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Of grammatical purity.
business without it; but there is certainly a meanness in choosing to be indebted to others, for what we can easily be supplied with out of our own stock. When words are introduced by any writer, from a sort of necessity, in order to avoid tedious and languid circumlocutions, there is reason to believe they will soon be adopted by others convinced of the necessity, and will at length be naturalised by the public. But it were to be wished, that the public would ever reject those which are obtruded on it merely through a licentious affectation of novelty. And of this kind certainly are most of the words and phrases which have, in this century, been imported from France. Are not pleasure, opinionative, and fally, as expressive as volupty, opiniatre, and fortie & Wherein is the expression last resort, inferior to dernier resort ; liberal arts, to beaux arts ; and polite literature, to belles lettre; 3 Yet some writers have arrived at such a pitch of futility, as to imagine, that if they can but make a few trifling charges, like aimable for amiable, politerse for politeness, delicaterse for delicacy, and hauteur for haughtiness, they have found so many gems, which are capable of adding a wonderful lustre to their works. With such, indeed, it is in vain to argue; but to others, who are not quite so unreasonable, I beg leave to suggest the following remarks.
FIRST, it ought to be remembered, that the rules of pronounciation and orthography in French, are so different from those which obtain in English, that the
- Sect. I. The barbarism...Part 1. By the use of new words.
far greater part of the French words lately introduced, constitute so many anomalies with us, which, by loading the grammatical rules with exceptions, greatly corrupt the simplicity and regularity of our tongue.
Nor is this the only way in which they corrupt it. simplicity; let it be observed further, that one of the principal beauties of any language, and the most essential to simplicity, results from this, That a few plain and primitive words called roots, have, by an analogy, which hath insensibly established itself, given rise to an infinite number of derivative and compound words, between which and the primitive, and between the former and their conjugates, there is a resemblance in sense, corresponding to that which there is in sound. Hence it will happen, that a word may be very emphatical in the language to which it owes its birth, arising from the light that is reflected on it by the other words of the same etymology; which, when it is transplanted into another language, loses its emphasis entirely. The French word eclaircirrement, for instance, is regularly deduced thus: Ecłaircissement, eclaircirre, eclaircir, eclair, clair, which is the etymon, whence also are descended, clairement, clarté, clarifie, clarification, eclairer. The like may be observed in regard to connoisseur, reconnoitre, agrémens, and a thousand others. Whereas, such words with us, look rather like strays than like any part of our own property. They are very much in the condition of exiles, who having been driven from their families, relations, and friends, are compelled to take
Of Geographical purity
refuge in a country where there is not a single person with whom they can claim a connexion, either by blood or by alliance.
BUT the patrons of this practice will probably plead, that as the French is the finer language, ours must certainly be improved by the mixture. Into the truth of the hypothesis from which they argue, I shall not now inquire. It sufficeth for my present purpose, to observe, that the consequence is not logical, though the plea were just. A liquor produced by the mixture of two liquors of different qualities, will often prove worse than either. The Greek is, doubtless, a language much superior, in richness, harmony, and variety, to the Latin ; yet, by an affectation in the Romans of Greek words and idioms, (like the passion of the English for whatever is imported from France) as much, perhaps, as by any thing, the Latin was not only vitiated, but lost almost entirely, in a few centuries, that beauty and majesty which we discover in the writings of the Augustan age. On the contrary, nothing contributed more to the preservation of the Greek tongue in its native purity for such an amazing number of centuries, unexampled in the history of any other language, than the contempt they had of this practice. It was in consequence of this contempt, that they were the first who branded a foreign term in any of their writers with the odious name of barbarism.
sect. I. The barbarism...Part II. By the use of new words.
BUT there are two considerations which ought especially to weigh with authors, and hinder thern from wantonly admitting such extraneous productions into their performances. One is, if these foreigners be allowed to settle amongst us, they will infallibly supplant the old inhabitants. Whatever ground is given to the one, is so much taken from the other. Is it then prudent in a writer, to foment a humour of innovation which tends to make the language of his country still more changeable, and consequently to render the style of his own writings the sooner obsolete? Nor let it be imagined, that this is not a ne– cessary consequence. Nothing can be juster than Johnson's manner of arguing on this subject, in regard to what Swift a little chimerically proposed, that though new words be introduced, none should be permitted to become obsolete *. For what makes a word obsolete, but a general, though tacit agreement to forbear it? And what so readily produces this agreement, as another term which hath gotten a vogue and currency, and is always at hand to supply its place: And if thus, for some time, a word is overlooked or neglected, how shall it be recalled, when it hath once, by disuse, become unfamiliar, and, by unfamiliarity, unpleasing?
THE other consideration is, that if he should not be followed in the use of those foreign words which he
* Preface to the Dictionary.
Of grammatical purity.
hath endeavoured to usher into the language, if they meet not with a favourable reception from the Public, they will ever appear as spots in his work. Such is the appearance which the terms opine, ignore, fraicheur, adroitness, opiniatry, and opiniatrety, have at present in the writings of some ingenious men. Whether, therefore, he be, or be not, imitated, he will himself prove a loser at last. I might add to these, that as borrowing naturally exposeth to the suspicion of poverty, this poverty will much more readily, and more justly too, be imputed to the writer than to the language.
INVENTORs in the arts, and discoverers in science, have an indisputable title to give names to their own inventions and discoveries. When foreign inventions and discoveries are imported into this island, it is both natural and reasonable that the name should accompany the thing. Nay, in regard even to evils of for reign growth, I should not object to the observance of the same rule. Were any one to insist, that we have not in our language words precisely corresponding to the French galimatias, phebus, verbiage, Ishould not contend with him about it; nor should I perhaps dislike, that the very name served to show, that these plants are the natives of a ranker soil, and did not originally belong to us. But if the introduction of exotic words were never admitted, except in such cases, or in order to supply an evident want amongst ourselves, we should not at present have one such term