Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

constituents, structure, and properties, and the method of acquiring their useful and correct practice and application.

THE STRUCTURE OR MECHANISM OF LANGUAGE.

As in the study of the arts and sciences, so it is with that of language; the first knowledge which is necessary to be acquired is that of the materials and instruments of which use is to be made. Words being the materials of which the edifice of language is composed, our first endeavour should be to learn and understand their nature, characteristic differences, and the method of applying them to their natural and legitimate purposes. When we have obtained the knowledge of that primary part of language-verbal purity, propriety, and precisionwe must then endeavour to become acquainted with the just and proper arrangement and combination of words in the mechanism or structure of sentences, according to the rules of syntactical concord and government. Having correctly informed ourselves of these requisites or conditions of just and accurate composition, namely, purity, propriety, and precision of words and phrases, and their correct and tasteful distribution and combination, so that they are, to adopt the forcible and appropriate language of the author of “ The Institutes," « fit “ for the purpose,” or in the no less graphic expression of the Poet of Nature, “ apt and perspicuous,” we should carefully study the genius, structure, and philosophy of our language, so that we may be able to write and speak not only with purity, propriety, and precision, but also with ease, elegance, force, and vivacity; or, in the vivid language of one of the greatest masters of composition, possess “ the power of speech to stir “ men's blood and win their hearts" with that

Heavenly eloquence
That, with the strong rein of commanding words,
Doth manage, guide, and master th’eminence

Of men's affections more than all their swords."
Of each of these requisites the following chapters will treat.

PURITY OF EXPRESSION,

Purity of expression consists in the use of words, phrases, and idioms which are purely English, in opposition to words, phrases, and idioms that are vulgar, provincial, obsolete, foreign, new coined, or such as are not sanctioned by correct popular acceptation and the usage of the best and most authoritative writers and speakers of the age; for custom is the supreme arbiter of language, and words have their generation as well as men. The use of technical words and phrases in any other manner than in the respective callings or vocations to which they are applicable, or in burlesque composition, is also a violation of grammatical purity, and is reckoned among the solecisms and barbarisms of language.

Among expressions which are vulgar, and in disuse by all well-educated persons, are cocksure, bother, bamboozle, bang up, blow up, capsize, flare up, helter-skelter, harum-scarum, pell-mell, slap-dash, topsy-turvy, higgledy-piggledy, hurlyburly, hugger-mugger, humdrum, hocus pocus, hum, humbug, quiz, whit, moot, dint, pop out, smell out, gravelled, longwinded, moon-struck, ill-starred, as lief, in the main, must

needs, &c. &c. Nor is the use of such expressions as lingo for language, palaver for loquacity, berth for place or situation, jaunt for excursion, bedizen for to adorn or ornament, shift for to provide for or to take care of, quandary for difficulty, rigmarole for succession of long and tedious stories, mulligrubs for pain in the stomach, a world of money for much money, sucking one's brains for borrowing one's ideas, with half an eye for easily, or the fashionable denominations of a tanner for sixpence, or a bob for a shilling (d), by our high bloods and dandies, or such barbarisms and cant expressions as “the whole hog” and other transatlantic oddities of language, in vogue among parliamentary witlings, reconcilable to the canons either of good sense or of good taste. What to say of many of the classical expressions in use by the erudite sons of the almæ matres of Oxford and Cambridge, would really puzzle the ingenuity of a pundit or of an interpreter of hieroglyphical lore. Objectionable, however, as the use of these and similar expressions is, either in writing or discourse, they may sometimes be employed with considerable effect in burlesque or comic composition, for the purpose of giving force and vivacity to the expression.

Among the numerous inelegant forms of expression in use, the selection of the following and the substituted elegant form may excite the attention of the student:

Inelegant.

Cry up
Stir up

Elegant.
extol
excite
accumulate
yield or sacrifice

Heap up

Give up

Inelegant.

Elegant. Shun

avoid Brag

boast Pitched on

chosen Handed down

transmitted Pushed on

urged or impelled Shut out

exclude Fell to work

began One's betters

one's superiors Break one's word

violate one's promise Shut one's ears

close one's ears Smell out one's motives discover or discern one's motives Stand on security

insist on security Fall on an expedient devise Going forwards

proceeding Hold long in one disposition continue long in one disposition

The use of foreign words is also a violation of the purity of grammatical expression; as the Gallicisms, affair de cœur, for an intrigue or a love-affair ; à-propos, for to the point or purpose; agrémens, for ornaments; à-la-mode, for to the fashion; amende honorable, for satisfaction; antique, for ancient; au fond, for to the bottom or merits of a subject; au fait, for to the point; au naturel, to the life; bagatelle, for a trifle; beau ideal, for perfection; beau monde, for the gay or fashionable world ; beaux arts, for liberal arts; billetdoux, for a love letter ; bizarre, for singular, eccentric; bon bouche, for a nice morsel ; bon mot, for a witticism ; bon ton, for the height of fashion ; badinage, for half earnest jesting ; brusque, for blunt; canaille, for the rabble ; carte blanche, for unlimited powers, one's own terms; chateau, for a country seat ; chef-d'œuvre, for a master-piece; ci-devant, for formerly; con amore, for devotion, zeal, alacrity, &c.; congé d'élire, for leave to elect; corps diplomatique, for the diplomatic body; coup d'eclat, for a stroke of policy or a remarkable action; coup d'essai, for a trial or an attempt; coup d'état, for a piece of state policy; coup de grace, for a finishing stroke; coup de main, for a sudden or bold enterprise; coup d'eil, for a quick glance of the eye; coup de théatre, for a clap-trap; debût, for first appearance or beginning ; dernier ressort, for a last and only resource ; double entendre, for double meaning; douceur, for a present or bribe ; éclaircissement, for an elucidation ; éclat, for notoriety, splendour; éleve, for pupil; en bon point, for jolly or in good condition ; empressement, for earnestness; encore, for again; en badinant, for in fun; en avant, for onwards or in advance; en masse, for in a body or mass; en passant, for by the way or passing ; ennui, for lassitude, blue devils, or weariness; faux pas, for misconduct; fête, for feast or entertainment; finesse, for cunning or dexterity; hauteur, for haughtiness; haut gout, for high flavour; haut ton, for high life; jeu de mots, for a play of words; jeu d'esprit, for a display of wit, a witticism; mal-à-propos, for unfit or unseasonable ; mauvaise honte, for unbecoming bashfulness ; outré, for eccentric; on dit, for report or it is said ; opiniâtre, for positive; par hazard, for by chance, accidentally; penchant, for inclination; pis aller, for last effort; petit maître, for a fop; politesse, for politeness; protégé, for a person patronised or protected; on the qui vive, for on the alert; ruse de guerre, for a stratagem of war; savoir faire, for knowledge of business; savoir vivre, for good manners or knowledge of the world; sans froid, for indifference, coolness, or apathy; savant, for a learned man;

« AnteriorContinuar »