How to Speak and Write Correctly by Joseph Devlin - HTML preview
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So when we receive a letter from a woman we are enabled to tell whether she has a husband living or is a widow. A woman separated from her husband but not a _divorcee_ should _not_ sign his name.ADDRESS The _address_ of a letter consists of the name, the title and the residence. Mr. Hugh Black, 112 Southgate Street, Altoona, Pa.
Intimate friends have often familiar names for each other, such as pet names, nicknames, etc., which they use in the freedom of conversation, but such names should never, under any circumstances, appear on the envelope. The subscription on the envelope should be always written with propriety and correctness and as if penned by an entire stranger. The only difficulty in the envelope inscription is the title. Every man is entitled to _Mr._ and every lady to _Mrs._ and every unmarried lady to _Miss_. Even a boy is entitled to _Master_. When more than one is addressed the title is _Messrs._ _Mesdames_ is sometimes written of women. If the person addressed has a title it is courteous to use it, but titles never must be duplicated. Thus, we can write
Robert Stitt, M. D., but never Dr. Robert Stitt, M. D, or Mr. Robert Stitt, M. D.
In writing to a medical doctor it is well to indicate his profession by the letters M. D. so as to differentiate him from a D. D. It is better to write Robert Stitt, M. D., than Dr. Robert Stitt.In the case of clergymen the prefix Rev. is retained even when they have other titles; as Rev. Tracy Tooke, LL. D.
When a person has more titles than one it is customary to only give him the leading one. Thus instead of writing Rev. Samuel MacComb, B. A., M. A., B. Sc., Ph. D., LL. D., D. D. the form employed is Rev. Samuel MacComb, LL. D. LL. D. is appended in preference to D. D. because in most cases the "Rev." implies a "D. D." while comparatively few with the prefix "Rev." are entitled to "LL. D."
In the case of _Honorables_ such as Governors, Judges, Members of Congress, and others of the Civil Government the prefix "Hon." does away with _Mr._ and _Esq._ Thus we write Hon. Josiah Snifkins, not Hon. Mr. Josiah Snifkins or Hon. Josiah Snifkins, Esq. Though this prefix _Hon._ is also often applied to Governors they should be addressed as Excellency. For instance:His Excellency, Charles E. Hughes, Albany, N. Y. In writing to the President the superscription on the envelope should be To the President, Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C.
Professional men such as doctors and lawyers as well as those having legitimately earned College Degrees may be addressed on the envelopes by their titles, as
Jonathan Janeway, M. D. Hubert Houston, B. L. Matthew Marks, M. A., etc.
The residence of the person addressed should be plainly written out in full. The street and numbers should be given and the city or town written very legibly. If the abbreviation of the State is liable to be confounded or confused with that of another then the full name of the State should be written. In writing the residence on the envelope, instead of putting it all in one line as is done at the head of a letter, each item of the residence forms a separate line. Thus,Liberty, Sullivan County, New York. 215 Minna St., San Francisco, California.
There should be left a space for the postage stamp in the upper right hand corner. The name and title should occupy a line that is about central between the top of the envelope and the bottom. The name should neither be too much to right or left but located in the centre, the beginning and end at equal distances from either end.
In writing to large business concerns which are well known or to public or city officials it is sometimes customary to leave out number and street. Thus,
Messrs. Seigel, Cooper Co.,
_Notes_ may be regarded as letters in miniature confined chiefly to invitations, acceptances, regrets and introductions, and modern etiquette tends towards informality in their composition. Card etiquette, in fact, has taken the place of ceremonious correspondence and informal notes are now the rule. Invitations to dinner and receptions are now mostly written on cards. "Regrets" are sent back on visiting cards with just the one word _"Regrets"_ plainly written thereon. Often on cards and notes of invitation we find the letters R. S. V. P. at the bottom. These letters stand for the French _repondez s'il vous plait_, which means "Reply, if you please," but there is no necessity to put this on an invitation card as every well-bred person knows that a reply is expected. In writing notes to young ladies of the same family it should be noted that the eldest daughter of the house is entitled to the designation _Miss_ without any Christian name, only the surname appended. Thus if there are three daughters in the Thompson family Martha, the eldest, Susan and Jemina, Martha is addressed as _Miss_ Thompson and the other two as _Miss_ Susan Thompson and _Miss_ Jemina Thompson respectively.Don't write the word _addressed_ on the envelope of a note. Don't _seal_ a note delivered by a friend. Don't write a note on a postal card. Here are a few common forms:-- FORMAL INVITATIONS
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wagstaff request the honor of Mr. McAdoo's presence on Friday evening, June 15th, at 8 o'clock to meet the Governor of the Fort.19 Woodbine Terrace June 8th, 1910. This is an invitation to a formal reception calling for evening dress. Here is Mr. McAdoo's reply in the third person:--
Mr. McAdoo presents his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wagstaff and accepts with great pleasure their invitation to meet the Governor of the Fort on the evening of June fifteenth.215 Beacon Street, June 10th, 1910. Here is how Mr. McAdoo might decline the invitation:--
Mr. McAdoo regrets that owing to a prior engagement he must forego the honor of paying his respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wagstaff and the Governor of the Fort on the evening of June fifteenth.215 Beacon St., June 10th, 1910. Here is a note addressed, say to Mr. Jeremiah Reynolds.
Mr. and Mrs. Oldham at home on Wednesday evening October ninth from seven to eleven.
21 Ashland Avenue,
Mr. Reynolds accepts with high appreciation the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Oldham's invitation for Wednesday evening October ninth.Windsor Hotel October 7th or
Mr. Reynolds regrets that his duties render it impossible for him to accept Mr. and Mrs. Oldham's kind invitation for the evening of October ninth.Windsor Hotel, October 7th, Sometimes less informal invitations are sent on small specially designed note paper in which the first person takes the place of the third. Thus 360 Pine St., Dec. 11th, 1910.
Dear Mr. Saintsbury:
Mr. Johnson and I should be much pleased to
have you dine with us and a few friends next
Thursday, the fifteenth, at half past seven. Yours sincerely,
Dear Mrs. Burnside:
Let me accept very appreciatively your
invitation to dine with Mr. Burnside and you
on next Thursday, the fifteenth, at half past
Yours sincerely, Henry Saintsbury.
Mrs. Alexander Burnside.
Notes of introduction should be very circumspect as the writers are in reality vouching for those whom they introduce. Here is a specimen of such a note.603 Lexington Ave., New York City, June 15th, 1910.
Rev. Cyrus C. Wiley, D. D.,
Newark, N. J.
My dear Dr. Wiley:
I take the liberty of
presenting to you my friend, Stacy Redfern,
M. D., a young practitioner, who is anxious
to locate in Newark. I have known him many
years and can vouch for his integrity and
professional standing. Any courtesy and
kindness which you may show him will be very
much appreciated by me.
Very sincerely yours,
Mistakes--Slips of Authors--Examples and Corrections--Errors of Redundancy. In the following examples the word or words in parentheses are uncalled for and should be omitted:1. Fill the glass (full). 2. They appeared to be talking (together) on private affairs. 3. I saw the boy and his sister (both) in the garden. 4. He went into the country last week and returned (back) yesterday. 5. The subject (matter) of his discourse was excellent. 6. You need not wonder that the (subject) matter of his discourse was excellent; it was taken from the Bible. 7. They followed (after) him, but could not overtake him. 8. The same sentiments may be found throughout (the whole of) the book. 9. I was very ill every day (of my life) last week. 10. That was the (sum and) substance of his discourse. 11. He took wine and water and mixed them (both) together. 12. He descended (down) the steps to the cellar. 13. He fell (down) from the top of the house. 14. I hope you will return (again) soon. 15. The things he took away he restored (again). 16. The thief who stole my watch was compelled to restore it (back again). 17. It is equally (the same) to me whether I have it today or tomorrow. 18. She said, (says she) the report is false; and he replied, (says he) if it be not correct I have been misinformed. 19. I took my place in the cars (for) to go to New York. 20. They need not (to) call upon him. 21. Nothing (else) but that would satisfy him.
22. Whenever I ride in the cars I (always) find it prejudicial to my health.
23. He was the first (of all) at the meeting.
Further examples of redundancy might be multiplied. It is very common in newspaper writing where not alone single words but entire phrases are sometimes brought in, which are unnecessary to the sense or explanation of what is written.GRAMMATICAL ERRORS OF STANDARD AUTHORS
Even the best speakers and writers are sometimes caught napping. Many of our standard authors to whom we have been accustomed to look up as infallible have sinned more or less against the fundamental principles of grammar by breaking the rules regarding one or more of the nine parts of speech. In fact some of them have recklessly trespassed against all nine, and still they sit on their pedestals of fame for the admiration of the crowd. Macaulay mistreated the article. He wrote,--"That _a_ historian should not record trifles is perfectly true." He should have used _an_.
Dickens also used the article incorrectly. He refers to "Robinson Crusoe" as "_an_ universally popular book," instead of _a_ universally popular book.
The relation between nouns and pronouns has always been a stumbling block to speakers and writers. Hallam in his _Literature of Europe_ writes, "No one as yet had exhibited the structure of the human kidneys, Vesalius having only examined them in dogs." This means that Vesalius examined human kidneys in dogs. The sentence should have been, "No one had as yet exhibited the kidneys in human beings, Vesalius having examined such organs in dogs only."
Sir Arthur Helps in writing of Dickens, states--"I knew a brother author of his who received such criticisms from him (Dickens) very lately and profited by _it_." Instead of _it_ the word should be _them_ to agree with criticisms.Here are a few other pronominal errors from leading authors: "Sir Thomas Moore in general so writes it, although not many others so late as _him_." Should be _he_.--Trench's _English Past and Present_. "What should we gain by it but that we should speedily become as poor as _them_." Should be _they_.--Alison's _Essay on Macaulay_.
"If the king gives us leave you or I may as lawfully preach, as _them_ that do." Should be _they_ or _those_, the latter having persons understood.--Hobbes's _History of Civil Wars_.
"The drift of all his sermons was, to prepare the Jews for the reception of a prophet, mightier than _him_, and whose shoes he was not worthy to bear." Should be than _he_.--Atterbury's _Sermons_.
"Phalaris, who was so much older than _her_." Should be _she_.--Bentley's _Dissertation on Phalaris_.
"King Charles, and more than _him_, the duke and the Popish faction were at liberty to form new schemes." Should be than _he_.--Bolingbroke's _Dissertations on Parties_.
"We contributed a third more than the Dutch, who were obliged to the same proportion more than _us_." Should be than _we_.--Swift's _Conduct of the Allies_.In all the above examples the objective cases of the pronouns have been used while the construction calls for nominative cases. "Let _thou_ and _I_ the battle try"--_Anon_.
Here _let_ is the governing verb and requires an objective case after it; therefore instead of _thou_ and _I_, the words should be _you_ (_sing_.) and _me_."Forever in this humble cell, Let thee and I, my fair one, dwell" --_Prior_. Here _thee_ and _I_ should be the objectives _you_ and _me_. The use of the relative pronoun trips the greatest number of authors. Even in the Bible we find the relative wrongly translated: Whom do men say that I am?--_St. Matthew_. Whom think ye that I am?--_Acts of the Apostles_.
_Who_ should be written in both cases because the word is not in the objective governed by say or think, but in the nominative dependent on the verb _am_."_Who_ should I meet at the coffee house t'other night, but my old friend?"--_Steele_.
"It is another pattern of this answerer's fair dealing, to give us hints that the author is dead, and yet lay the suspicion upon somebody, I know not _who_, in the country."--Swift's _Tale of a Tub_."My son is going to be married to I don't know _who_."--Goldsmith's _Good-natured Man_. The nominative _who_ in the above examples should be the objective _whom_. The plural nominative _ye_ of the pronoun _thou_ is very often used for the objective _you_, as in the following: "His wrath which will one day destroy _ye both_."--_Milton_. "The more shame for _ye_; holy men I thought _ye_."--_Shakespeare_. "I feel the gales that from _ye_ blow."--_Gray_. "Tyrants dread _ye_, lest your just decree Transfer the power and set the people free."--_Prior_. Many of the great writers have played havoc with the adjective in the indiscriminate use of the degrees of comparison. "Of two forms of the same word, use the fittest."--_Morell_. The author here in _trying_ to give good advice sets a bad example. He should have used the comparative degree, "Fitter."
Adjectives which have a comparative or superlative signification do not admit the addition of the words _more_, _most_, or the terminations, _er_, _est_, hence the following examples break this rule:"Money is the _most universal_ incitement of human misery."--Gibbon's _Decline and Fall_. "The _chiefest_ of which was known by the name of Archon among the Grecians."--Dryden's _Life of Plutarch_. "The _chiefest_ and largest are removed to certain magazines they call libraries."--Swift's _Battle of the Books_. The two _chiefest_ properties of air, its gravity and elastic force, have been discovered by mechanical experiments.--_Arbuthno_.
"From these various causes, which in greater or _lesser_ degree, affected every individual in the colony, the indignation of the people became general."--Robertson's _History of America_."The _extremest_ parts of the earth were meditating a submission." --Atterbury's _Sermons_. "The last are indeed _more preferable_ because they are founded on some new knowledge or improvement in the mind of man."--Addison, _Spectator_. "This was in reality the _easiest_ manner of the two."--Shaftesbury's _Advice to an Author_. "In every well formed mind this second desire seems to be the _strongest_ of the two."--Smith's _Theory of Moral Sentiments_. In these examples the superlative is wrongly used for the comparative. When only two objects are compared the comparative form must be used. Of impossibility there are no degrees of comparison, yet we find the following:
"As it was impossible they should know the words, thoughts and secret actions of all men, so it was _more impossible_ they should pass judgment on them according to these things."--Whitby's _Necessity of the Christian Religion_.A great number of authors employ adjectives for adverbs. Thus we find: "I shall endeavor to live hereafter _suitable_ to a man in my station." --_Addison_. "I can never think so very _mean_ of him."--Bentley's _Dissertation on Phalaris_. "His expectations run high and the fund to supply them is _extreme_ scanty."--_Lancaster's Essay on Delicacy_.
The commonest error in the use of the verb is the disregard of the concord between the verb and its subject. This occurs most frequently when the subject and the verb are widely separated, especially if some other noun of a different number immediately precedes the verb. False concords occur very often after _either_, _or_, _neither_, _nor_, and _much_, _more_, _many_, _everyone_, _each_.Here are a few authors' slips:-- "The terms in which the sale of a patent _were_ communicated to the public."--Junius's _Letters_. "The richness of her arms and apparel _were_ conspicuous."--Gibbon's _Decline and Fall_. "Everyone of this grotesque family _were_ the creatures of national genius."--D'Israeli. "He knows not what spleen, languor or listlessness _are_."--Blair's _Sermons_. "Each of these words _imply_, some pursuit or object relinquished." --_Ibid_. "Magnus, with four thousand of his supposed accomplices _were_ put to death."--_Gibbon_. "No nation gives greater encouragements to learning than we do; yet at the same time _none are_ so injudicious in the application." --_Goldsmith_. "_There's two_ or _three_ of us have seen strange sights."--_Shakespeare_.
The past participle should not be used for the past tense, yet the learned Byron overlooked this fact. He thus writes in the _Lament of Tasso_:--"And with my years my soul _begun to pant_ With feelings of strange tumult and soft pain." Here is another example from Savage's _Wanderer_ in which there is double sinning: "From liberty each nobler science _sprung_, A Bacon brighten'd and a Spenser _sung_." Other breaches in regard to the participles occur in the following:-- "Every book ought to be read with the same spirit and in the same manner as it is _writ_"--Fielding's _Tom Jones_. "The Court of Augustus had not _wore_ off the manners of the republic" --Hume's _Essays_. "Moses tells us that the fountains of the earth were _broke_ open or clove asunder."--Burnet. "A free constitution when it has been _shook_ by the iniquity of former administrations."--_Bolingbroke_. "In this respect the seeds of future divisions were _sowed_ abundantly." --_Ibid_. In the following example the present participle is used for the infinitive mood: "It is easy _distinguishing_ the rude fragment of a rock from the splinter of a statue."--Gilfillan's _Literary Portraits_. _Distinguishing_ here should be replaced by _to distinguish_. The rules regarding _shall_ and _will_ are violated in the following: "If we look within the rough and awkward outside, we _will_ be richly rewarded by its perusal."--Gilfillan's _Literary Portraits_.
"If I _should_ declare them and speak of them, they should be more than I am able to express."--_Prayer Book Revision of Psalms XI_. "If I _would_ declare them and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."--_Ibid_."Without having attended to this, we _will_ be at a loss, in understanding several passages in the classics."--Blair's _Lectures_.
"We know to what cause our past reverses have been owing and _we_ will have ourselves to blame, if they are again incurred."--Alison's _History of Europe_.
Adverbial mistakes often occur in the best writers. The adverb _rather_ is a word very frequently misplaced. Archbishop Trench in his "English Past and Present" writes, "It _rather_ modified the structure of our sentences than the elements of our vocabulary." This should have been written,--"It modified the structure of our sentences _rather than_ the elements of our vocabulary."
"So far as his mode of teaching goes he is _rather_ a disciple of Socrates than of St. Paul or Wesley." Thus writes Leslie Stephens of Dr. Johnson. He should have written,--" So far as his mode of teaching goes he is a disciple of Socrates _rather_ than of St. Paul or Wesley."
The preposition is a part of speech which is often wrongly used by some of the best writers. Certain nouns, adjectives and verbs require particular prepositions after them, for instance, the word _different_ always takes the preposition _from_ after it; _prevail_ takes _upon_; _averse_ takes _to_; _accord_ takes _with_, and so on.In the following examples the prepositions in parentheses are the ones that should have been used: "He found the greatest difficulty _of_ (in) writing."--Hume's _History of England_. "If policy can prevail _upon_ (over) force."--_Addison_. "He made the discovery and communicated _to_ (with) his friends." --Swift's _Tale of a Tub_. "Every office of command should be intrusted to persons _on_ (in) whom the parliament shall confide."--_Macaulay_.
Several of the most celebrated writers infringe the canons of style by placing prepositions at the end of sentences. For instance Carlyle, in referring to the Study of Burns, writes:--"Our own contributions to it, we are aware, can be but scanty and feeble; but we offer them with good will, and trust they may meet with acceptance from those they are intended _for_."
--"for whom they are intended," he should have written. "Most writers have some one vein which they peculiarly and obviously excel _in_."--_William Minto_.This sentence should read,--Most writers have some one vein in which they peculiarly and obviously excel. Many authors use redundant words which repeat the same thought and idea. This is called tautology. "Notwithstanding which (however) poor Polly embraced them all around." --_Dickens_. "I judged that they would (mutually) find each other."--_Crockett_. "....as having created a (joint) partnership between the two Powers in the Morocco question."--_The Times_. "The only sensible position (there seems to be) is to frankly acknowledge our ignorance of what lies beyond."--_Daily Telegraph_. "Lord Rosebery has not budged from his position--splendid, no doubt,--of (lonely) isolation."--_The Times_. "Miss Fox was (often) in the habit of assuring Mrs. Chick."--_Dickens_. "The deck (it) was their field of fame."--_Campbell_. "He had come up one morning, as was now (frequently) his wont," --_Trollope_. The counsellors of the Sultan (continue to) remain sceptical --_The Times_. Seriously, (and apart from jesting), this is no light matter.--_Bagehot_. To go back to your own country with (the consciousness that you go back with) the sense of duty well done.--_Lord Halsbury_. The _Peresviet_ lost both her fighting-tops and (in appearance) looked the most damaged of all the ships--_The Times_.
Counsel admitted that, that was a fair suggestion to make, but he submitted that it was borne out by the (surrounding) circumstances.
Another unnecessary use of words and phrases is that which is termed circumlocution, a going around the bush when there is no occasion for it,--save to fill space.
It may be likened to a person walking the distance of two sides of a triangle to reach the objective point. For instance in the quotation: "Pope professed to have learned his poetry from Dryden, whom, whenever an opportunity was presented, he praised through the whole period of his existence with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his character may receive some illustration, of a comparison he instituted between him and the man whose pupil he was" much of the verbiage may be eliminated and the sentence thus condensed:
"Pope professed himself the pupil of Dryden, whom he lost no opportunity of praising; and his character may be illustrated by a comparison with his master.""His life was brought to a close in 1910 at an age not far from the one fixed by the sacred writer as the term of human existence." This in brevity can be put, "His life was brought to a close at the age of seventy;" or, better yet, "He died at the age of seventy."
"The day was intensely cold, so cold in fact that the thermometer crept down to the zero mark," can be expressed: "The day was so cold the thermometer registered zero."
Many authors resort to circumlocution for the purpose of "padding," that is, filling space, or when they strike a snag in writing upon subjects of which they know little or nothing. The young writer should steer clear of it and learn to express his thoughts and ideas as briefly as possible commensurate with lucidity of expression.
Volumes of errors in fact, in grammar, diction and general style, could be selected from the works of the great writers, a fact which eloquently testifies that no one is infallible and that the very best is liable to err at times. However, most of the erring in the case of these writers arises from carelessness or hurry, not from a lack of knowledge.
As a general rule it is in writing that the scholar is liable to slip; in oral speech he seldom makes a blunder. In fact, there are many people who are perfect masters of speech,--who never make a blunder in conversation, yet who are ignorant of the very principles of grammar and would not know how to write a sentence correctly on paper. Such persons have been accustomed from infancy to hear the language spoken correctly and so the use of the proper words and forms becomes a second nature to them. A child can learn what is right as easy as what is wrong and whatever impressions are made on the mind when it is plastic will remain there. Even a parrot can be taught the proper use of language. Repeat to a parrot.--"Two and two _make_ four" and it never will say "two and two _makes_ four."
In writing, however, it is different. Without a knowledge of the fundamentals of grammar we may be able to speak correctly from association with good speakers, but without such a knowledge we cannot hope to write the language correctly. To write even a common letter we must know the principles of construction, the relationship of one word to another. Therefore, it is necessary for everybody to understand at least the essentials of the grammar of his own language.CHAPTER VIII PITFALLS TO AVOID Common Stumbling Blocks--Peculiar Constructions--Misused Forms. ATTRACTION
Very often the verb is separated from its real nominative or subject by several intervening words and in such cases one is liable to make the verb agree with the subject nearest to it. Here are a few examples showing that the leading writers now and then take a tumble into this pitfall:(1) "The partition which the two ministers made of the powers of government _were_ singularly happy."--_Macaulay_. (Should be _was_ to agree with its subject, _partition_.) (2) "One at least of the qualities which fit it for training ordinary men _unfit_ it for _training_ an extraordinary man."--_Bagehot_. (Should be _unfits_ to agree with subject _one_.)
(3) "The Tibetans have engaged to exclude from their country those dangerous influences whose appearance _were_ the chief cause of our action."--_The Times_.(Should be _was_ to agree with _appearance_.) (4) "An immense amount of confusion and indifference _prevail_ in these days."--_Telegraph_. (Should be _prevails_ to agree with amount.) ELLIPSIS
Errors in ellipsis occur chiefly with prepositions. His objection and condoning of the boy's course, seemed to say the least, paradoxical.(The preposition _to_ should come after objection.) Many men of brilliant parts are crushed by force of circumstances and their genius forever lost to the world.
(Some maintain that the missing verb after genius is _are_, but such is ungrammatical. In such cases the right verb should be always expressed: as--their genius _is_ forever lost to the world.)THE SPLIT INFINITIVE
Even the best speakers and writers are in the habit of placing a modifying word or words between the _to_ and the remaining part of the infinitive. It is possible that such will come to be looked upon in time as the proper form but at present the splitting of the infinitive is decidedly wrong. "He was scarcely able _to_ even _talk_" "She commenced _to_ rapidly _walk_ around the room." "_To have_ really _loved_ is better than not _to have_ at all _loved_." In these constructions it is much better not to split the infinitive. In every-day speech the best speakers sin against this observance.
In New York City there is a certain magistrate, a member of "the 400," who prides himself on his diction in language. He tells this story: A prisoner, a faded, battered specimen of mankind, on whose haggard face, deeply lined with the marks of dissipation, there still lingered faint reminders of better days long past, stood dejected before the judge. "Where are you from?" asked the magistrate. "From Boston," answered the accused. "Indeed," said the judge, "indeed, yours is a sad case, and yet you don't seem _to_ thoroughly _realise_ how low you have sunk." The man stared as if struck. "Your honor does me an injustice," he said bitterly. "The disgrace of arrest for drunkenness, the mortification of being thrust into a noisome dungeon, the publicity and humiliation of trial in a crowded and dingy courtroom I can bear, but to be sentenced by a Police Magistrate who _splits his infinitives_--that is indeed the last blow."ONE
The indefinite adjective pronoun _one_ when put in place of a personal substantive is liable to raise confusion. When a sentence or expression is begun with the impersonal _one_ the word must be used throughout in all references to the subject. Thus, "One must mind one's own business if one wishes to succeed" may seem prolix and awkward, nevertheless it is the proper form. You must not say--"One must mind his business if he wishes to succeed," for the subject is impersonal and therefore cannot exclusively take the masculine pronoun. With _any one_ it is different. You may say--"If any one sins he should acknowledge it; let him not try to hide it by another sin."ONLY
This is a word that is a pitfall to the most of us whether learned or unlearned. Probably it is the most indiscriminately used word in the language. From the different positions it is made to occupy in a sentence it can relatively change the meaning. For instance in the sentence--"I _only_ struck him that time," the meaning to be inferred is, that the only thing I did to him was to _strike_ him, not kick or otherwise abuse him. But if the _only_ is shifted, so as to make the sentence read-"I struck him _only_ that time" the meaning conveyed is, that only on that occasion and at no other time did I strike him. If another shift is made to-"I struck _only_ him that time," the meaning is again altered so that it signifies he was the only person I struck.
In speaking we can by emphasis impress our meaning on our hearers, but in writing we have nothing to depend upon but the position of the word in the sentence. The best rule in regard to _only_ is to place it
_immediately before_ the word or phrase it modifies or limits.
is another word which creates ambiguity and alters meaning. If we substitute it for only in the preceding example the meaning of the sentence will depend upon the arrangement. Thus "I _alone_ struck him at that time" signifies that I and no other struck him. When the sentence reads "I struck him _alone_ at that time" it must be interpreted that he was the only person that received a blow. Again if it is made to read "I struck him at that time _alone_" the sense conveyed is that that was the only occasion on which I struck him. The rule which governs the correct use of _only_ is also applicable to _alone_.OTHER AND ANOTHER
These are words which often give to expressions a meaning far from that intended. Thus, "I have _nothing_ to do with that _other_ rascal across the street," certainly means that I am a rascal myself. "I sent the despatch to my friend, but another villain intercepted it," clearly signifies that my friend is a villain.
A good plan is to omit these words when they can be readily done without, as in the above examples, but when it is necessary to use them make your meaning clear. You can do this by making each sentence or phrase in which they occur independent of contextual aid.
AND WITH THE RELATIVE
Never use _and_ with the _relative_ in this manner: "That is the dog I meant _and which_ I know is of pure breed." This is an error quite common. The use of _and_ is permissible when there is a parallel relative in the preceding sentence or clause. Thus: "There is the dog which I meant and which I know is of pure breed" is quite correct.LOOSE PARTICIPLES
A participle or participial phrase is naturally referred to the nearest nominative. If only one nominative is expressed it claims all the participles that are not by the construction of the sentence otherwise fixed. "John, working in the field all day and getting thirsty, drank from the running stream." Here the participles _working_ and _getting_ clearly refer to John. But in the sentence,--"Swept along by the mob I could not save him," the participle as it were is lying around loose and may be taken to refer to either the person speaking or to the person spoken about. It may mean that I was swept along by the mob or the individual whom I tried to save was swept along.
"Going into the store the roof fell" can be taken that it was the roof which was going into the store when it fell. Of course the meaning intended is that some person or persons were going into the store just as the roof fell.
In all sentence construction with participles there should be such clearness as to preclude all possibility of ambiguity. The participle should be so placed that there can be no doubt as to the noun to which it refers. Often it is advisable to supply such words as will make the meaning obvious.BROKEN CONSTRUCTION
Sometimes the beginning of a sentence presents quite a different grammatical construction from its end. This arises from the fact probably, that the beginning is lost sight of before the end is reached. This occurs frequently in long sentences. Thus: "Honesty, integrity and square-dealing will bring anybody much better through life than the absence of either." Here the construction is broken at _than_. The use of _either_, only used in referring to one of two, shows that the fact is forgotten that three qualities and not two are under consideration. Any one of the three meanings might be intended in the sentence, viz., absence of any one quality, absence of any two of the qualities or absence of the whole three qualities. Either denotes one or the other of two and should never be applied to any one of more than two. When we fall into the error of constructing such sentences as above, we should take them apart and reconstruct them in a different grammatical form. Thus,--"Honesty, integrity and square-dealing will bring a man much better through life than a lack of these qualities which are almost essential to success."DOUBLE NEGATIVE
It must be remembered that two negatives in the English language destroy each other and are equivalent to an affirmative. Thus "I _don't_ know _nothing_ about it" is intended to convey, that I am ignorant of the matter under consideration, but it defeats its own purpose, inasmuch as the use of nothing implies that I know something about it. The sentence should read--"I don't know anything about it."
Often we hear such expressions as "He was _not_ asked to give _no_ opinion," expressing the very opposite of what is intended. This sentence implies that he was asked to give his opinion. The double negative, therefore, should be carefully avoided, for it is insidious and is liable to slip in and the writer remain unconscious of its presence until the eye of the critic detects it.FIRST PERSONAL PRONOUN
The use of the first personal pronoun should be avoided as much as possible in composition. Don't introduce it by way of apology and never use such expressions as "In my opinion," "As far as I can see," "It appears to me," "I believe," etc. In what you write, the whole composition is expressive of your views, since you are the author, therefore, there is no necessity for you to accentuate or emphasize yourself at certain portions of it.
Moreover, the big _I's_ savor of egotism! Steer clear of them as far as you can. The only place where the first person is permissible is in passages where you are stating a view that is not generally held and which is likely to meet with opposition.SEQUENCE OF TENSES
When two verbs depend on each other their tenses must have a definite relation to each other. "I shall have much pleasure in accepting your kind invitation" is wrong, unless you really mean that just now you decline though by-and-by you intend to accept; or unless you mean that you do accept now, though you have no pleasure in doing so, but look forward to be more pleased by-and-by. In fact the sequence of the compound tenses puzzle experienced writers. The best plan is to go back in thought to the time in question and use the tense you would _then_ naturally use. Now in the sentence "I should have liked to have gone to see the circus" the way to find out the proper sequence is to ask yourself the question--what is it I "should have liked" to do? and the plain answer is "to go to see the circus." I cannot answer--"To have gone to see the circus" for that would imply that at a certain moment I would have liked to be in the position of having gone to the circus. But I do not mean this; I mean that at the moment at which I am speaking I wish I had gone to see the circus. The verbal phrase _I should have liked_ carries me back to the time when there was a chance of seeing the circus and once back at the time, the going to the circus is a thing of the present. This whole explanation resolves itself into the simple question,--what should I have liked _at that time_, and the answer is "to go to see the circus," therefore this is the proper sequence, and the expression should be "I should have liked to go to see the circus."
If we wish to speak of something relating to a time _prior_ to that indicated in the past tense we must use the perfect tense of the infinitive; as, "He appeared to have seen better days." We should say "I expected to _meet him_," not "I expected _to have met him_." "We intended _to visit you_," not "_to have visited_ you." "I hoped they _would_ arrive," not "I hoped they _would have_ arrived." "I thought I should _catch_ the bird," not "I thought I should _have caught_ the bird." "I had intended _to go_ to the meeting," not "I had intended to _have gone_ to the meeting."BETWEEN--AMONG
These prepositions are often carelessly interchanged. _Between_ has reference to two objects only, _among_ to more than two. "The money was equally divided between them" is right when there are only two, but if there are more than two it should be "the money was equally divided among them."LESS--FEWER
_Less_ refers is quantity, _fewer_ to number. "No man has _less_ virtues" should be "No man has _fewer_ virtues." "The farmer had some oats and a _fewer_ quantity of wheat" should be "the farmer had some oats and a _less_ quantity of wheat."FURTHER--FARTHER
_Further_ is commonly used to denote quantity, _farther_ to denote distance. "I have walked _farther_ than you," "I need no _further_ supply" are correct.
EACH OTHER--ONE ANOTHER _Each other_ refers to two, _one another_ to more than two. "Jones and Smith quarreled; they struck each other" is correct. "Jones, Smith and Brown quarreled; they struck one another" is also correct. Don't say, "The two boys teach one another" nor "The three girls love each other."EACH, EVERY, EITHER, NEITHER
These words are continually misapplied. _Each_ can be applied to two or any higher number of objects to signify _every one_ of the number _independently_. Every requires _more than two_ to be spoken of and denotes all the _persons_ or _things_ taken _separately_. _Either_ denotes _one or the other of two_, and should not be used to include both. _Neither_ is the negative of either, denoting not the other, and not the one, and relating to _two persons_ or _things_ considered separately.The following examples illustrate the correct usage of these words: _Each_ man of the crew received a reward. _Every_ man in the regiment displayed bravery. We can walk on _either_ side of the street. _Neither_ of the two is to blame. NEITHER-NOR
When two singular subjects are connected by _neither_, _nor_ use a singular verb; as, "_Neither_ John _nor_ James _was there_," not _were_ there.NONE
Custom Has sanctioned the use of this word both with a singular and plural; as--"None _is_ so blind as he who will not see" and "None _are_ so blind as they who will not see." However, as it is a contraction of _no one_ it is better to use the singular verb.RISE-RAISE
These verbs are very often confounded. _Rise_ is to move or pass upward in any manner; as to "rise from bed;" to increase in value, to improve in position or rank, as "stocks rise;" "politicians rise;" "they have risen to honor."
_Raise_ is to lift up, to exalt, to enhance, as "I raise the table;" "He raised his servant;" "The baker raised the price of _bread_."
The transitive verb _lay_, and _lay_, the past tense of the neuter verb _lie_, are often confounded, though quite different in meaning. The neuter verb _to lie_, meaning to lie down or rest, cannot take the objective after it except with a preposition. We can say "He _lies_ on the ground," but we cannot say "He _lies_ the ground," since the verb is neuter and intransitive and, as such, cannot have a direct object. With _lay_ it is different. _Lay_ is a transitive verb, therefore it takes a direct object after it; as "I _lay_ a wager," "I _laid_ the carpet," etc.
Of a carpet or any inanimate subject we should say, "It lies on the floor," "A knife _lies_ on the table," not _lays_. But of a person we say--"He _lays_ the knife on the table," not "He _lies_----." _Lay_ being the past tense of the neuter to lie (down) we should say, "He _lay_ on the bed," and _lain_ being its past participle we must also say "He has _lain_ on the bed."We can say "I lay myself down." "He laid himself down" and such expressions. It is imperative to remember in using these verbs that to _lay_ means _to do_ something, and to lie means _to be in a state of rest_. SAYS I--I SAID _"Says I"_ is a vulgarism; don't use it. "I said" is correct form. IN--INTO
Be careful to distinguish the meaning of these two little prepositions and don't interchange them. Don't say "He went _in_ the room" nor "My brother is _into_ the navy." _In_ denotes the place where a person or thing, whether at rest or in motion, is present; and _into_ denotes _entrance_. "He went _into_ the room;" "My brother is _in_ the navy" are correct.EAT--ATE
Don't confound the two. _Eat_ is present, _ate_ is past. "I _eat_ the bread" means that I am continuing the eating; "I _ate_ the bread" means that the act of eating is past. _Eaten_ is the perfect participle, but often _eat_ is used instead, and as it has the same pronunciation (et) of _ate_, care should be taken to distinguish the past tense, I _ate_ from the perfect _I have eaten_ (_eat_).SEQUENCE OF PERSON
Remember that the _first_ person takes precedence of the _second_ and the _second_ takes precedence of the _third_. When Cardinal Wolsey said _Ego et Rex_ (I and the King), he showed he was a good grammarian, but a bad courtier.AM COME--HAVE COME
"_I am come_" points to my being here, while "I have come" intimates that I have just arrived. When the subject is not a person, the verb _to be_ should be used in preference to the verb _to have_; as, "The box is come" instead of "The box has come."PAST TENSE--PAST PARTICIPLE
The interchange of these two parts of the irregular or so-called _strong_ verbs is, perhaps, the breach oftenest committed by careless speakers and writers. To avoid mistakes it is requisite to know the principal parts of these verbs, and this knowledge is very easy of acquirement, as there are not more than a couple of hundred of such verbs, and of this number but a small part is in daily use. Here are some of the most common blunders: "I seen" for "I saw;" "I done it" for "I did it;" "I drunk" for "I drank;" "I begun" for "I began;" "I rung" for "I rang;" "I run" for "I ran;" "I sung" for "I sang;" "I have chose" for "I have chosen;" "I have drove" for "I have driven;" "I have wore" for "I have worn;" "I have trod" for "I have trodden;" "I have shook" for "I have shaken;" "I have fell" for "I have fallen;" "I have drank" for "I have drunk;" "I have began" for "I have begun;" "I have rang" for "I have rung;" "I have rose" for "I have risen;" "I have spoke" for "I have spoken;" "I have broke" for "I have broken." "It has froze" for "It has frozen." "It has blowed" for "It has blown." "It has flowed" (of a bird) for "It has flown."
N. B.--The past tense and past participle of _To Hang_ is _hanged_ or _hung_. When you are talking about a man meeting death on the gallows, say "He was hanged"; when you are talking about the carcass of an animal say, "It was hung," as "The beef was hung dry." Also say your coat "_was_ hung on a hook."PREPOSITIONS AND THE OBJECTIVE CASE Don't forget that prepositions always take the objective case. Don't say "Between you and _I_"; say "Between you and _me_"
_Two_ prepositions should not govern _one objective_ unless there is an immediate connection between them. "He was refused admission to and forcibly ejected from the school" should be "He was refused admission to the school and forcibly ejected from it."SUMMON--SUMMONS Don't say "I shall summons him," but "I shall summon him." _Summon_ is a verb, _summons_, a noun. It is correct to say "I shall get a _summons_ for him," not a _summon_. UNDENIABLE--UNEXCEPTIONABLE
"My brother has an undeniable character" is wrong if I wish to convey the idea that he has a good character. The expression should be in that case "My brother has an unexceptionable character." An _undeniable_ character is a character that cannot be denied, whether bad or good. An unexceptionable character is one to which no one can take exception.THE PRONOUNS
Very many mistakes occur in the use of the pronouns. "Let you and I go" should be "Let you and _me_ go." "Let them and we go" should be "Let them and us go." The verb let is transitive and therefore takes the objective case.
"Give me _them_ flowers" should be "Give me _those_ flowers"; "I mean _them_ three" should be "I mean those three." Them is the objective case of the personal pronoun and cannot be used adjectively like the demonstrative adjective pronoun. "I am as strong as _him_" should be "I am as strong as _he_"; "I am younger than _her_" should be "I am younger than _she_;" "He can write better than _me_" should be "He can write better than I," for in these examples the objective cases _him_, _her_ and _me_ are used wrongfully for the nominatives. After each of the misapplied pronouns a verb is understood of which each pronoun is the subject. Thus, "I am as strong as he (is)." "I am younger than she (is)." "He can write better than I (can)."
Don't say "_It is me_;" say "_It is I_" The verb _To Be_ of which is is a part takes the same case after it that it has before it. This holds good in all situations as well as with pronouns.
The verb _To Be_ also requires the pronouns joined to it to be in the same case as a pronoun asking a question; The nominative _I_ requires the nominative _who_ and the objectives _me_, _him_, _her_, _its_, _you_, _them_, require the objective _whom_.
"_Whom_ do you think I am?" should be "_Who_ do you think I am?" and "_Who_ do they suppose me to be?" should be "_Whom_ do they suppose me to be?" The objective form of the Relative should be always used, in connection with a preposition. "Who do you take me for?" should be "_Whom_ do, etc." "Who did you give the apple to?" should be "Whom did you give the apple to," but as pointed out elsewhere the preposition should never end a sentence, therefore, it is better to say, "To whom did you give the apple?"After transitive verbs always use the objective cases of the pronouns. For "_He_ and _they_ we have seen," say "_Him_ and _them_ we have seen." THAT FOR SO "The hurt it was that painful it made him cry," say "so painful." THESE--THOSE
Don't say, _These kind; those sort_. _Kind_ and _sort_ are each singular and require the singular pronouns _this_ and _that_. In connection with these demonstrative adjective pronouns remember that _this_ and _these_ refer to what is near at hand, _that_ and _those_ to what is more distant; as, _this book_ (near me), _that book_ (over there), _these_ boys (near), _those_ boys (at a distance).THIS MUCH--THUS MUCH "_This_ much is certain" should be "_Thus_ much or _so_ much is certain." FLEE--FLY
These are two separate verbs and must not be interchanged. The principal parts of _flee_ are _flee_, _fled_, _fled_; those of _fly_ are _fly_, _flew_, _flown_. _To flee_ is generally used in the meaning of getting out of danger. _To fly_ means to soar as a bird. To say of a man "He _has flown_ from the place" is wrong; it should be "He _has fled_ from the place." We can say with propriety that "A bird has _flown_ from the place."THROUGH--THROUGHOUT Don't say "He is well known through the land," but "He is well known throughout the land." VOCATION AND AVOCATION
Don't mistake these two words so nearly alike. Vocation is the employment, business or profession one follows for a living; avocation is some pursuit or occupation which diverts the person from such employment, business or profession. Thus"His vocation was the law, his avocation, farming." WAS--WERE
In the subjunctive mood the plural form _were_ should be used with a singular subject; as, "If I _were_," not _was_. Remember the plural form of the personal pronoun _you_ always takes _were_, though it may denote but one. Thus, "_You were_," never "_you was_." "_If I was him_" is a very common expression. Note the two mistakes in it,--that of the verb implying a condition, and that of the objective case of the pronoun. It should read _If I were he_. This is another illustration of the rule regarding the verb _To Be_, taking the same case after it as before it; _were_ is part of the verb _To Be_, therefore as the nominative (I) goes before it, the nominative (he) should come after it.A OR AN
_A_ becomes an before a vowel or before _h_ mute for the sake of euphony or agreeable sound to the ear. _An apple_, _an orange_, _an heir_, _an honor_, etc.CHAPTER IX STYLE Diction--Purity--Propriety--Precision.
It is the object of every writer to put his thoughts into as effective form as possible so as to make a good impression on the reader. A person may have noble thoughts and ideas but be unable to express them in such a way as to appeal to others, consequently he cannot exert the full force of his intellectuality nor leave the imprint of his character upon his time, whereas many a man but indifferently gifted may wield such a facile pen as to attract attention and win for himself an envious place among his contemporaries.
In everyday life one sees illustrations of men of excellent mentality being cast aside and ones of mediocre or in some cases, little, if any, ability chosen to fill important places. The former are unable to impress their personality; they have great thoughts, great ideas, but these thoughts and ideas are locked up in their brains and are like prisoners behind the bars struggling to get free. The key of language which would open the door is wanting, hence they have to remain locked up.
Many a man has to pass through the world unheard of and of little benefit to it or himself, simply because he cannot bring out what is in him and make it subservient to his will. It is the duty of every one to develop his best, not only for the benefit of himself but for the good of his fellow men. It is not at all necessary to have great learning or acquirements, the laborer is as useful in his own place as the philosopher in his; nor is it necessary to have many talents. One talent rightly used is much better than ten wrongly used. Often a man can do more with one than his contemporary can do with ten, often a man can make one dollar go farther than twenty in the hands of his neighbor, often the poor man lives more comfortably than the millionaire. All depends upon the individual himself. If he make right use of what the Creator has given him and live according to the laws of God and nature he is fulfilling his allotted place in the universal scheme of creation, in other words, when he does his best, he is living up to the standard of a useful manhood.
Now in order to do his best a man of ordinary intelligence and education should be able to express himself correctly both in speaking and writing, that is, he should be able to convey his thoughts in an intelligent manner which the simplest can understand. The manner in which a speaker or writer conveys his thoughts is known as his Style. In other words _Style_ may be defined as the peculiar manner in which a man expresses his conceptions through the medium of language. It depends upon the choice of words and their arrangement to convey a meaning. Scarcely any two writers have exactly the same style, that is to say, express their ideas after the same peculiar form, just as no two mortals are fashioned by nature in the same mould, so that one is an exact counterpart of the other.Just as men differ in the accent and tones of their voices, so do they differ in the construction of their language.
Two reporters sent out on the same mission, say to report a fire, will verbally differ in their accounts though materially both descriptions will be the same as far as the leading facts are concerned. One will express himself in a style _different_ from the other.
If you are asked to describe the dancing of a red-haired lady at the last charity ball you can either say--"The ruby Circe, with the Titian locks glowing like the oriflamme which surrounds the golden god of day as he sinks to rest amid the crimson glory of the burnished West, gave a divine exhibition of the Terpsichorean art which thrilled the souls of the multitude" or, you can simply say--"The red-haired lady danced very well and pleased the audience."
The former is a specimen of the ultra florid or bombastic style which may be said to depend upon the pomposity of verbosity for its effect, the latter is a specimen of simple _natural_ Style. Needless to say it is to be preferred. The other should be avoided. It stamps the writer as a person of shallowness, ignorance and inexperience. It has been eliminated from the newspapers. Even the most flatulent of yellow sheets no longer tolerate it in their columns. Affectation and pedantry in style are now universally condemned.
It is the duty of every speaker and writer to labor after a pleasing style. It gains him an entrance where he would otherwise be debarred. Often the interest of a subject depends as much on the way it is presented as on the subject itself. One writer will make it attractive, another repulsive. For instance take a passage in history. Treated by one historian it is like a desiccated mummy, dry, dull, disgusting, while under the spell of another it is, as it were, galvanized into a virile living thing which not only pleases but captivates the reader.DICTION
The first requisite of style is _choice_ of _words_, and this comes under the head of _Diction_, the property of style which has reference to the words and phrases used in speaking and writing. The secret of literary skill from any standpoint consists in putting the right word in the right place. In order to do this it is imperative to know the meaning of the words we use, their exact literal meaning. Many synonymous words are seemingly interchangeable and appear as if the same meaning were applicable to three or four of them at the same time, but when all such words are reduced to a final analysis it is clearly seen that there is a marked difference in their meaning. For instance _grief_ and _sorrow_ seem to be identical, but they are not. _Grief_ is active, _sorrow_ is more or less passive; _grief_ is caused by troubles and misfortunes which come to us from the outside, while _sorrow_ is often the consequence of our own acts. _Grief_ is frequently loud and violent, _sorrow_ is always quiet and retiring. _Grief_ shouts, _Sorrow_ remains calm.
If you are not sure of the exact meaning of a word look it up immediately in the dictionary. Sometimes some of our great scholars are puzzled over simple words in regard to meaning, spelling or pronunciation. Whenever you meet a strange word note it down until you discover its meaning and use. Read the best books you can get, books written by men and women who are acknowledged masters of language, and study how they use their words, where they place them in the sentences, and the meanings they convey to the readers.
Mix in good society. Listen attentively to good talkers and try to imitate their manner of expression. If a word is used you do not understand, don't be ashamed to ask its meaning.
True, a small vocabulary will carry you through, but it is an advantage to have a large one. When you live alone a little pot serves just as well as a large one to cook your victuals and it is handy and convenient, but when your friends or neighbors come to dine with you, you will need a much larger pot and it is better to have it in store, so that you will not be put to shame for your scantiness of furnishings.
Get as many words as you possibly can--if you don't need them now, pack them away in the garrets of your brain so that you can call upon them if you require them.Keep a note book, jot down the words you don't understand or clearly understand and consult the dictionary when you get time. PURITY
_Purity_ of style consists in using words which are reputable, national and present, which means that the words are in current use by the best authorities, that they are used throughout the nation and not confined to one particular part, and that they are words in constant use at the present time.
There are two guiding principles in the choice of words,--_good use_ and _good taste_. _Good use_ tells us whether a word is right or wrong; _good taste_, whether it is adapted to our purpose or not.A word that is obsolete or too new to have gained a place in the language, or that is a provincialism, should not be used. Here are the Ten Commandments of English style: (1) Do not use foreign words. (2) Do not use a long word when a short one will serve your purpose. _Fire_ is much better than _conflagration_.
(3) Do not use technical words, or those understood only by specialists in their respective lines, except when you are writing especially for such people.(4) Do not use slang.
(5) Do not use provincialisms, as "I guess" for "I think"; "I reckon" for "I know," etc.
(6) Do not in writing prose, use poetical or antiquated words: as "lore, e'er, morn, yea, nay, verily, peradventure."
Trite words, similes and metaphors which have become hackneyed and worn out should be allowed to rest in the oblivion of past usage. Such expressions and phrases as "Sweet sixteen" "the Almighty dollar," "Uncle Sam," "On the fence," "The Glorious Fourth," "Young America," "The lords of creation," "The rising generation," "The weaker sex," "The weaker vessel," "Sweetness long drawn out" and "chief cook and bottle washer," should be put on the shelf as they are utterly worn out from too much usage.
Some of the old similes which have outlived their usefulness and should be pensioned off, are "Sweet as sugar," "Bold as a lion," "Strong as an ox," "Quick as a flash," "Cold as ice," "Stiff as a poker," "White as snow," "Busy as a bee," "Pale as a ghost," "Rich as Croesus," "Cross as a bear" and a great many more far too numerous to mention.
Be as original as possible in the use of expression. Don't follow in the old rut but try and strike out for yourself. This does not mean that you should try to set the style, or do anything outlandish or out of the way, or be an innovator on the prevailing custom. In order to be original there is no necessity for you to introduce something novel or establish a precedent. The probability is you are not fit to do either, by education or talent. While following the style of those who are acknowledged leaders you can be original in your language. Try and clothe an idea different from what it has been clothed and better. If you are speaking or writing of dancing don't talk or write about "tripping the light fantastic toe." It is over two hundred years since Milton expressed it that way in "_L'Allegro_." You're not a Milton and besides over a million have stolen it from Milton until it is now no longer worth stealing.
Don't resurrect obsolete words such as _whilom_, _yclept_, _wis_, etc., and be careful in regard to obsolescent words, that is, words that are at the present time gradually passing from use such as _quoth, trow, betwixt, amongst, froward_, etc.
And beware of new words. Be original in the construction and arrangement of your language, but don't try to originate words. Leave that to the Masters of language, and don't be the first to try such words, wait until the chemists of speech have tested them and passed upon their merits.Quintilian said--"Prefer the oldest of the new and the newest of the old." Pope put this in rhyme and it still holds good:
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold, Alike fantastic, if too new or old: Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.PROPRIETY
_Propriety_ of style consists in using words in their proper sense and as in the case of purity, good usage is the principal test. Many words have acquired in actual use a meaning very different from what they once possessed. "Prevent" formerly meant to go before, and that meaning is implied in its Latin derivation. Now it means to put a stop to, to hinder. To attain propriety of style it is necessary to avoid confounding words derived from the same root; as _respectfully_ and _respectively_; it is necessary to use words in their accepted sense or the sense which everyday use sanctions.SIMPLICITY
_Simplicity_ of style has reference to the choice of simple words and their unaffected presentation. Simple words should always be used in preference to compound, and complicated ones when they express the same or almost the same meaning. The Anglo-Saxon element in our language comprises the simple words which express the relations of everyday life, strong, terse, vigorous, the language of the fireside, street, market and farm. It is this style which characterizes the Bible and many of the great English classics such as the "Pilgrim's Progress," "Robinson Crusoe," and "Gulliver's Travels."CLEARNESS
_Clearness_ of style should be one of the leading considerations with the beginner in composition. He must avoid all obscurity and ambiguous phrases. If he write a sentence or phrase and see that a meaning might be inferred from it otherwise than intended, he should re-write it in such a way that there can be no possible doubt. Words, phrases or clauses that are closely related should be placed as near to each other as possible that their mutual relation may clearly appear, and no word should be omitted that is necessary to the complete expression of thought. UNITY
_Unity_ is that property of style which keeps all parts of a sentence in connection with the principal thought and logically subordinate to it. A sentence may be constructed as to suggest the idea of oneness to the mind, or it may be so loosely put together as to produce a confused and indefinite impression. Ideas that have but little connection should be expressed in separate sentences, and not crowded into one.
Keep long parentheses out of the middle of your sentences and when you have apparently brought your sentences to a close don't try to continue the thought or idea by adding supplementary clauses.STRENGTH
_Strength_ is that property of style which gives animation, energy and vivacity to language and sustains the interest of the reader. It is as necessary to language as good food is to the body. Without it the words are weak and feeble and create little or no impression on the mind. In order to have strength the language must be concise, that is, much expressed in little compass, you must hit the nail fairly on the head and drive it in straight. Go critically over what you write and strike out every word, phrase and clause the omission of which impairs neither the clearness nor force of the sentence and so avoid redundancy, tautology and circumlocution. Give the most important words the most prominent places, which, as has been pointed out elsewhere, are the beginning and end of the sentence.HARMONY
_Harmony_ is that property of style which gives a smoothness to the sentence, so that when the words are sounded their connection becomes pleasing to the ear. It adapts sound to sense. Most people construct their sentences without giving thought to the way they will sound and as a consequence we have many jarring and discordant combinations such as "Thou strengthenedst thy position and actedst arbitrarily and derogatorily to my interests."
Harsh, disagreeable verbs are liable to occur with the Quaker form _Thou_ of the personal pronoun. This form is now nearly obsolete, the plural _you_ being almost universally used. To obtain harmony in the sentence long words that are hard to pronounce and combinations of letters of one kind should be avoided.EXPRESSIVE OF WRITER
Style is expressive of the writer, as to who he is and what he is. As a matter of structure in composition it is the indication of what a man can do; as a matter of quality it is an indication of what he is.KINDS OF STYLE
Style has been classified in different ways, but it admits of so many designations that it is very hard to enumerate a table. In fact there are as many styles as there are writers, for no two authors write _exactly_ after the same form. However, we may classify the styles of the various authors in broad divisions as (1) dry, (2) plain, (3) neat, (4) elegant, (5) florid, (6) bombastic.
The _dry_ style excludes all ornament and makes no effort to appeal to any sense of beauty. Its object is simply to express the thoughts in a correct manner. This style is exemplified by Berkeley.
The _plain_ style does not seek ornamentation either, but aims to make clear and concise statements without any elaboration or embellishment. Locke and Whately illustrate the plain style.
The _neat_ style only aspires after ornament sparingly. Its object is to have correct figures, pure diction and clear and harmonious sentences. Goldsmith and Gray are the acknowledged leaders in this kind of style.
The _elegant_ style uses every ornament that can beautify and avoids every excess which would degrade. Macaulay and Addison have been enthroned as the kings of this style. To them all writers bend the knee in homage.
The _florid_ style goes to excess in superfluous and superficial ornamentation and strains after a highly colored imagery. The poems of Ossian typify this style.
The _bombastic_ is characterized by such an excess of words, figures and ornaments as to be ridiculous and disgusting. It is like a circus clown dressed up in gold tinsel Dickens gives a fine example of it in Sergeant Buzfuz' speech in the "Pickwick Papers." Among other varieties of style may be mentioned the colloquial, the laconic, the concise, the diffuse, the abrupt the flowing, the quaint, the epigrammatic, the flowery, the feeble, the nervous, the vehement, and the affected. The manner of these is sufficiently indicated by the adjective used to describe them.
In fact style is as various as character and expresses the individuality of the writer, or in other words, as the French writer Buffon very aptly remarks, "the style is the man himself."
Rules of grammar and rhetoric are good in their own place; their laws must be observed in order to express thoughts and ideas in the right way so that they shall convey a determinate sense and meaning in a pleasing and acceptable manner. Hard and fast rules, however, can never make a writer or author. That is the business of old Mother Nature and nothing can take her place. If nature has not endowed a man with faculties to put his ideas into proper composition he cannot do so. He may have no ideas worthy the recording. If a person has not a thought to express, it cannot be expressed. Something cannot be manufactured out of nothing. The author must have thoughts and ideas before he can express them on paper. These come to him by nature and environment and are developed and strengthened by study. There is an old Latin quotation in regard to the poet which says "Poeta nascitur non fit" the translation of which is--the poet is born, not made. To a great degree the same applies to the author. Some men are great scholars as far as book learning is concerned, yet they cannot express themselves in passable composition. Their knowledge is like gold locked up in a chest where it is of no value to themselves or the rest of the world.
The best way to learn to write is to sit down and write, just as the best way how to learn to ride a bicycle is to mount the wheel and pedal away. Write first about common things, subjects that are familiar to you. Try for instance an essay on a cat. Say something original about her. Don't say "she is very playful when young but becomes grave as she grows old." That has been said more than fifty thousand times before. Tell what you have seen the family cat doing, how she caught a mouse in the garret and what she did after catching it. Familiar themes are always the best for the beginner. Don't attempt to describe a scene in Australia if you have never been there and know nothing of the country. Never hunt for subjects, there are thousands around you. Describe what you saw yesterday-- a fire, a runaway horse, a dog-fight on the street and be original in your description. Imitate the best writers in their _style_, but not in their exact words. Get out of the beaten path, make a pathway of your own.
Know what you write about, write about what you know; this is a golden rule to which you must adhere. To know you must study. The world is an open book in which all who run may read. Nature is one great volume the pages of which are open to the peasant as well as to the peer. Study Nature's moods and tenses, for they are vastly more important than those of the grammar. Book learning is most desirable, but, after all, it is only theory and not practice. The grandest allegory in the English, in fact, in any language, was written by an ignorant, so-called ignorant, tinker named John Bunyan. Shakespeare was not a scholar in the sense we regard the term to-day, yet no man ever lived or probably ever will live that equalled or will equal him in the expression of thought. He simply read the book of nature and interpreted it from the standpoint of his own magnificent genius.
Don't imagine that a college education is necessary to success as a writer. Far from it. Some of our college men are dead-heads, drones, parasites on the body social, not alone useless to the world but to themselves. A person may be so ornamental that he is valueless from any other standpoint. As a general rule ornamental things serve but little purpose. A man may know so much of everything that he knows little of anything. This may sound paradoxical, but, nevertheless, experience proves its truth.
If you are poor that is not a detriment but an advantage. Poverty is an incentive to endeavor, not a drawback. Better to be born with a good, working brain in your head than with a gold spoon in your mouth. If the world had been depending on the so-called pets of fortune it would have deteriorated long ago.
From the pits of poverty, from the arenas of suffering, from the hovels of neglect, from the backwood cabins of obscurity, from the lanes and by-ways of oppression, from the dingy garrets and basements of unending toil and drudgery have come men and women who have made history, made the world brighter, better, higher, holier for their existence in it, made of it a place good to live in and worthy to die in,--men and women who have hallowed it by their footsteps and sanctified it with their presence and in many cases consecrated it with their blood. Poverty is a blessing, not an evil, a benison from the Father's hand if accepted in the right spirit. Instead of retarding, it has elevated literature in all ages. Homer was a blind beggarman singing his snatches of song for the dole of charity; grand old Socrates, oracle of wisdom, many a day went without his dinner because he had not the wherewithal to get it, while teaching the youth of Athens. The divine Dante was nothing better than a beggar, houseless, homeless, friendless, wandering through Italy while he composed his immortal cantos. Milton, who in his blindness "looked where angels fear to tread," was steeped in poverty while writing his sublime conception, "Paradise Lost." Shakespeare was glad to hold and water the horses of patrons outside the White Horse Theatre for a few pennies in order to buy bread. Burns burst forth in never-dying song while guiding the ploughshare. Poor Heinrich Heine, neglected and in poverty, from his "mattress grave" of suffering in Paris added literary laurels to the wreath of his German Fatherland. In America Elihu Burritt, while attending the anvil, made himself a master of a score of languages and became the literary lion of his age and country.
In other fields of endeavor poverty has been the spur to action. Napoleon was born in obscurity, the son of a hand-to-mouth scrivener in the backward island of Corsica. Abraham Lincoln, the boast and pride of America, the man who made this land too hot for the feet of slaves, came from a log cabin in the Ohio backwoods. So did James A. Garfield. Ulysses Grant came from a tanyard to become the world's greatest general. Thomas A. Edison commenced as a newsboy on a railway train.
The examples of these men are incentives to action. Poverty thrust them forward instead of keeping them back. Therefore, if you are poor make your circumstances a means to an end. Have ambition, keep a goal in sight and bend every energy to reach that goal. A story is told of Thomas Carlyle the day he attained the highest honor the literary world could confer upon him when he was elected Lord Rector of Edinburgh University. After his installation speech, in going through the halls, he met a student seemingly deep in study. In his own peculiar, abrupt, crusty way the Sage of Chelsea interrogated the young man: "For what profession are you studying?" "I don't know," returned the youth. "You don't know," thundered Carlyle, "young man, you are a fool." Then he went on to qualify his vehement remark, "My boy when I was your age, I was stooped in grinding, gripping poverty in the little village of Ecclefechan, in the wilds of [Transcriber's note: Part of word illegible]-frieshire, where in all the place only the minister and myself could read the Bible, yet poor and obscure as I was, in my mind's eye I saw a chair awaiting for me in the Temple of Fame and day and night and night and day I studied until I sat in that chair to-day as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University."
Another Scotchman, Robert Buchanan, the famous novelist, set out for London from Glasgow with but half-a-crown in his pocket. "Here goes," said he, "for a grave in Westminster Abbey." He was not much of a scholar, but his ambition carried him on and he became one of the great literary lions of the world's metropolis.
Henry M. Stanley was a poorhouse waif whose real name was John Rowlands. He was brought up in a Welsh workhouse, but he had ambition, so he rose to be a great explorer, a great writer, became a member of Parliament and was knighted by the British Sovereign.Have ambition to succeed and you will succeed. Cut the word "failure" out of your lexicon. Don't acknowledge it. Remember "In life's earnest battle they only prevail Who daily march onward and never say fail." Let every obstacle you encounter be but a stepping stone in the path of onward progress to the goal of success.
If untoward circumstances surround you, resolve to overcome them. Bunyan wrote the "Pilgrim's Progress" in Bedford jail on scraps of wrapping paper while he was half starved on a diet of bread and water. That unfortunate American genius, Edgar Allan Poe, wrote "The Raven," the most wonderful conception as well as the most highly artistic poem in all English literature, in a little cottage in the Fordham section of New York while he was in the direst straits of want. Throughout all his short and wonderfully brilliant career, poor Poe never had a dollar he could call his own. Such, however, was both his fault and his misfortune and he is a bad exemplar.
Don't think that the knowledge of a library of books is essential to success as a writer. Often a multiplicity of books is confusing. Master a few good books and master them well and you will have all that is necessary. A great authority has said: "Beware of the man of one book," which means that a man of one book is a master of the craft. It is claimed that a thorough knowledge of the Bible alone will make any person a master of literature. Certain it is that the Bible and Shakespeare constitute an epitome of the essentials of knowledge. Shakespeare gathered the fruitage of all who went before him, he has sown the seeds for all who shall ever come after him. He was the great intellectual ocean whose waves touch the continents of all thought.
Books are cheap now-a-days, the greatest works, thanks to the printing press, are within the reach of all, and the more you read, the better, provided they are worth reading. Sometimes a man takes poison into his system unconscious of the fact that it is poison, as in the case of certain foods, and it is very hard to throw off its effects. Therefore, be careful in your choice of reading matter. If you cannot afford a full library, and as has been said, such is not necessary, select a few of the great works of the master minds, assimilate and digest them, so that they will be of advantage to your literary system. Elsewhere in this volume is given a list of some of the world's masterpieces from which you can make a selection.
Your brain is a storehouse, don't put useless furniture into it to crowd it to the exclusion of what is useful. Lay up only the valuable and serviceable kind which you can call into requisition at any moment.
As it is necessary to study the best authors in order to be a writer, so it is necessary to study the best speakers in order to talk with correctness and in good style. To talk rightly you must imitate the masters of oral speech. Listen to the best conversationalists and how they express themselves. Go to hear the leading lectures, speeches and sermons. No need to imitate the gestures of elocution, it is nature, not art, that makes the elocutionist and the orator. It is not _how_ a speaker expresses himself but the language which he uses and the manner of its use which should interest you. Have you heard the present day masters of speech? There have been past time masters but their tongues are stilled in the dust of the grave, and you can only read their eloquence now. You can, however, listen to the charm of the living. To many of us voices still speak from the grave, voices to which we have listened when fired with the divine essence of speech. Perhaps you have hung with rapture on the words of Beecher and Talmage. Both thrilled the souls of men and won countless thousands over to a living gospel. Both were masters of words, they scattered the flowers of rhetoric on the shrine of eloquence and hurled veritable bouquets at their audiences which were eagerly seized by the latter and treasured in the storehouse of memory. Both were scholars and philosophers, yet they were far surpassed by Spurgeon, a plain man of the people with little or no claim to education in the modern sense of the word. Spurgeon by his speech attracted thousands to his Tabernacle. The Protestant and Catholic, Turk, Jew and Mohammedan rushed to hear him and listened, entranced, to his language. Such another was Dwight L. Moody, the greatest Evangelist the world has ever known. Moody was not a man of learning; he commenced life as a shoe salesman in Chicago, yet no man ever lived who drew such audiences and so fascinated them with the spell of his speech. "Oh, that was personal magnetism," you will say, but it was nothing of the kind. It was the burning words that fell from the lips of these men, and the way, the manner, the force with which they used those words that counted and attracted the crowds to listen unto them. Personal magnetism or personal appearance entered not as factors into their success. Indeed as far as physique were concerned, some of them were handicapped. Spurgeon was a short, podgy, fat little man, Moody was like a country farmer, Talmage in his big cloak was one of the most slovenly of men and only Beecher was passable in the way of refinement and gentlemanly bearing. Physical appearance, as so many think, is not the sesame to the interest of an audience. Daniel O'Connell, the Irish tribune, was a homely, ugly, awkward, ungainly man, yet his words attracted millions to his side and gained for him the hostile ear of the British Parliament, he was a master of verbiage and knew just what to say to captivate his audiences.
It is words and their placing that count on almost all occasions. No matter how refined in other respects the person may be, if he use words wrongly and express himself in language not in accordance with a proper construction, he will repel you, whereas the man who places his words correctly and employs language in harmony with the laws of good speech, let him be ever so humble, will attract and have an influence over you.
The good speaker, the correct speaker, is always able to command attention and doors are thrown open to him which remain closed to others not equipped with a like facility of expression. The man who can talk well and to the point need never fear to go idle. He is required in nearly every walk of life and field of human endeavor, the world wants him at every turn. Employers are constantly on the lookout for good talkers, those who are able to attract the public and convince others by the force of their language. A man may be able, educated, refined, of unblemished character, nevertheless if he lack the power to express himself, put forth his views in good and appropriate speech he has to take a back seat, while some one with much less ability gets the opportunity to come to the front because he can clothe his ideas in ready words and talk effectively.
You may again say that nature, not art, makes a man a fluent speaker; to a great degree this is true, but it is _art_ that makes him a _correct_ speaker, and correctness leads to fluency. It is possible for everyone to become a correct speaker if he will but persevere and take a little pains and care.
At the risk of repetition good advice may be here emphasized: Listen to the best speakers and note carefully the words which impress you most. Keep a notebook and jot down words, phrases, sentences that are in any way striking or out of the ordinary run. If you do not understand the exact meaning of a word you have heard, look it up in the dictionary. There are many words, called synonyms, which have almost a like signification, nevertheless, when examined they express different shades of meaning and in some cases, instead of being close related, are widely divergent. Beware of such words, find their exact meaning and learn to use them in their right places.
Be open to criticism, don't resent it but rather invite it and look upon those as friends who point out your defects in order that you may remedy them.CHAPTER XI SLANG Origin--American Slang--Foreign Slang
Slang is more or less common in nearly all ranks of society and in every walk of life at the present day. Slang words and expressions have crept into our everyday language, and so insiduously, that they have not been detected by the great majority of speakers, and so have become part and parcel of their vocabulary on an equal footing with the legitimate words of speech. They are called upon to do similar service as the ordinary words used in everyday conversation--to express thoughts and desires and convey meaning from one to another. In fact, in some cases, slang has become so useful that it has far outstripped classic speech and made for itself such a position in the vernacular that it would be very hard in some cases to get along without it. Slang words have usurped the place of regular words of language in very many instances and reign supreme in their own strength and influence.
Cant and slang are often confused in the popular mind, yet they are not synonymous, though very closely allied, and proceeding from a common Gypsy origin. Cant is the language of a certain class--the peculiar phraseology or dialect of a certain craft, trade or profession, and is not readily understood save by the initiated of such craft, trade or profession. It may be correct, according to the rules of grammar, but it is not universal; it is confined to certain parts and localities and is only intelligible to those for whom it is intended. In short, it is an esoteric language which only the initiated can understand. The jargon, or patter, of thieves is cant and it is only understood by thieves who have been let into its significance; the initiated language of professional gamblers is cant, and is only intelligible to gamblers.
On the other hand, slang, as it is nowadays, belongs to no particular class but is scattered all over and gets _entre_ into every kind of society and is understood by all where it passes current in everyday expression. Of course, the nature of the slang, to a great extent, depends upon the locality, as it chiefly is concerned with colloquialisms or words and phrases common to a particular section. For instance, the slang of London is slightly different from that of New York, and some words in the one city may be unintelligible in the other, though well understood in that in which they are current. Nevertheless, slang may be said to be universally understood. "To kick the bucket," "to cross the Jordan," "to hop the twig" are just as expressive of the departing from life in the backwoods of America or the wilds of Australia as they are in London or Dublin.
Slang simply consists of words and phrases which pass current but are not refined, nor elegant enough, to be admitted into polite speech or literature whenever they are recognized as such. But, as has been said, a great many use slang without their knowing it as slang and incorporate it into their everyday speech and conversation.
Some authors purposely use slang to give emphasis and spice in familiar and humorous writing, but they should not be imitated by the tyro. A master, such as Dickens, is forgivable, but in the novice it is unpardonable.
There are several kinds of slang attached to different professions and classes of society. For instance, there is college slang, political slang, sporting slang, etc. It is the nature of slang to circulate freely among all classes, yet there are several kinds of this current form of language corresponding to the several classes of society. The two great divisions of slang are the vulgar of the uneducated and coarse-minded, and the high-toned slang of the so-called upper classes--the educated and the wealthy. The hoyden of the gutter does not use the same slang as my lady in her boudoir, but both use it, and so expressive is it that the one might readily understand the other if brought in contact. Therefore, there are what may be styled an ignorant slang and an educated slang--the one common to the purlieus and the alleys, the other to the parlor and the drawing-room.
In all cases the object of slang is to express an idea in a more vigorous, piquant and terse manner than standard usage ordinarily admits. A school girl, when she wants to praise a baby, exclaims: "Oh, isn't he awfully cute!" To say that he is very nice would be too weak a way to express her admiration. When a handsome girl appears on the street an enthusiastic masculine admirer, to express his appreciation of her beauty, tells you: "She is a peach, a bird, a cuckoo," any of which accentuates his estimation of the young lady and is much more emphatic than saying: "She is a beautiful girl," "a handsome maiden," or "lovely young woman."When a politician defeats his rival he will tell you "it was a cinch," he had a "walk-over," to impress you how easy it was to gain the victory.
Some slang expressions are of the nature of metaphors and are highly figurative. Such are "to pass in your checks," "to hold up," "to pull the wool over your eyes," "to talk through your hat," "to fire out," "to go back on," "to make yourself solid with," "to have a jag on," "to be loaded," "to freeze on to," "to bark up the wrong tree," "don't monkey with the buzz-saw," and "in the soup." Most slang had a bad origin. The greater part originated in the cant of thieves' Latin, but it broke away from this cant of malefactors in time and gradually evolved itself from its unsavory past until it developed into a current form of expressive speech. Some slang, however, can trace its origin back to very respectable sources.
"Stolen fruits are sweet" may be traced to the Bible in sentiment. Proverbs, ix:17 has it: "Stolen waters are sweet." "What are you giving me," supposed to be a thorough Americanism, is based upon Genesis, xxxviii:16. The common slang, "a bad man," in referring to Western desperadoes, in almost the identical sense now used, is found in Spenser's _Faerie Queen_, Massinger's play _"A New Way to Pay Old Debts,_" and in Shakespeare's _"King Henry VIII_." The expression "to blow on," meaning to inform, is in Shakespeare's _"As You Like it_." "It's all Greek to me" is traceable to the play of _"Julius Caesar_." "All cry and no wool" is in Butler's _"Hudibras_." "Pious frauds," meaning hypocrites, is from the same source. "Too thin," referring to an excuse, is from Smollett's "_Peregrine Pickle_." Shakespeare also used it.
America has had a large share in contributing to modern slang. "The heathen Chinee," and "Ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain," are from Bret Harte's _Truthful James_. "Not for Joe," arose during the Civil War when one soldier refused to give a drink to another. "Not if I know myself" had its origin in Chicago. "What's the matter with----? He's all right," had its beginning in Chicago also and first was "What's the matter with Hannah." referring to a lazy domestic servant. "There's millions in it," and "By a large majority" come from Mark Twain's _Gilded Age_. "Pull down your vest," "jim-jams," "got 'em bad," "that's what's the matter," "go hire a hall," "take in your sign," "dry up," "hump yourself," "it's the man around the corner," "putting up a job," "put a head on him," "no back talk," "bottom dollar," "went off on his ear," "chalk it down," "staving him off," "making it warm," "dropping him gently," "dead gone," "busted," "counter jumper," "put up or shut up," "bang up," "smart Aleck," "too much jaw," "chin-music," "top heavy," "barefooted on the top of the head," "a little too fresh," "champion liar," "chief cook and bottle washer," "bag and baggage," "as fine as silk," "name your poison," "died with his boots on," "old hoss," "hunkey dorey," "hold your horses," "galoot" and many others in use at present are all Americanisms in slang.
California especially has been most fecund in this class of figurative language. To this State we owe "go off and die," "don't you forget it," "rough deal," "square deal," "flush times," "pool your issues," "go bury yourself," "go drown yourself," "give your tongue a vacation," "a bad egg," "go climb a tree," "plug hats," "Dolly Vardens," "well fixed," "down to bed rock," "hard pan," "pay dirt," "petered out," "it won't wash," "slug of whiskey," "it pans out well," and "I should smile." "Small potatoes, and few in the hill," "soft snap," "all fired," "gol durn it," "an up-hill job," "slick," "short cut," "guess not," "correct thing" are Bostonisms. The terms "innocent," "acknowledge the corn," "bark up the wrong tree," "great snakes," "I reckon," "playing 'possum," "dead shot," had their origin in the Southern States. "Doggone it," "that beats the Dutch," "you bet," "you bet your boots," sprang from New York. "Step down and out" originated in the Beecher trial, just as "brain-storm" originated in the Thaw trial.
Among the slang phrases that have come directly to us from England may be mentioned "throw up the sponge," "draw it mild," "give us a rest," "dead beat," "on the shelf," "up the spout," "stunning," "gift of the gab," etc.
The newspapers are responsible for a large part of the slang. Reporters, staff writers, and even editors, put words and phrases into the mouths of individuals which they never utter. New York is supposed to be the headquarters of slang, particularly that portion of it known as the Bowery. All transgressions and corruptions of language are supposed to originate in that unclassic section, while the truth is that the laws of polite English are as much violated on Fifth Avenue. Of course, the foreign element mincing their "pidgin" English have given the Bowery an unenviable reputation, but there are just as good speakers of the vernacular on the Bowery as elsewhere in the greater city. Yet every inexperienced newspaper reporter thinks that it is incumbent on him to hold the Bowery up to ridicule and laughter, so he sits down, and out of his circumscribed brain, mutilates the English tongue (he can rarely coin a word), and blames the mutilation on the Bowery.
'Tis the same with newspapers and authors, too, detracting the Irish race. Men and women who have never seen the green hills of Ireland, paint Irish characters as boors and blunderers and make them say ludicrous things and use such language as is never heard within the four walls of Ireland. 'Tis very well known that Ireland is the most learned country on the face of the earth--is, and has been. The schoolmaster has been abroad there for hundreds, almost thousands, of years, and nowhere else in the world to-day is the king's English spoken so purely as in the cities and towns of the little Western Isle.
Current events, happenings of everyday life, often give rise to slang words, and these, after a time, come into such general use that they take their places in everyday speech like ordinary words and, as has been said, their users forget that they once were slang. For instance, the days of the Land League in Ireland originated the word _boycott_, which was the name of a very unpopular landlord, Captain Boycott. The people refused to work for him, and his crops rotted on the ground. From this time any one who came into disfavor and whom his neighbors refused to assist in any way was said to be boycotted. Therefore to boycott means to punish by abandoning or depriving a person of the assistance of others. At first it was a notoriously slang word, but now it is standard in the English dictionaries.
Politics add to our slang words and phrases. From this source we get "dark horse," "the gray mare is the better horse," "barrel of money," "buncombe," "gerrymander," "scalawag," "henchman," "logrolling," "pulling the wires," "taking the stump," "machine," "slate," etc.The money market furnishes us with "corner," "bull," "bear," "lamb," "slump," and several others.
The custom of the times and the requirements of current expression require the best of us to use slang words and phrases on occasions. Often we do not know they are slang, just as a child often uses profane words without consciousness of their being so. We should avoid the use of slang as much as possible, even when it serves to convey our ideas in a forceful manner. And when it has not gained a firm foothold in current speech it should be used not at all. Remember that most all slang is of vulgar origin and bears upon its face the bend sinister of vulgarity. Of the slang that is of good birth, pass it by if you can, for it is like a
broken-down gentleman, of little good to any one. Imitate the great masters as much as you will in classical literature, but when it comes to their slang, draw the line. Dean Swift, the great Irish satirist, coined the word "phiz" for face. Don't imitate him. If you are speaking or writing of the beauty of a lady's face don't call it her "phiz." The Dean, as an intellectual giant, had a license to do so--you haven't. Shakespeare used the word "flush" to indicate plenty of money. Well, just remember there was only one Shakespeare, and he was the only one that had a right to use that word in that sense. You'll never be a Shakespeare, there will never be such another--Nature exhausted herself in producing him. Bulwer used the word "stretch" for hang, as to stretch his neck. Don't follow his example in such use of the word. Above all, avoid the low, coarse, vulgar slang, which is made to pass for wit among the riff-raff of the street. If you are speaking or writing of a person having died last night don't say or write: "He hopped the twig," or "he kicked the bucket." If you are compelled to listen to a person discoursing on a subject of which he knows little or nothing, don't say "He is talking through his hat." If you are telling of having shaken hands with Mr. Roosevelt don't say "He tipped me his flipper." If you are speaking of a wealthy man don't say "He has plenty of spondulix," or "the long green." All such slang is low, coarse and vulgar and is to be frowned upon on any and every occasion.
If you use slang use the refined kind and use it like a gentleman, that it will not hurt or give offense to any one. Cardinal Newman defined a gentleman as he who never inflicts pain. Be a gentleman in your slang-- never inflict pain.CHAPTER XII WRITING FOR NEWSPAPERS Qualification--Appropriate Subjects--Directions
The newspaper nowadays goes into every home in the land; what was formerly regarded as a luxury is now looked upon as a necessity. No matter how poor the individual, he is not too poor to afford a penny to learn, not alone what is taking place around him in his own immediate vicinity, but also what is happening in every quarter of the globe. The laborer on the street can be as well posted on the news of the day as the banker in his office. Through the newspaper he can feel the pulse of the country and find whether its vitality is increasing or diminishing; he can read the signs of the times and scan the political horizon for what concerns his own interests. The doings of foreign countries are spread before him and he can see at a glance the occurrences in the remotest corners of earth. If a fire occurred in London last night he can read about it at his breakfast table in New York this morning, and probably get a better account than the Londoners themselves. If a duel takes place in Paris he can read all about it even before the contestants have left the field.
There are upwards of 3,000 daily newspapers in the United States, more than 2,000 of which are published in towns containing less than 100,000 inhabitants. In fact, many places of less than 10,000 population can boast the publishing of a daily newspaper. There are more than 15,000 weeklies published. Some of the so-called country papers wield quite an influence in their localities, and even outside, and are money-making agencies for their owners and those connected with them, both by way of circulation and advertisements.
It is surprising the number of people in this country who make a living in the newspaper field. Apart from the regular toilers there are thousands of men and women who make newspaper work a side issue, who add tidy sums of "pin money" to their incomes by occasional contributions to the daily, weekly and monthly press. Most of these people are only persons of ordinary, everyday ability, having just enough education to express themselves intelligently in writing.
It is a mistake to imagine, as so many do, that an extended education is necessary for newspaper work. Not at all! On the contrary, in some cases, a high-class education is a hindrance, not a help in this direction. The general newspaper does not want learned disquisitions nor philosophical theses; as its name implies, it wants news, current news, interesting news, something to appeal to its readers, to arouse them and rivet their attention. In this respect very often a boy can write a better article than a college professor. The professor would be apt to use words beyond the capacity of most of the readers, while the boy, not knowing such words, would probably simply tell what he saw, how great the damage was, who were killed or injured, etc., and use language which all would understand.
Of course, there are some brilliant scholars, deeply-read men and women in the newspaper realm, but, on the whole, those who have made the greatest names commenced ignorant enough and most of them graduated by way of the country paper. Some of the leading writers of England and America at the present time started their literary careers by contributing to the rural press. They perfected and polished themselves as they went along until they were able to make names for themselves in universal literature.
If you want to contribute to newspapers or enter the newspaper field as a means of livelihood, don't let lack of a college or university education stand in your way. As has been said elsewhere in this book, some of the greatest masters of English literature were men who had but little advantage in the way of book learning. Shakespeare, Bunyan, Burns, and scores of others, who have left their names indelibly inscribed on the tablets of fame, had little to boast of in the way of book education, but they had what is popularly known as "horse" sense and a good working knowledge of the world; in other words, they understood human nature, and were natural themselves. Shakespeare understood mankind because he was himself a man; hence he has portrayed the feelings, the emotions, the passions with a master's touch, delineating the king in his palace as true to nature as he has done the peasant in his hut. The monitor within his own breast gave him warning as to what was right and what was wrong, just as the daemon ever by the side of old Socrates whispered in his ear the course to pursue under any and all circumstances. Burns guiding the plough conceived thoughts and clothed them in a language which has never, nor probably never will be, surpassed by all the learning which art can confer. These men were natural, and it was the perfection of this naturality that wreathed their brows with the never-fading laurels of undying fame.
If you would essay to write for the newspaper you must be natural and express yourself in your accustomed way without putting on airs or frills; you must not ape ornaments and indulge in bombast or rhodomontade which stamp a writer as not only superficial but silly. There is no room for such in the everyday newspaper. It wants facts stated in plain, unvarnished, unadorned language. True, you should read the best authors and, as far as possible, imitate their style, but don't try to literally copy them. Be yourself on every occasion--no one else.
Not like Homer would I write, Not like Dante if I might,
Not like Shakespeare at his best, Not like Goethe or the rest, Like myself, however small, Like myself, or not at all.
Put yourself in place of the reader and write what will interest yourself and in such a way that your language will appeal to your own ideas of the fitness of things. You belong to the _great_ commonplace majority, therefore don't forget that in writing for the newspapers you are writing for that majority and not for the learned and aesthetic minority.
Remember you are writing for the man on the street and in the street car, you want to interest him, to compel him to read what you have to say. He does not want a display of learning; he wants news about something which concerns himself, and you must tell it to him in a plain, simple manner just as you would do if you were face to face with him.
What can you write about? Why about anything that will constitute current news, some leading event of the day, anything that will appeal to the readers of the paper to which you wish to submit it. No matter in what locality you may live, however backward it may be, you can always find something of genuine human interest to others. If there is no news happening, write of something that appeals to yourself. We are all constituted alike, and the chances are that what will interest you will interest others. Descriptions of adventure are generally acceptable. Tell of a fox hunt, or a badger hunt, or a bear chase.
If there is any important manufacturing plant in your neighborhood describe it and, if possible, get photographs, for photography plays a very important part in the news items of to-day. If a "great" man lives near you, one whose name is on the tip of every tongue, go and get an interview with him, obtain his views on the public questions of the day, describe his home life and his surroundings and how he spends his time.
Try and strike something germane to the moment, something that stands out prominently in the limelight of the passing show. If a noted personage, some famous man or woman, is visiting the country, it is a good time to write up the place from which he or she comes and the record he or she has made there. For instance, it was opportune to write of Sulu and the little Pacific archipelago during the Sultan's trip through the country. If an attempt is made to blow up an American battleship, say, in the harbor of Appia, in Samoa, it affords a chance to write about Samoa and Robert Louis Stephenson. When Manuel was hurled from the throne of Portugal it was a ripe time to write of Portugal and Portuguese affairs. If any great occurrence is taking place in a foreign country such as the crowning of a king or the dethronement of a monarch, it is a good time to write up the history of the country and describe the events leading up to the main issue. When a particularly savage outbreak occurs amongst wild tribes in the dependencies, such as a rising of the Manobos in the Philippines, it is opportune to write of such tribes and their surroundings, and the causes leading up to the revolt.
Be constantly on the lookout for something that will suit the passing hour, read the daily papers and probably in some obscure corner you may find something that will serve you as a foundation for a good article-- something, at least, that will give you a clue.
Be circumspect in your selection of a paper to which to submit your copy. Know the tone and general import of the paper, its social leanings and political affiliations, also its religious sentiments, and, in fact, all the particulars you can regarding it. It would be injudicious for you to send an article on a prize fight to a religious paper or, _vice versa_, an account of a church meeting to the editor of a sporting sheet.
If you get your copy back don't be disappointed nor yet disheartened. Perseverance counts more in the newspaper field than anywhere else, and only perseverance wins in the long run. You must become resilient; if you are pressed down, spring up again. No matter how many rebuffs you may receive, be not discouraged but call fresh energy to your assistance and make another stand. If the right stuff is in you it is sure to be discovered; your light will not remain long hidden under a bushel in the newspaper domain. If you can deliver the goods editors will soon be begging you instead of your begging them. Those men are constantly on the lookout for persons who can make good.
Once you get into print the battle is won, for it will be an incentive to you to persevere and improve yourself at every turn. Go over everything you write, cut and slash and prune until you get it into as perfect form as possible. Eliminate every superfluous word and be careful to strike out all ambiguous expressions and references.
If you are writing for a weekly paper remember it differs from a daily one. Weeklies want what will not alone interest the man on the street, but the woman at the fireside; they want out-of-the-way facts, curious scraps of lore, personal notes of famous or eccentric people, reminiscences of exciting experiences, interesting gleanings in life's numberless by-ways, in short, anything that will entertain, amuse, instruct the home circle. There is always something occurring in your immediate surroundings, some curious event or thrilling episode that will furnish you with data for an article. You must know the nature of the weekly to which you submit your copy the same as you must know the daily. For instance, the _Christian Herald_, while avowedly a religious weekly, treats such secular matter as makes the paper appeal to all. On its religious side it is _non-sectarian_, covering the broad field of Christianity throughout the world; on its secular side it deals with human events in such an impartial way that every one, no matter to what class they may belong or to what creed they may subscribe, can take a living, personal interest.
The monthlies offer another attractive field for the literary aspirant. Here, again, don't think you must be an university professor to write for a monthly magazine. Many, indeed most, of the foremost magazine contributors are men and women who have never passed through a college except by going in at the front door and emerging from the back one. However, for the most part, they are individuals of wide experience who know the practical side of life as distinguished from the theoretical.
The ordinary monthly magazine treats of the leading questions and issues which are engaging the attention of the world for the moment, great inventions, great discoveries, whatever is engrossing the popular mind for the time being, such as flying machines, battleships, sky-scrapers, the opening of mines, the development of new lands, the political issues, views of party leaders, character sketches of distinguished personages, etc. However, before trying your skill for a monthly magazine it would be well for you to have a good apprenticeship in writing for the daily press.
Above all things, remember that perseverance is the key that opens the door of success. Persevere! If you are turned down don't get
disheartened; on the contrary, let the rebuff act as a stimulant to further effort. Many of the most successful writers of our time have been turned down again and again. For days and months, and even years, some of them have hawked their wares from one literary door to another until they found a purchaser. You may be a great writer in embryo, but you will never develop into a fetus, not to speak of full maturity, unless you bring out what is in you. Give yourself a chance to grow and seize upon everything that will enlarge the scope of your horizon. Keep your eyes wide open and there is not a moment of the day in which you will not see something to interest you and in which you may be able to interest others. Learn, too, how to read Nature's book. There's a lesson in everything--in the stones, the grass, the trees, the babbling brooks and the singing birds. Interpret the lesson for yourself, then teach it to others. Always be in earnest in your writing; go about it in a determined kind of way, don't be faint-hearted or backward, be brave, be brave, and evermore be brave.
On the wide, tented field in the battle of life, With an army of millions before you;
Like a hero of old gird your soul for the strife And let not the foeman tramp o'er you;
Act, act like a soldier and proudly rush on The most valiant in Bravery's van,
With keen, flashing sword cut your way to the front And show to the world you're a _Man_.
If you are of the masculine gender be a man in all things in the highest and best acceptation of the word. That is the noblest title you can boast, higher far than that of earl or duke, emperor or king. In the same way womanhood is the grandest crown the feminine head can wear. When the world frowns on you and everything seems to go wrong, possess your soul in patience and hope for the dawn of a brighter day. It will come. The sun is always shining behind the darkest clouds. When you get your manuscripts back again and again, don't despair, nor think the editor cruel and unkind. He, too, has troubles of his own. Keep up your spirits until you have made the final test and put your talents to a last analysis, then if you find you cannot get into print be sure that newspaper writing or literary work is not your _forte_, and turn to something else. If nothing better presents itself, try shoemaking or digging ditches. Remember honest labor, no matter how humble, is ever dignified. If you are a woman throw aside the pen, sit down and darn your brother's, your father's, or your husband's socks, or put on a calico apron, take soap and water and scrub the floor. No matter who you are do something useful. That old sophistry about the world owing you a living has been exploded long ago. The world does not owe you a living, but you owe it servitude, and if you do not pay the debt you are not serving the purpose of an all-wise Providence and filling the place for which you were created. It is for you to serve the world, to make it better, brighter, higher, holier, grander, nobler, richer, for your having lived in it. This you can do in no matter what position fortune has cast you, whether it be that of street laborer or president. Fight the good fight and gain the victory.
"Above all, to thine own self be true,
And 'twill follow as the night the
day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."
In another place in this book advice has been given to never use a long word when a short one will serve the same purpose. This advice is to be emphasized. Words of "learned length and thundering sound" should be avoided on all possible occasions. They proclaim shallowness of intellect and vanity of mind. The great purists, the masters of diction, the exemplars of style, used short, simple words that all could understand; words about which there could be no ambiguity as to meaning. It must be remembered that by our words we teach others; therefore, a very great responsibility rests upon us in regard to the use of a right language. We must take care that we think and speak in a way so clear that there may be no misapprehension or danger of conveying wrong impressions by vague and misty ideas enunciated in terms which are liable to be misunderstood by those whom we address. Words give a body or form to our ideas, without which they are apt to be so foggy that we do not see where they are weak or false. We must make the endeavor to employ such words as will put the idea we have in our own mind into the mind of another. This is the greatest art in the world--to clothe our ideas in words clear and comprehensive to the intelligence of others. It is the art which the teacher, the minister, the lawyer, the orator, the business man, must master if they would command success in their various fields of endeavor. It is very hard to convey an idea to, and impress it on, another when he has but a faint conception of the language in which the idea is expressed; but it is impossible to convey it at all when the words in which it is clothed are unintelligible to the listener.
If we address an audience of ordinary men and women in the English language, but use such words as they cannot comprehend, we might as well speak to them in Coptic or Chinese, for they will derive no benefit from our address, inasmuch as the ideas we wish to convey are expressed in words which communicate no intelligent meaning to their minds.
Long words, learned words, words directly derived from other languages are only understood by those who have had the advantages of an extended education. All have not had such advantages. The great majority in this grand and glorious country of ours have to hustle for a living from an early age. Though education is free, and compulsory also, very many never get further than the "Three R's." These are the men with whom we have to deal most in the arena of life, the men with the horny palms and the iron muscles, the men who build our houses, construct our railroads, drive our street cars and trains, till our fields, harvest our crops--in a word, the men who form the foundation of all society, the men on whom the world depends to make its wheels go round. The language of the colleges and universities is not for them and they can get along very well without it; they have no need for it at all in their respective callings. The plain, simple words of everyday life, to which the common people have been used around their own firesides from childhood, are the words we must use in our dealings with them.
Such words are understood by them and understood by the learned as well; why then not use them universally and all the time? Why make a one-sided affair of language by using words which only one class of the people, the so-called learned class, can understand? Would it not be better to use, on all occasions, language which the both classes can understand? If we take the trouble to investigate we shall find that the men who exerted the greatest sway over the masses and the multitude as orators, lawyers, preachers and in other public capacities, were men who used very simple language. Daniel Webster was among the greatest orators this country has produced. He touched the hearts of senates and assemblages, of men and women with the burning eloquence of his words. He never used a long word when he could convey the same, or nearly the same, meaning with a short one. When he made a speech he always told those who put it in form for the press to strike out every long word. Study his speeches, go over all he ever said or wrote, and you will find that his language was always made up of short, clear, strong terms, although at times, for the sake of sound and oratorical effect, he was compelled to use a rather long word, but it was always against his inclination to do so, and where was the man who could paint, with words, as Webster painted! He could picture things in a way so clear that those who heard him felt that they had seen that of which he spoke.
Abraham Lincoln was another who stirred the souls of men, yet he was not an orator, not a scholar; he did not write M.A. or Ph.D. after his name, or any other college degree, for he had none. He graduated from the University of Hard Knocks, and he never forgot this severe _Alma Mater_ when he became President of the United States. He was just as plain, I just as humble, as in the days when he split rails or plied a boat on the Sangamon. He did not use big words, but he used the words of the people, and in such a way as to make them beautiful. His Gettysburg address is an English classic, one of the great masterpieces of the language.
From the mere fact that a word is short it does not follow that it is always clear, but it is true that nearly all clear words are short, and that most of the long words, especially those which we get from other languages, are misunderstood to a great extent by the ordinary rank and file of the people. Indeed, it is to be doubted if some of the "scholars" using them, fully understand their import on occasions. A great many such words admit of several interpretations. A word has to be in use a great deal before people get thoroughly familiar with its meaning. Long words, not alone obscure thought and make the ideas hazy, but at times they tend to mix up things in such a way that positively harmful results follow from their use.
For instance, crime can be so covered with the folds of long words as to give it a different appearance. Even the hideousness of sin can be cloaked with such words until its outlines look like a thing of beauty. When a bank cashier makes off with a hundred thousand dollars we politely term his crime _defalcation_ instead of plain _theft_, and instead of calling himself a _thief_ we grandiosely allude to him as a _defaulter_. When we see a wealthy man staggering along a fashionable thoroughfare under the influence of alcohol, waving his arms in the air and shouting boisterously, we smile and say, poor gentleman, he is somewhat _exhilarated_; or at worst we say, he is slightly _inebriated_; but when we see a poor man who has fallen from grace by putting an "enemy into his mouth to steal away his brain" we express our indignation in the simple language of the words: "Look at the wretch; he is dead drunk."
When we find a person in downright lying we cover the falsehood with the finely-spun cloak of the word _prevarication_. Shakespeare says, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," and by a similar sequence, a lie, no matter by what name you may call it, is always a lie and should be condemned; then why not simply call it a lie? Mean what you say and say what you mean; call a spade a spade, it is the best term you can apply to the implement.
When you try to use short words and shun long ones in a little while you will find that you can do so with ease. A farmer was showing a horse to a city-bred gentleman. The animal was led into a paddock in which an old sow-pig was rooting. "What a fine quadruped!" exclaimed the city man."Which of the two do you mean, the pig or the horse?" queried the farmer, "for, in my opinion, both of them are fine quadrupeds."
Of course the visitor meant the horse, so it would have been much better had he called the animal by its simple; ordinary name--, there would have been no room for ambiguity in his remark. He profited, however, by the incident, and never called a horse a quadruped again.
Most of the small words, the simple words, the beautiful words which express so much within small bounds belong to the pure Anglo-Saxon element of our language. This element has given names to the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars; to three out of the four elements, earth, fire and water; three out of the four seasons, spring, summer and winter. Its simple words are applied to all the natural divisions of time, except one, as day, night, morning, evening, twilight, noon, mid-day, midnight, sunrise and sunset. The names of light, heat, cold, frost, rain, snow, hail, sleet, thunder, lightning, as well as almost all those objects which form the component parts of the beautiful, as expressed in external scenery, such as sea and land, hill and dale, wood and stream, etc., are Anglo-Saxon. To this same language we are indebted for those words which express the earliest and dearest connections, and the strongest and most powerful feelings of Nature, and which, as a consequence, are interwoven with the fondest and most hallowed associations. Of such words are father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, daughter, child, home, kindred, friend, hearth, roof and fireside.
The chief emotions of which we are susceptible are expressed in the same language--love, hope, fear, sorrow, shame, and also the outward signs by which these emotions are indicated, as tear, smile, laugh, blush, weep, sigh, groan. Nearly all our national proverbs are Anglo-Saxon. Almost all the terms and phrases by which we most energetically express anger, contempt and indignation are of the same origin.
What are known as the Smart Set and so-called polite society, are relegating a great many of our old Anglo-Saxon words into the shade, faithful friends who served their ancestors well. These self-appointed arbiters of diction regard some of the Anglo-Saxon words as too coarse, too plebeian for their aesthetic tastes and refined ears, so they are eliminating them from their vocabulary and replacing them with mongrels of foreign birth and hybrids of unknown origin. For the ordinary people, however, the man in the street or in the field, the woman in the kitchen or in the factory, they are still tried and true and, like old friends, should be cherished and preferred to all strangers, no matter from what source the latter may spring.CHAPTER XIV ENGLISH LANGUAGE Beginning--Different Sources--The Present
The English language is the tongue now current in England and her colonies throughout the world and also throughout the greater part of the United States of America. It sprang from the German tongue spoken by the Teutons, who came over to Britain after the conquest of that country by the Romans. These Teutons comprised Angles, Saxons, Jutes and several other tribes from the northern part of Germany. They spoke different dialects, but these became blended in the new country, and the composite tongue came to be known as the Anglo-Saxon which has been the main basis for the language as at present constituted and is still the prevailing element. Therefore those who are trying to do away with some of the purely Anglo-Saxon words, on the ground that they are not refined enough to express their aesthetic ideas, are undermining main props which are necessary for the support of some important parts in the edifice of the language.
The Anglo-Saxon element supplies the essential parts of speech, the article, pronoun of all kinds, the preposition, the auxiliary verbs, the conjunctions, and the little particles which bind words into sentences and form the joints, sinews and ligaments of the language. It furnishes the most indispensable words of the vocabulary. (See Chap. XIII.) Nowhere is the beauty of Anglo-Saxon better illustrated than in the Lord's Prayer. Fifty-four words are pure Saxon and the remaining ones could easily be replaced by Saxon words. The gospel of St. John is another illustration of the almost exclusive use of Anglo-Saxon words. Shakespeare, at his best, is Anglo-Saxon. Here is a quotation from the _Merchant of Venice_, and of the fifty-five words fifty-two are Anglo-Saxon, the remaining three French:
All that glitters is not gold--
Often have you heard that told;
Many a man his life hath sold, But my outside to behold.
Guilded _tombs_ do worms infold. Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in _judgment_ old, Your answer had not been inscrolled--
Fare you well, your _suit_ is cold.
The lines put into the mouth of Hamlet's father in fierce intenseness, second only to Dante's inscription on the gate of hell, have one hundred and eight Anglo-Saxon and but fifteen Latin words.
The second constituent element of present English is Latin which comprises those words derived directly from the old Roman and those which came indirectly through the French. The former were introduced by the Roman Christians, who came to England at the close of the sixth century under Augustine, and relate chiefly to ecclesiastical affairs, such as saint from _sanctus_, religion from _religio_, chalice from _calix_, mass from _missa_, etc. Some of them had origin in Greek, as priest from _presbyter_, which in turn was a direct derivative from the Greek _presbuteros_, also deacon from the Greek _diakonos_.
The largest class of Latin words are those which came through the Norman-French, or Romance. The Normans had adopted, with the Christian religion, the language, laws and arts of the Romanized Gauls and Romanized Franks, and after a residence of more than a century in France they successfully invaded England in 1066 under William the Conqueror and a new era began. The French Latinisms can be distinguished by the spelling. Thus Saviour comes from the Latin _Salvator_ through the French _Sauveur_; judgment from the Latin _judiclum_ through the French _jugement_; people, from the Latin _populus_, through the French _peuple_, etc.
For a long time the Saxon and Norman tongues refused to coalesce and were like two distinct currents flowing in different directions. Norman was spoken by the lords and barons in their feudal castles, in parliament and in the courts of justice. Saxon by the people in their rural homes, fields and workshops. For more than three hundred years the streams flowed apart, but finally they blended, taking in the Celtic and Danish elements, and as a result came the present English language with its simple system of grammatical inflection and its rich vocabulary.
The father of English prose is generally regarded as Wycliffe, who translated the Bible in 1380, while the paternal laurels in the secular poetical field are twined around the brows of Chaucer.
Besides the Germanic and Romanic, which constitute the greater part of the English language, many other tongues have furnished their quota. Of these the Celtic is perhaps the oldest. The Britons at Caesar's invasion, were a part of the Celtic family. The Celtic idiom is still spoken in two dialects, the Welsh in Wales, and the Gaelic in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. The Celtic words in English, are comparatively few; cart, dock, wire, rail, rug, cradle, babe, grown, griddle, lad, lass, are some in most common use.
The Danish element dates from the piratical invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries. It includes anger, awe, baffle, bang, bark, bawl, blunder, boulder, box, club, crash, dairy, dazzle, fellow, gable, gain, ill, jam, kidnap, kill, kidney, kneel, limber, litter, log, lull, lump, mast, mistake, nag, nasty, niggard, horse, plough, rug, rump, sale, scald, shriek, skin, skull, sledge, sleigh, tackle, tangle, tipple, trust, viking, window, wing, etc.
From the Hebrew we have a large number of proper names from Adam and Eve down to John and Mary and such words as Messiah, rabbi, hallelujah, cherub, seraph, hosanna, manna, satan, Sabbath, etc.
Many technical terms and names of branches of learning come from the Greek. In fact, nearly all the terms of learning and art, from the alphabet to the highest peaks of metaphysics and theology, come directly from the Greek-- philosophy, logic, anthropology, psychology, aesthetics, grammar, rhetoric, history, philology, mathematics, arithmetic, astronomy, anatomy, geography, stenography, physiology, architecture, and hundreds more in similar domains; the subdivisions and ramifications of theology as exegesis, hermeneutics, apologetics, polemics, dogmatics, ethics, homiletics, etc., are all Greek.
The Dutch have given us some modern sea terms, as sloop, schooner, yacht and also a number of others as boom, bush, boor, brandy, duck, reef, skate, wagon. The Dutch of Manhattan island gave us boss, the name for employer or overseer, also cold slaa (cut cabbage and vinegar), and a number of geographical terms.
Many of our most pleasing euphonic words, especially in the realm of music, have been given to us directly from the Italian. Of these are piano, violin, orchestra, canto, allegro, piazza, gazette, umbrella, gondola, bandit, etc.
Spanish has furnished us with alligator, alpaca, bigot, cannibal, cargo, filibuster, freebooter, guano, hurricane, mosquito, negro, stampede, potato, tobacco, tomato, tariff, etc.
From Arabic we have several mathematical, astronomical, medical and chemical terms as alcohol, alcove, alembic, algebra, alkali, almanac, assassin, azure, cipher, elixir, harem, hegira, sofa, talisman, zenith and zero.Bazaar, dervish, lilac, pagoda, caravan, scarlet, shawl, tartar, tiara and peach have come to us from the Persian. Turban, tulip, divan and firman are Turkish. Drosky, knout, rouble, steppe, ukase are Russian.
The Indians have helped us considerably and the words they have given us are extremely euphonic as exemplified in the names of many of our rivers and States, as Mississippi, Missouri, Minnehaha, Susquehanna, Monongahela, Niagara, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Nebraska, Dakota, etc. In addition to these proper names we have from the Indians wigwam, squaw, hammock, tomahawk, canoe, mocassin, hominy, etc.
There are many hybrid words in English, that is, words, springing from two or more different languages. In fact, English has drawn from all sources, and it is daily adding to its already large family, and not alone is it adding to itself, but it is spreading all over the world and promises to take in the entire human family beneath its folds ere long. It is the opinion of many that English, in a short time, will become the universal language. It is now being taught as a branch of the higher education in the best colleges and universities of Europe and in all commercial cities in every land throughout the world. In Asia it follows the British sway and the highways of commerce through the vast empire of East India with its two hundred and fifty millions of heathen and Mohammedan inhabitants. It is largely used in the seaports of Japan and China, and the number of natives of these countries who are learning it is increasing every day. It is firmly established in South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and in many of the islands of the Indian and South Seas. It is the language of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Christian missionaries are introducing it into all the islands of Polynesia. It may be said to be the living commercial language of the North American continent, from Baffin's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and it is spoken largely in many of the republics of South America. It is not limited by parallels of latitude, or meridians of longitude. The two great English-speaking countries, England and the United States, are disseminating it north, south, east and west over the entire world.
Leaving out the Bible the three greatest works are those of Homer, Dante and Shakespeare. These are closely followed by the works of Virgil and Milton.INDISPENSABLE BOOKS Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Goethe.
(The best translation of _Homer_ for the ordinary reader is by Chapman. Norton's translation of _Dante_ and Taylor's translation of Goethe's _Faust_ are recommended.)
A GOOD LIBRARY
_Plutarch's Lives_, _Meditations of Marcus Aurelius_, _Chaucer_, _Imitation of Christ_ (Thomas a Kempis), _Holy Living and Holy Dying_ (Jeremy Taylor), _Pilgrim's Progress, Macaulay's Essays, Bacon's Essays, Addison's Essays, Essays of Elia_ (Charles Lamb), _Les Miserables_ (Hugo), _Heroes and Hero Worship_ (Carlyle), _Palgrave's Golden Treasury_, _Wordsworth_, _Vicar of Wakefield_, _Adam Bede_ (George Eliot), _Vanity Fair_ (Thackeray), _Ivanhoe_ (Scott), _On the Heights_ (Auerbach), _Eugenie Grandet_ (Balzac), _Scarlet Letter_ (Hawthorne), _Emerson's Essays_, _Boswell's Life of Johnson_, _History of the English People_ (Green), _Outlines of Universal History, Origin of Species, Montaigne's Essays, Longfellow, Tennyson, Browning, Whittier, Ruskin, Herbert Spencer_.A good encyclopoedia is very desirable and a reliable dictionary indispensable. MASTERPIECES OF AMERICAN LITERATURE
_Scarlet Letter, Parkman's Histories, Motley's Dutch Republic, Grant's Memoirs, Franklin's Autobiography, Webster's Speeches, Lowell's Bigelow Papers_, also his _Critical Essays_, _Thoreau's Walden_, _Leaves of Grass_ (Whitman), _Leather-stocking Tales_ (Cooper), _Autocrat of the Breakfast Table_, _Ben Hur_ and _Uncle Tom's Cabin_.TEN GREATEST AMERICAN POETS Bryant, Poe, Whittier, Longfellow, Lowell, Emerson, Whitman, Lanier, Aldrich and Stoddard. TEN GREATEST ENGLISH POETS Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning. TEN GREATEST ENGLISH ESSAYISTS Bacon, Addison, Steele, Macaulay, Lamb, Jeffrey, De Quincey, Carlyle, Thackeray and Matthew Arnold.
BEST PLAYS OF SHAKESPEARE In order of merit are: _Hamlet_, _King Lear_, _Othello_, _Antony and Cleopatra_, _Macbeth_, _Merchant of Venice_, _Henry IV_, _As You Like It_, _Winter's Tale_, _Romeo and Juliet_, _Midsummer Night's Dream_, _Twelfth Night_, _Tempest_.ONLY THE GOOD
If you are not able to procure a library of the great masterpieces, get at least a few. Read them carefully, intelligently and with a view to enlarging your own literary horizon. Remember a good book cannot be read too often, one of a deteriorating influence should not be read at all. In literature, as in all things else, the good alone should prevail.End of Project Gutenberg's How to Speak and Write Correctly, by Joseph Devlin
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