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book of Locke's Essay on the Conduct of the Human Understanding

Among the offences against propriety of expression are the vulgarisms, currying favour, cutting a figure, dancing attendance, swallowing contradictions, dextrous in smelling out views and designs, to stand on an apology, to fall into conversation, to make up the matter, to shift for one's self, done to a wish, to succeed to a wish, to suck another's brains, to make up one's mind, to turn a matter in one's mind, to do away with, an ungracious affair, dint of argument, all of a piece, for good and all, a good deal, got rid of, in for it, a whit better, a jot better, fell to work, to come to words, to set by the ears, to see with half an eye, pitched upon, chalked out, in a mind for it, handed down, to lay one's account in being opposed, to follow out a plan, to follow an idea, to stand on security, on the spur of the occasion, to extinguish a bond or a debt, a thorough-paced knave, and similar phrases. The use of low and familiar expressions when speaking on sacred or solemn subjects is an offence not only against pro. priety of expression, but also against good taste. Thus, Archbishop Tillotson's phraseology in his sermon preached before the Princess of Denmark, “ of squeezing a parable," “sharking shifts,” “thrusting religion by," “ driving a bargain with God," and “the world cracking about our ears at the day of judgment," is unbecoming the solemnity of the subject, and derogatory of the Great First Cause of all created matter; and Sir Walter Raleigh's expression “ work of the

for creation of the world, when describing in his. admirable history the manner in which the Deity manifests his existence by the works of nature, is a like defect and violation of just and correct composition.

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The bye-words impossible, prodigious, indeed, my goodness, gracious me, yes indeed, faith, in the name of fortune, is it possible? you do not say so, pretty much, pretty fair, confounded bad or ugly, wretched small, miserable little, shameful, scandalous, most unpardonable, tremendous, wonderful, prodigious, immense, in the name of wonder, dreadful, atrocious, unparalleled, glorious, delightful, devilish, singular, curious, odd, strange, uncommon, horrible, shocking, terrible, odious, precious, famous, capital, mighty, most extraordinary, most unwarrantable, most outrageous, (f) I know, you know, you understand, I am sure, says he, says I, thinks I, I wonder, I should think, in my opinion, in my mind, as I

may dare to say, you understand, and the like expletive kind of ejaculation with which some persons interlard, and, as they imagine, embellish their speech, should be carefully avoided by every person pretending to propriety and correctness of expression. So the contractions I a'n't, a'n't I, you a'n't, a’n't you,

it isn't, isn't it, I'll, they'll, you'll, &c., are vulgar and ungraceful. And wasn't, weren't, can't, shan't, doesn't, don't, didn't, haven't, mustn't, shouldn't, won't, wouldn't, mayn't, mightn't, oughtn't, and similar contractions, should be carefully avoided, as violations of all propriety of expression.

And transpositions of the following kind are offences against grammatical propriety of expression. It is cold, is it not ? instead of is it not cold? Having not considered, instead of not having considered. Some ten years ago, instead of ten years ago. Will it do, this one ? instead of will this one do ? It has a southern aspect, the house, instead of the house has a southern aspect. An old selfish man, instead of a selfish old

A young beautiful woman, instead of a beautiful young woman. A new pair of gloves, instead of a pair of new gloves. An old suit of clothes, instead of a suit of old clothes. For such another fault, instead of for another such fault. All over the country, instead of over all the country. He is an intelligent man, is he not ? instead of is he not an intelligent man ? You prefer this, do you not ? instead of do you not prefer this ? From one another, instead of one from the other. Such another occurrence, instead of another such occurrence; and a multitude of similar inversions of language, which disfigure the current speech, not only of the generality of speakers and writers, but also of many of the best works in the language.



Expression may be both pure and proper, and yet not precise; the words employed may not express the idea intended, but some other that resembles it; or they may express that idea, but not fully or completely; or they may express it, together with something more than intended; in this case they are not precise ; for precision of expression consists in retrenching all superfluous or synonymous words and phrases. When another tells me of his hero's courage in the day of battle, the expression is precise, and I clearly understand his meaning; but when he adds, “ he exerted vast efforts of fortitude," my thoughts immediately begin to waver between these two attributes, because courage and fortitude are perfectly distinct qualities; by the former we resist danger, by the latter support pain.

Among the violations of grammatical precision committed by careless writers and speakers, is the using of words to express one meaning, when, according to their import, they denote another signification. Thus,

Above for foregoing; as, the above statement instead of the foregoing statement.

After for about ; as, what is he after, instead of what is he about.

Atop for upon ; as, atop of the table, instead of upon the table. Back for ago ; as, about a month back, instead of about a

month ago

Behind for too slow; as, my watch is behind, instead of my watch is too slow. The expression “my watch is standing' is equally incorrect; it should be “


watch has stopped.” Between for among and vice versâ ; as, divide it between all, instead of among all; divide it among both, instead of between both.

In for within and in for into; as, is your father in ? instead of is your father within ? Put it in your pocket, instead of put it into your pocket.

Over for of ; as, overseer over his house, instead of overseer of his house.

While for until; as, wait while I come, instead of until I


If for whether ; as, inquire if he called, instead of whether he called. Look if the sun shines, instead of whether the sun shines.

Where and there for whither and thither ; as, where are you going ? instead of whither are you going. He is going there, instead of he is going thither.

From where, from here, and from there, instead of whence, hence, and thence; as, from where does he come? instead of whence does he come ? &c.


The adverbs when, while, how, where, for the substantives time, manner, place, and the preposition and relative in and which ; as, since when have not seen him, instead of since which time I have not seen him. It is not worth my while, instead of it is not worth my time. Do it any how, instead of do it in any manner. A little while, instead of a short time. Any where, instead of in any place. The petition where it is stated, instead of the petition in which it is stated, &c.

Mind for attend to, regard, inclination, &c.; as, mind your book, instead of attend to your book. I do not mind it, instead of I do not regard or care about it. I had no mind for it, instead of I had no inclination for it. I have a mind for it, instead of I wish for it, &c.

Get, got, for have, obtain, catch, grow, take, become, &c.; as, I have got some, instead of I have some. To get a place or office, instead of to obtain a place or office. To get a cold, instead of to catch a cold. To get bigger, instead of to grow bigger. To get dinner, instead of to take dinner. To get a house, instead of to rent a house. To get a horse or a cow, instead of to purchase a horse or a cow. To get sick, instead of to become sick. Indeed the misapplication of this word in the vocabulary of careless writers and speakers is so frequent, that it is surprising that the late Mr. Malthus did not, in the plenitude of his dread of the consequences of a superabundant population in the world, anathematize it, in his Essay on Population, as a shameless procreator of spurious phraseology.

Lays, laid, for lies, lay, and vice versâ; as, he lays or laid down, instead of he lies or lay down. He laid in bed, instead of he lay in bed. Lie it down, instead of lay it down. It was lain there, instead of it was laid there. The proper use of

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