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ed, the whole passage being so perfectly solecistical. “As he that would keep his house in repair, must at“tend every little breach or flaw, and supply it im“mediately, else time alone will bring all to ruin; “how much more the common accidents of storms “ and rain He must live in perpetual danger of his “house falling about his ears; and will find it cheaper “to throw it quite down, and build it again from the “ground, perhaps upon a new foundation, or at least “in a new form, which may neither be so safe nor so “convenient as the old *.” It is impossible to analyse this sentence grammatically, or to say whether it be one sentence or more. It seems, by the conjunction ar, to begin with a comparison, but we have not a single hint of the subject illustrated. Besides, the introducing of the interrogation, How much more— ? after else, which could be regularly followed only by an affirmation or negation; and the incoherency of the next clause, He must live——render it indeed— all of a piece.
So much for the solecism, of which examples might be multiplied almost without end. Let those produced suffice for a specimen. It is acknowledged, that such negligencies are not to be considered as blemishes of any moment in a work of genius, since those, and even worse, may be discovered, on a careful examination, in the most celebrated writings. It is for
* Project for the Advancement of Religion. Last sentence.
this reason acknowledged also, that it is neither candid nor judicious, to form an opinion of a book from a few such specks, selected perhaps from the distant parts of a large performance, and brought into our view at once. Yet, on the other hand, it is certain, that an attention to these little things ought not to be altogether disregarded by any writer. Purity of expression hath but a small share of merit; it hath, however, some share. But it ought especially to be remembered, that, on the account of purity, a considerable part of the merit discovered in the other virtues of elocution, to which it contributes, ought undoubtedly to be charged. The words of the language constitute the materials with which the orator must work; the rules of the language teach him, by what management those materials are rendered useful. And what is purity but the right using of the words of the language by a careful observance of the rules 2 It is therefore justly considered as essential to all the other graces of expression. Hence, not only perspicuity and vivacity, but even elegance and animation, derive a lustre.
SECT. III...The Impropriety.
I come now to consider the third and last class of faults against purity, to which I gave the name of impropriety. The barbarism is an offence against etymology, the Solecism against syntax, the impropriety
Sect. III. The impropriety....Part I. Impropriety in single words.
against lexicography. The business of the lexicographer is to assign to every word of the langnage, the precise meaning or meanings which use hath assigned to it. To do this is as really a part of the grammarian's province, though commonly executed by a different hand, as etymology and syntax. The end of every grammar is to convey the knowledge of that language of which it is the grammar. But the knowledge of all the rules, both of derivation, under which inflection is included, and of construction, nay, and of all the words in the language, is not the knowledge of the language. The words must be known, not barely as sounds, but as signs. We must know to what things respectively they are appropriated. Thus, in our own tongue, we may err egregiously against propriety, and consequently against purity, though all the words we employ be English, and though they be construed in the English idiom. The reason is evident; they may be misapplied ; they may be empleyed as signs of things to which use hath nor affixed them. This fault may be committed either in single words or in phrases. t
PART I....Impropriety in single words,
I BEGIN with single words. As none but such as are grossly ignorant of our tongue, can misapply the words that have no affinity to those whose place they
are made to occupy, I shall take notice only of such.
improprieties, as, by some resemblance or proximity VoI. I. B. b
- Of grammatical purity.
in sound, or sense, or both, a writer is apt unwarily to be seduced into.
It is by proximity in sound that several are misled to use the word observation for observance, as when they speak of the religious observation of a festival, for the religious observance of it. Both words spring from the root observe, but they spring from the same word in different significations. When to observe sig– nifies remark, the verbal noun is observation ; when it signifies to obey or to keep, the verbal is observance.
By a similar mistake endurance hath been used for duration, and confounded with it; whereas its proper sense is patience. It is derived from the active verb to endure, which signifies to suffer, and not from the neuter, which signifies to last. As far back as the days of Queen Elizabeth, the word endurance was synonymous with duration, whereas it is now in this acceptation obsolete. Nay, even in a later period, about the middle of the last century, several words were used synonymously, which we now invariably discriminate. Such are the terms state and estate, property and propriety.
HUMAN and humane are sometimes confounded, though the only authorised sense of the former is, belonging to man; of the latter, kind and compassionate. Humanly is improperly put for Humanely in these lines of Pope :
Sect. III. 3 he Impropriety....Part I. Impropriety in single words.
Tho' learn'd, well-bred; and tho’ well-bred, sincere;
The abstract humanity is equally adapted to both Se1)SeS.
By an error of the same kind with the former, the adjectives ceremonious and ceremonial are sometimes used promiscuously, though by the best and most general use they are distinguished. They come from the same noun ceremony, which signifies both a form of civility, and a religious rite. The epithet expressive of the first signification is ceremonious, of the se-cond ceremonial.
THE word construction serves as the verbal noun of two different verbs, to construe and to construct. The first is a grammatical term, relating solely to the disposition of words in a sentence ; the second signifies to fabricate or build. The common relation in which the two verbs stand to the same appellative, hath misled some writers to confound them ; so far at least as to use improperly the word construct, and speak of constructing, instead of construeing a sentence ; for I have not observed the like misapplication of the other verb. We never hear of construing a fabric or machine. -
ACADEMICIAN is frequently to be found in Bolingbroke's works for academic. The former denotes
* Essay on Criticism,