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“ bitter cold weather,"_“ it is old news,”—“poor man! he died rich,"" he is a mighty diminutive creature," owe their construction to the paranomasia.
The expressions “ cruel kindness,”—“ dumb eloquence,”“ pleasing pain,"—“ a bitter sweet,"_" a merciful punishment," "an agreeable distress," –" painful pleasure," ”
”“ wise folly,"_“ proud humility," and the like familiar and apparently contradictory expressions are referable to the oxymoron; and it is by the onomatopeia that one wind is said to whistle, another to roar, a serpent to hiss, bees to hum, falling timber to crash, a stream to flow, rain to rattle, the air to murmur, &c. The metonymical expressions of current conversation have been mentioned when treating of that figure.
Such are the mechanism and the properties of language; and in their attainment and application we shall, to adopt the language of St. Paul, (who in his own writings has produced some of the most splendid specimens of composition extant,) become acquainted not only with “ the excellences of speech," but also with the power, import, and application of “ all the “ enticing words of man's wisdom.”
See page 2.
(a). A strong inducement to exert ourselves for the improvement and the perfection of our language is the perpetuation of its existence. The language of a country is the most durable monument of its name and glory. When every other vestige of British genius, valour, and liberty may, in the revolution of ages, have been swept away, the English language may, like those of Greece and Rome, remain to tell what England has been. It has already extended to almost all the accessible parts of the earth, and possibly, as Hume has said, it is destined, through conquest and colonization, to obtain the most general prevalence that has attended any language, and to extend the enlightening influence of its literature over every portion of the civilized globe to the remotest generations of posterity,“ unaffected,” as Lord Bacon expresses it,
by the confusion of Babel.” It should, therefore, be every Englishman's pride, as it is his duty, to study his language, and cultivate its resources; to promote its purity, precision, compass, and idiomatic energy of diction.
If there is one “ thing in this world,” as a patriotic and profoundly philosophic writer has well said, “ that next after the flag of his « country and its spotless honour should be holy in the eyes of
an Englishman, it is the language of his country.”
See page 3. (b). It has been from a servile and an indiscriminate imitation of this faulty style, that the solecisms, anomalies, and barbarisms which have infected and disfigured not only the
colloquial but the written language of the age, and which shone forth in all its defects and imperfections in the diplomatic language and the king's speeches of the era of George the Third and Fourth, originated. The current phraseology of the majority of persons is almost as dissonant and incongruous as the negro dialect of the West Indies called talkee-tulkee, or the gibberish in use between the Chinamen and our English sailors; in the words of one of the masters of the English language, it is mere“ bald unjointed chat,” and those who use it really make “ fritters of English.”
See page 6.
(c). It is curious to observe what opposite opinions on the same subject have sometimes been advanced by men of the greatest talents, when they have consulted imagination and theory instead of practice and experience. While Locke, (Treatise on Education) in his haste to introduce students to more valuable information, would exempt them from the drudgery of learning the technical rules of language, Scaliger, in his zeal for philology, has asserted, that even religious dissensions have generally originated in men's ignorance of grammar.
See page 9. (d). The cant expressions tin,” -“ dust,”—“ the ready,” - the needful,” &c., of witlings and those who affect grotesqueness and oddity of expression, are equally objectionable. Even the designation of money by the terms, “ dirty dross," “ filthy lucre,” “ sordid pelf,” and the like disparaging appellations, are improper in current conversation, and raise a suspicion in the mind of the hearer that the decrier of that “arch power of civilization” has but a slight acquaintance with the stigmatized commodity.
See page 14. (e). The English language is not only the most polished of modern languages, but also the most emphatic and forcible. In richness, variety, and flexibility, no modern language can vie with it. In describing the tender and violent passions of the heart, or the calm dignity of moral sentiment, it displays inimitable power, and infinite variety of expression. Its idiom is peculiarly fitted to grave and dignified subjects, and
its philosophical constitution and character are well adapted for the same purpose.
page 18. (f). The impropriety of this hyperbolical or magnifying mode of expression in which some persons love to indulge, may appear from the following current expressions, “a glorious beef steak,” a famous bottle of wine.” This use of big words for little things was well reprehended by Dr. Johnson in his reply to Boswell's disproportionate use of the word terrible while he and Johnson were at Harwich. “ It would “ be terrible if we should not find a speedy opportunity of “ returning to London, and be confined to this dull place.” “ Do not, sir,” grunted the lexicographer, “ accustom your“ self to use big words for little matters. It would not be “ terrible, though you and I were confined here for a month."
See page 26. (g). These sentences to be correct should be: He reads better than any boy, or any other boy, or the best of all the boys; and of all persons he is the most trustworthy ; for in the first case the person intended to be designated by the pronoun he cannot by any possible power of conception be transformed into the expression one of any boy, or of any other boy; and in the second, he cannot be interpreted one of others, for the word others means indifferent persons, or all except the person to whom allusion is made. The last sentence involves not only a manifest absurdity, but also an absolute impossibility.
See page 40. (h). Among a thousand instances that might be cited of his perfection in this department of composition, is, when commenting in one of his papers on Paradise Lost, on Milton's representation of the sun in an eclipse, and a choir of angels descending in a bright cloud in the western region of the heavens, he observes, that the whole theatre of nature was darkened, that the glorious machine might appear in all its lustre and magnificence. He also possesses unrivalled felicity in the description and portraiture of manners.
See page 48. (i). The inversion or transposition of words and the na