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been preoccupied by the preterit and the participle passive, hesides that it is only in this application that it can be said to be used analogically. For this reason, the active participle ought always to be rending, and not renting.


The third canon is, When the terms or expressions are in other respects equal, that ought to be preferred which is most agreeable to the ear.

This rule hath perhaps a greater chance of being observed than any other, it having been the general bent for some time to avoid harsh sounds and unmusical periods. Of this we have many examples. Delicateness hath very properly given way to delicacy; and, for a like reason, authenticity will probably soon displace authenticalness, and vindictive dispossess vindicative altogether. Nay, a regard to sound hath, in some instances, had an influence on the public choice, to the prejudice of both the former canons, which one would think ought to be regarded as of more importance. Thus the term ingenuity hath obtained in preference to ingeniousness, though the former cannot be deduced analogically from ingenious, and had besides been preoccupied, and, consequently, would be equivocal, being a regular derivative from the term ingenious, if the newer acceptation had not before now supplanted the other altogether.

CANON THE FOURTH. The fourth canon is, In cases wherein none of the foregoing rules gives either side a ground of preference, a regard to simplicity (in which I include etymology when manifest) ought to determine our choice.

Under the name simplicity I must be understood to comprehend also brevity; for that expression is always the simplest which, with equal purity and perspicuity, is the briefest. We have, for instance, several 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 approve of ; in like manner, address or address to, atlain or at

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 admitted of by his master"

“ The magistrates were addressed to by the townsmen,” are evidently much worse than “His present was accepted by his friend” _" His excuse was admitted by his master”—“ The magistrates were addressed by the townsmen.” We have but too many of this awkward, disjointed sort of compounds, and therefore ought not to multiply them without necessity.


tain to.

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.*


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 ancient usage.

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 nominative plural of thou, when more than one are addressed, from you the accusative. For it may be remarked that this distinction is very 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 goal, jailer and goaler. That jail and jailer have been first used is probable, from the vulgar translation of the Bible.t The quotations on the other side from Shakspeare are not

* Subtract is regularly deduced from the supine subtractum of the Latin verb subtraho, 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 soustraire. Besides, there is not another instance in the language of a word beginning with the Latin preposition sub, where the sub is followed by an s, unless when the original word compounded with the preposition begins with an s. Thus we say subscribe from sub and scribo, subsist from sub and sisto, substitute from sub 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 the verbal noun, has given rise to this harsh anomaly.

+ Acts, xvi. 23.

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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 jartière. 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 [ja].




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 application 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 anything. 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 persuasion, and independent of it, nay, sometimes even in contradiction 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* 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 excellence.” 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

* Preface to the Rudiments of English Grammar.

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 authorized by practice, ought to be discarded.” Now, in order to discard them, nothing more is necessary than to disuse them. And to bring us to disuse them, both the example and the arguments of the critic will have their weight. A very little attention will satisfy every reasonable person of the difference there is between the bare omission, or, rather, the not employing of what is used, and the introduction of what is unusual. The former, provided what you substitute in its stead be proper, and have the authority of custom, can never come under the observation, or, at least, the reprehension of a reader, whereas the latter shocks our ears immediately. Here, therefore, lies one principal province of criticism, to point out the characters of those words and idioms which deserve to be disfranchised and consigned to perpetual oblivion. It is by carefully filing off all roughnesses and inequalities that languages, like metals, must be polished. This, indeed, is an effect of taste. And hence it happens, that the first rudiments of taste no sooner appear in any people, than the language begins, as it were of itself, to emerge out of that state of rudeness in which it will ever be found in uncivilized nations. As they improve in art and sciences, their speech refines; it not only becomes richer and more comprehensive, but acquires greater precision, perspicuity, and harmony. This effect taste insensibly produces among the people long before the language becomes the object of their attention. But when criticism hath called forth their attention to this object, there is a probability that the effect will be accelerated.

It is, however, no less certain, on the other hand, that in the declension of taste and science, language will unavoidably degenerate, and though the critical art may retard a little, it will never be able to prevent this degeneracy. I shall therefore subjoin a few remarks under the form of canons, in relation to those words or expressions which may be thought to merit degradation from the rank they have hitherto maintained, submitting these remarks entirely, as everything of the kind must be submitted, to the final determination of the impartial public.


The first canon on this subject is, All words and phrases * For ascertaining the English tongue; see the Letter to the Lord-high Treasurer.

which are remarkably harsh and unharmonious, and not absolutely necessary, may justly be judged worthy of this fate.

I call a word or phrase absolutely necessary when we have no synonymous words, in the event of a dismission, to supply its place, or no way of conveying properly the same idea without the aid of circumlocution. The rule, with this limitation, will, I believe, be generally assented to. The only difficulty is to fix the criteria by which we may discriminate the obnoxious words from all others.

It may well be reckoned that we have lighted on one criterion, when we have found a decompound or term composed of words already compounded, whereof the several parts are not easily, and, therefore, not closely united. Such are the words bare-faced-ness, shame-faced-ness, un-success-ful-ness, disinterest-ed-ness, wrong-head-ed-ness, tender-heart-ed-ness. They are so heavy and drawling, and, withal, so ill-compacted, that they have not more vivacity than a periphrasis to compensate for the defect of harmony.

Another criterion is, when a word is so formed and accented as to render it of difficult utterance to the speaker, and, consequently, disagreeable in sound to the hearer. This happens in two cases : first, when the syllables which immediately follow the accented syllable are so crowded with consonants as, of necessity, to retard the pronunciation. The words questionless, chroniclers, convénticlers, concupiscence, remémbrancer, are examples of this. The accent in all these is on the antepenultimate, for which reason the last two syllables ought to be pronounced quick; a thing scarcely practicable, on account of the number of consonants which occur in these syllables. The attempt to quicken the pronunciation, though familiar to Englishmen, exhibits to strangers the appearance of awkward hurry, instead of that easy fluency to be found in those words wherein the unaccented syllables are naturally short. Such are lévity, vánity, avidity, all accented in like manner on the antepenultimate. The second case in which a similar dissonance is found is when too many syllables follow the accented syllable ; for, though these be naturally short, their number, if they exceed two, makes a disagreeable pronunciation. Examples of this are the words primarily, cúrsorily, súmmarily, peremptorily, peremptoriness, víndicative; all of which are accented on the fourth syllable from the end. It is to be wished that the use which now prevails in regard to the manner of accenting some words would alter, as we cannot afford to part with every term that is liable to exception in this respect. Nor is a change here to be despaired of, since we find it hath happened to several words already, as the places which they occupy in ancient poetry sufficiently evince. A third criterion is when a short or unaccented syllable is

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