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soi disant, for self-called, pretended; table d'hôte, for an ordinary; tapis, for a subject of discussion; trait, for a feature; tête-a-tête, for a private conversation; unique, for singular; vis-à-vis, for opposite; with a long list of words of the like description with which not only conceited and shallow-minded writers and speakers embellish, as they ignorantly suppose, their writings and discourse, but which disfigure the productions of many of the best and most admired English authors : being blemishes highly injurious to the beauty and purity of the English language, which is sufficiently copious and expressive, and possesses sufficient capabilities, not to require the aid of foreign and adventitious ornament or addition. Objectionable, however, as these and similar expressions are, as having no analogy or affinity to the structure and genius of our language, and not being subject to its inflections and construction, yet by the usage and adoption of authoritative writers and speakers, some of them, as antique, attaché, billetdoux, cortege, boudoir, espionage, chaperon, éclat, encore, ci-devant, soi-disant, debût, en deshabille, en profile, douceur, mal-à-propos, protégé, parvenu, rencontre, tête-à-tête, trait, and a few others, have become naturalised, as more adequately denoting ideas or combinations of ideas than the correspondent English words or terms. Foreign words are also admissible to obviate a tedious and languid circumlocution.
The use of Latinized words is an offence against the purity of English diction.
No writer has contributed more to the adoption of this defect than Dr. Johnson. Though his involutions and inversions of sentences, and verbalisms adopted from that language, have contributed much to the improvement of the harmony of the English language, and to diversify its structure and rhythm by ridding it of the harsh and sibilant or hissing qualities which it derived from its German extraction, his profuse introduction of Latinized words and longtailed un-in-one-breath-utterable compounds have tended greatly toimpair its freedom and pliancy, and to weaken its genius and vigour. The occasional absence of simplicity and smoothness in Milton's prose works (which by-the-bye contain the most splendid specimens of the compass and power of the English language to be found in any writer ancient or modern,) is attributable to his fondness for the Latin idiom in the construction of his sentences. The force and effect of the pure English words swiftness, womanish, fearful, swerve, done, taught, talkative, lying, truthfulness, spite, grudge, or ill-will, swelling, &c., in comparison of the Latinized English velocity, effeminate, timid, deviate, executed, incul. cated, loquacious, mendacity, veracity, animosity, tumefaction, &c., must appear to every person possessed of taste, and whose judgment is not warped by prejudice, or who is not (to adopt the indignant expression of a patriotic writer), ashamed of his mother tongue. “ The English is a noble language,” says Southey, a beautiful language. I can tolerate a Germanism for family sake, but he who uses a Latin or French phrase where a pure old English word does as well, ought to be hung, drawn, and quartered for high treason against his mother tongue." Objectionable, however, as Latinized idioms and forms of expression are, it is necessary to apprize the student of composition, that by the adoption of the words and idioms of the classic languages of Greece and Rome, as also those of the modern French and Italian, the English language has not only been enriched and harmonized, but it has been rendered more flexible, graceful, and expressive, and words and constructions of phrases have been introduced into it necessary for the expression of compound and abstract ideas, of which its Saxon origin renders it unsusceptible, it being a language adapted only to a simple state of society; but as the ideas of inen became improved and extended, a consequent improvement was necessary to be made in language, (which is, as has already been said, the symbol and vehicle of thought) and that improvement could only be obtained either by a new coinage, or by the adoption of words borrowed from other languages, moulded into the form and genius of our speech.(e)
In the adoption of new-coined or uncommon, or to use a more popular and significant expression, fine and hard words, the student of composition should be particularly on his guard not to offend against that golden rule of composition propounded by the author of the Institutes. Insolens verbum, tanquam scopulum, evitare, (which may not inaptly be paraphrased, high-sounding and learned-like words and epithets, and the other paraphernalia of the fine-writing-notions of superficial thinkers,) should be cautiously avoided as the base of just and correct composition. When new-coined words and phrases are analogically formed according to the genius and structure of the English language, and they are in sound agreeable to the ear, and tend to enlarge and enrich the language, they are admissible.
The introduction of obsolete or antiquated words, and their improper abbreviation or contraction, is also a violation of purity of expression. Thus, among numerous other examples, anon, behest, behoved, beseeched, bewray, enow, erewhile, erst, fantasie, furthermore, forasmuch, nevertheless, notwithstanding, peradventure, prythee, quoth, insooth, selfsame, tribulation, verily, vouchsafe, whereas, whilom, wist, wo'tnot, yesternight, &c.; and the abbreviations, crim. con. for
criminal conversation, extra for extraordinary, incog. for incognito, hyp or hipped for hypochondriac, penult for penultimate, pro and con for both sides, &c., are no longer admissible in correct speaking or writing. The abbreviations i.e., e.g., and viz., for that is, for the sake of example, and namely, are unbecoming dignified composition.
To the student in English composition, it may not be useless to observe, that the authors most distinguished for purity of expression, and particularly for their rejection of foreign words and idioms, and the predominance of Saxon phraseology in their writings, are Swift, Locke, Arbuthnot, Ascham, Addison, Dryden, Shakspeare, the translators of the Bible, and the compilers of the Liturgy. The Bible contains splendid specimens of pure English ; and among many other iustances in the Liturgy, the Lord's Prayer is a perfect example of genuine native language; it is composed entirely of pure Saxon words. It is also necessary to caution the student respecting too undue an anxiety about the Saxon character and complexion of his style. The English language is a compound of many languages, and its force and beauty depend on their happy and tasteful amalgamation ; a prejudice in favour of any one particular element of that combination will tend materially to affect not only the compass, but also the vigour and flexibility of style. The Saxon language was adapted to a simple state of society; to confine ourselves to the use of words only of that origin, from a mistaken notion that they possess some special and inimitable virtue, would, as it has been humorously observed, “ be about as reasonable as to try to " live in wigwams, with no other government or courts of law “ than the wittenagemot.” From the tendency of the English language to universalize itself by the adoption of forms of speech from other languages, there are peculiarities of structure of language to be found in our best writers adopted from other languages, which use and necessity have rendered analogical to the structure of the English language, and to which the pedantic rules of grammar have been obliged to give way.
Among works in the English language remarkable for the predominance of exotic phraseology, none is more distinguished than Brown's Religio Medici; amidst all its quaintness, pedantry, harshness, and extravagance of style, and its exuberant hyperlatinistic conceits, many passages, however, occur in that singularly eccentric work, which are truly great and magnificent, and richly picturesque and imaginative. In his Hydriotaphia, his reflections on death, oblivion, and immortality, are for their eloquence, solemnity, and grandeur of style and diction, unsurpassed in English literature.
PROPRIETY OF EXPRESSION.
But language and composition may be pure, and yet deficient in propriety. The words may be ill-chosen, not adapted to the subject, nor fully expressive of the sense ; they may be equivocal, and inconsistent with the sense in which they are intended to be used, or which is usually appropriated to the ideas they are intended to express, and in that case they are improper; for propriety of expression consists in the selection of such words and phrases as approved usage or recognized acceptation has appropriated to those ideas or sentiments which we employ them to express. Those who wish to understand the precise nature and application of words and the imperfections of language should carefully study the third