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fore, to have substituted in the place of the last two words the term avarice, or love of filthy lucre, either of which expressions would have been rightly construed with the preposition.
of the same kind nearly is the following specimen in the government of a substantive : “ There is one that will think herself obliged to double her kindness and caresses of me. The word kindness requires to be followed by either to or for, and cannot be construed with the preposition of.
We often find something irregular in the management of the prepositions; for instance, in the omission of one altogether: “ He lamented the fatal mistake the world had been so long in using silk-worms."Another in is necessary to complete the construction, whether we suppose the in mentioned to belong to the preceding words or to the succeeding. But as it would have sounded harshly to subjoin another in immediately after the former, it would have been better to give the sentence another turn; as, “ He lamented the fatal mistake in which the world had been so long, in using silkworms."I
We have a similar omission, though not of a preposition, in the expression following : “ That the discoursing on politics shall be looked upon as dull as talking on the weather."$ Syntax absolutely requires that the sentence in this form should have another as immediately before the first. At the same time, it must be owned that this would render the expression very inelegant. This dilemma might have been avoided by giving another turn to the concluding part, as thus “ —shall be looked upon as equally dull with talking on the weather."
Of an error in a wrong choice of a preposition, these words of the same author will furnish an example: “The greatest masters of critical learning differ among one another.'| Had he said “ differ among themselves,” the expression would have been faultless. But the terms themselves and one another, though frequently synonymous, rarely admit the same construction.
We cannot say “one differs among another ;" but we may say one differs from another,” or “ with another ;" the former to express a difference in opinion, the latter a quarrel or breach. It ought, therefore, to have been, in the above-cited passage, “ differ from one another."
I shall only add an instance or two of inaccuracy in the conjunctions and the adverbs; first, in the conjunctions: “A petty constable will neither act cheerfully or wisely.”T Properly, “act neither cheerfully nor wisely.” Neither" cannot grammatically be followed by or. * Spect., No. 490, T.
+ Voyage to Laputa. # Voyage to Laputa.
g Freeholder, No. 38. ll Spectator, No. 321.
Swift's Free Thoughts, &c.
An example of incorrectness in the adverbs you have in the passage following: “ Lest I should be charged for being worse than my word, I shall endeavour to satisfy my reader by pursuing my method proposed; if peradventure he can call to mind what that method was. The adverb peradventure, expressing a degree of evidence or credibility, cannot regularly be construed with the hypothetical conjunction if. It is only to affirmations and negations, and not to bare suppositions, that all the adverbs denoting certainty, probability, or possibility properly belong.
The following passage in the common version of the Bible is liable to the same censure : “Micaiah said, If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me.”+ The translators in this, as in some other places, have been misled by a well-meant attempt to express the force of a Hebraism, which in many cases cannot be expressed in our language.
I shall conclude this article with a quotation from an excellent author, of which, indeed, it would not be easy to say in what part the solecism may be discovered, the whole passage being so perfectly solecistical. “ As he that would keep his house in repair must attend every little breach or flaw, and supply it immediately, else time alone will bring all to ruin, how much more the common accidents of storms and rain ? lle 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 analyze this sentence grammatically, or to say whether it be one sentence or more. It seems, by the conjunction as, 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 negligences 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 this reason, acknowledged also, that it is
* Shaftesbury, vol. iii., Misc. ii., ch. ii.
+ 2 Chron., xviii., 27. Saci, in his French translation, hath expressed the sense of the original with more simplicity and propriety : “ Michée repartit, Si vous revenez en paix, le Seigneur n'a point parle par ma bouche."
# Project for the Advancement of Religion, last sentence.
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 changed. 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? 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.
I come now to consider the third and last class of faults against purity, to which I give the name of impropriety. The barbarism is an offence against etymology, the solecism against syntax, the impropriety against lexicography. The business of the lexicographer is to assign to every word of the language 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, conseqently, 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 enıployed as signs of things to which use hath not affixed them. This fault may be committed either in single words or in phrases.
Part I. Impropriety in Single Words. I begin with single words. As none but those who 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 hy some resemblance or proximity, 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 in different significations. When to observe signifies to remark, the verbal noun is observation ; when it signifies to obey or to keep, the verb 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. In the days of Queen Elizabeth, the word endurance was synonymous with duration, whereas now it is 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, import and importance, conscience and consciousness, arrant and errant.
Human and humane are sometimes confounded, though the only authorized 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.
“Though learn'd, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere ;
Modestly bold, and humanly severe.
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 ceremonie, which signifies both a form of civility and religious rite. The epithet expressive of the first signification is ceremonious, of the second 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 somne writers to confound them; so far, at least, as to use improperly the word construct, and speak of constructing instead of construing 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
* Essay on Criticismn.
works for academic. The former denotes solely, with us, a member of a French academy, or of one established on a similar footing; the latter a Platonic philosopher, one of that sect which took its denomination from the Grecian academy, or, more properly, from the grove of Academus, where the principles of that philosophy were first inculcated.
By a like error, the words sophist and sophister are sometimes confounded; the proper sense of the former being a teacher of philosophy in ancient Greece, of the latter, a specious but false reasoner. “ To demean one's self” has been improperly used by some writers, misled by the sound of the second syllable, for “to debase one's self,” or to behave meanly," whereas the verb to demean implies no more than the verb to behave. Both require an adverb, or something equivalent, to enable them to express whether the demeanour or behaviour is good or bad, noble or mean.
E'er, a contraction of the adverb ever, hath, from a resemblance, or, rather, an identity in sound, been mistaken for the conjunction ere, before; and, in like manner, it's, the genitive of the pronoun it, for 'tis, a contraction of it is.
In the same way, bad, is sometimes very improperly used for bade, the preterit of the word bid, and sate for sat, the preterit of sit. The only proper use of the word bad is as a synonyma for ill; and to sate is the same in signification as to glut.
The word geniä hath by some writers been erroneously adopted for geniuses. Each is a plural of the same word genius, but in different senses. When genius in the singular means a separate spirit or demon, good or bad, the plural is genii ; when it denotes mental abilities, or a person eminently possessed of these, the plural is geniuses. There are some similar instances in our tongue of different plurals belonging to the same singular in different significations. The word brother is one. The plural in modern language, when used literally for male children of the same parent or parents, is brothers; when used figuratively for people of the same profession, nation, religion, or people considered as related by sharing jointly in the same human nature, is brethren. Anciently this last term was the only plural.
I shall next specify improprieties arising from a similitude in sense, into which writers of considerable reputation have sometimes fallen. Veracity you will find, even among such, applied to things, and used for reality; whereas, in strict propriety, the word is only applicable to persons, and signifies not physical, but moral truth.
“ There is no sort of joy,” says Dr. Burnet,* “ more grateful to the mind of man than that which ariseth from the in
* Theory of the Earth, b. i., ch. i.