of any language which the orator is obliged to use. * Book I. Chap. iv.
Of grammatical purity.
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 blameable the transgression is, the less merit has the observance. Grace and energy, on the contrary, are like generosity and public spirit. To be deficient in these virtues, is not treated as criminal ; but to be eminent for the practice of thém, 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 illustration on this article, solely from the forIsler.
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 solecirm. Thirdly, the words and phrases may not be employed to express the precise meaning which custom hath affixed to them. This is termed impropriety o.
* Quintilian hath suggested this distribution. Instit. lib. i. cap.
5. Deprehendat quae barbara, quae impropria, quae contra legen, loquendi composita.
Of grammatical purity.
SECT, I....The Barbarirm.
- 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 simple and primitive words in present use.
PART I....By the use of obsolete words.
CBSOLETE 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 strange 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 so antiquated, that, if not perfectly ridiculous, they at least suggest the notion of stiffness and affectation. We ought, therefore, not only to avoid words, that are no longer understood by any but critics and antiquarians, such as hight, cleped, uneath, erst, whilon ; we must also, when writing in prose, and Gn se– rious subjects, renounce the aid of those terms, which, though not intelligible, all writers of any name have wow ceased to use. Such are heast, fantary, tribu/a
Sect. I. The barbarism....Part I. By the use of obsolete words.
tion, crewhile, whenar, peradventure, selframe, amon. All these offend more or less against the third criterion of good use formerly given”, that it be such as obtains at present.
SoME indulgence, however, on this, as well as on several other articles, as was hinted already, must be given to poets, on many accounts; and particularly on account of the peculiar inconveniences to which the laws of versification subject them. Besides, 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 judgement, 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 species of writing is not strictly subjected to the laws of purity.
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 assistance of neighbours, when their assistance is really wanted; that is, when we cannot do our
* Book II. Chap. I. Sect. III.