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Of grammatical purity.
It remains to give some instances wherein sound and sense both concur in misleading us. Of this the word enough is an example, which is frequently confounded with enow, and used for it. Both denote sufficiency, the former in quantity or in degrees of quality, the latter in number. Thus we say properly, “We have courage enough, and ammunition enough : “ but we have not men enow.”
THE derivatives falseness, falsity, falsehood, from the root false, are often by mistake employed for one another, though in the best use they are evidently distinguished. The first falseness is properly used in a moral sense for want of veracity, and applied only to persons; the other two are applied only to things. Falsity denotes that quality in the abstract, which may be defined contrariety to truth. Falsehood is an untrue assertion. The word negligence is improperly used in the following passage : “The negligence of “ this leaves us exposed to an uncommon levity in our “usual conversation +.” He ought to have said neglect. The former implies the habit, the latter denotes the act; perhaps in this case I should say the instance; for an act of a habit of not doing, hath itself the appearance of impropriety.
PRECISELY of the same kind is the misapplication of the word conscience in this quotation. “ The con“ science of approving one's self a benefactor to man
Sect. III. The in propriety...Part I. Impropriety in single words.
“kind, is the noblest recompence for being sof.” Properly the consciousness; the former denotes the faculty, the latter a particular exertion.
This impropriety is reversed in the citation following: “I apprehend that all the sophism, which has “ been, or can be employed, will not be sufficient to “acquit this system at the tribunal of reason $.” For sophism he should have said sophistry; this denotes fallacious reasoning, that only a fallacious argument. This error is of the same kind with poem for poetry, which was remarked above.
SoMETIMEs the neuter verb is mistaken for the active. “What Tully says of war, may be applied to “ disputing; it should be always so managed, as to “ remember, that the only end of it is peace*.” Properly remind us.
SoMETIMEs again, the active verb is mistaken for the neuter. “I may say without vanity, that there “is not a gentleman in England better read in tomb“ stones than myself, my studies having laid very “much in church-yards.” Properly lien or lain. The active verb lay for the neuter lie, is so frequently to be met with in some very modern compositions, as to give room for suspecting that it is an idiom of the cockney language, or of Some provincial dialect.
f Spect. No. 588. § Bol. Ph. E. 20. * Pope's Thought, on various Subjects. + Spect. No. 618.
Of grammatical purity.
In that case it might have been classed under the idiotism.
PERHAPs under the same predicament ought also to be ranked the word plenty, used adjectively. for plentiful, which indeed appears to me so gross a vulgarism, that I should not have thought it worthy a place here, if I had not sometimes found it in works of considerable merit. The relative whom, in the following quotation, is improperly used for which, the former always regarding persons, the latter always things. “The exercise of reason appears as little in “them, as in the beasts they sometimes hunt, and by “whom they are sometimes hunted”.” /
I shALL add but two instances more of impropriety in single words, instances which I have reserved for this place, as being somewhat peculiar, and therefore not strictly reducible to any of the classes above mentioned ; instances too, from authors of such eminence in respect of style, as may fully convince us, if we are not already convinced, that infallibility is not more attainable here than in other articles. #" As I firmly “believe the divine precept, delivered by the Author “of Christianity, there is not a sparrow falls to the “ground without my Father, and cannot admit the a
* Bolingb. Ph. Es. ii. Sect. 2. + General Introduction to the Account of the Voyages of Commodore Byron, &c. by Hawkesworth.
Sect. III. The Impropriety...Part I. Impropriety in single words.
“gency of chance in the government of the world, “I must necessarily refer every event to one cause, as “well the danger as the escape, as well the sufferings “as the enjoyments of life.” There is very little affinity either in sense or in sound, between precept and doctrine; and nothing but an oscitancy, from which no writer whatever is uniformly exempted, can account for so odd a misapplication of a familiar term. The words in connexion might have shewn the error. It is the doctrines of our religion that we are required to believe, and the precepts that we are required to obey. The other example is, “Their success may be “compared to that of a certain prince, who placed, “it is said, cats, and other animals, adored by the “Egyptians, in the front of his army, when he invad“ed that people. A reverence for these phantoms “made the Egyptians lay down their arms, and be“come an easy conquesto.” What the author here intended to say, it is hard to conjecture; but it is unquestionable, that in no sense whatever can cats and other animals be called phantoms,
I SHALL now, before I proceed to consider impropriety, as it appears in phrases, make a few reflections on those principles which most frequently betray authors into such misapplications in the use of single words. As to that which hath been denominated the vulgarism, its genuine source seems to be the affectation of an easy, familiar, and careless manner. The
Boling, Ph. Es. iv. Sect. I.
Of grammatical Purity.
writers who abound in this idiom generally imagine, that their style must appear the more natural, the less pains they bestow upon it. Addison hath exactly hit their notion of easy writing. “It is,” says he, “what “any man may easily write.” But these people, it would seem, need to be informed, that ease is one thing, and carelessness is another ; nay, that these two are so widely different, that the former is most commonly the result of the greatest care. It is like ease in motion, which, though originally the effect of discipline, when once it hath become habitual, has a more simple and more natural appearance, than is to be observed in any manner which untutored Nature can produce. This sentiment is well expressed by the poet:
But ease in writing flows from art, not chance;
True ease in composition, accompanied with purity, differs as much from that homely manner which af. fects the familiarity of low phrases and vulgar idioms, as the appearance of a woman that is plainly but neatly dressed, differs from that of a slattern. But this affectation is to be considered as the spring of one species of impropriety only.
ALL the rest, unless when chargeable on inadvertency, as they sometimes doubtless are, seem naturally to flow from one or other of these two sources,
+ Pope's Imitations,