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out an examination, if there is the least doubt about its origin, pronunciation, meaning, or spelling.
3. Study' etymology. It is useful to trace out the origin, composition, and primary meaning of words. It should not be forgotten, however, that many words do not now mean what they once did, or what their derivation would seem to imply. The etymology of "prevent” signifies to
In this sense it was once actually used; as, “I prevented the dawning of the morning.”—Ps. 119.
“Your messenger prevented mine but an hour."-Bishop Taylor.
The accepted meaning of the word at the present time is to hinder.
“Resent” means etymologically to reciprocate or respond to any kind of feeling, good or bad. It once had this meaning. Three centuries ago a man could speak of resenting a benefit, as well as resenting an injury. The use of later times restricts the word to the single meaning; hence “resent” is now to take ill.
4. Seek good society. There is great advantage to be derived from a frequent association with intelligent and cultivated persons.
One who has this advantage will acquire a good vocabulary without great effort.
5. Read the best books carefully. Observe the selection and combination of words as illustrated by the best authors, if you would be profited by formal rhetorical rules. You must not, however, imitate your author in a slavish spirit.
The words of any composition should be pure, appropriate, precise, and simple. We shall, therefore, consider separately, (1) Purity, (2) Propriety, (3) Precision, and (4) Simplicity.
Purity.-A word is said to be pure when it belongs to the language as it is at present used by the best writers and speakers. Campbell defines good usage to be:
(1) Reputable, or the practice of intelligent and educated writers;
(2) National, as opposed to provincial and foreign;
(3) Present, or the usage of the generation in which one lives.
A violation of purity is called a Barbarism. To avoid such the following rules are given:
1. Avoid obsolete words, or such as were once in good use, but have ceased to be employed by the best writers.
Language, like everything else in the world, is subject to change. Some words go out of fashion; some alter their meaning; some grow less in value; some rise in importance; while here and there one wakes up from a long sleep to bear again its burden of thought. There is little probability that an obsolete expression will be used except by deliberate intention; to use it willfully in ordinary prose is affectation. It is allowable, however, where the writer, as in a historical novel, wishes to suggest antiquity,—to characterize the time in which the scene is laid. Within moderate limits it is also allowable in poetry:
I wis in all the Senate
We should also avoid obsolescent words; that is, such words as are gradually vanishing from the vocabulary of the most polished writers. Among them we find betwixt, amongst, froward, hearken, whilst, peradventure, trow, quoth, etc. No effort should be made to retain them, for their disuse implies their uselessness.
2. Avoid newly-coined words, or such words as have not received the sanction of good writers. A word is not, however, to be rejected simply because it is new, for some of the best words in the language have been recently introduced. Learning, invention, discovery, art, fashion, popular commotions, foreign intercourse, the progress of thought, have brought to the English language accessions of beauty and strength in every age from Chaucer to the present. So long as the language has life this process must continue. But the best course for the young writer or speaker, striving after purity of style, is to shun newlycoined words. He may, indeed, have occasion to speak of a new invention or a new idea, for which there is no word but that originating with the invention or idea itself; but in all ordinary cases the safe plan is to select only well-known and fully sanctioned words. Quintilian says, “Prefer the oldest of the new and the newest of the old." The same idea is expressed in rhyme:
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold,
3. Avoid all foreign words. - This includes words from both the ancient and modern languages. Nothing is more indicative of affectation and pedantry than a free use of Latin, Italian, and French expressions. A writer whose heroes are always marked by an air distingué, whose vile men are sure to be blasé, whose lady friends dance à merveille, and who himself, when lolling on the sofa, luxuriates in the dolce far niente, and wonders when he will begin his magnum opus, may possibly have a slight acquaintance with the foreign languages with which he has attempted to vary his discourse, but it is evident that his stock of good English words is small.
The late poet and journalist Bryant used to say that he never felt the temptation to use a foreign word without being able to find in English a word that expressed his meaning with more exactness and felicity.
There are, however, certain words borrowed from other languages that have become so thoroughly incorporated into our language that they are properly regarded as English words,
The use of such words is not a violation of purity. For example, such words as ignoramus, omnibus, quorum, and paradise, though foreign, are familiar to ordinary readers. They also express the meaning more precisely than any translation could do; hence there would be more pedantry in translating them than in using them in the form with which the public is already familiar.
4. Avoid all provincialisms, or local forms of expression. Almost every part of the country has certain localisms. These form no part of reputable, current English. The standard of purity is not the usage in any particular village, town, city, or state, but the practice of intelligent and educated authors throughout the English-speaking world.
These vulgarisms include all low or slang words, which, as a matter of morals, ought to be avoided. This style of speech is generally low, not seldom silly. In serious or dignified writings it is always a blemish.
“A tendency to slang, to colloquial inelegancies, and even vulgarities,” says Professor Whitney, “is the besetting sin against which we, as Americans, have especially to guard and struggle.'
5. Avoid all technical terms, or such as belong to special arts or sciences. These are usually known only to those who understand the specialties to which they apply. They may be used in addressing persons who understand the art or science to which the words belong, for then they are much more brief and intelligible than the words of ordinary use. Many words once purely technical have entered into common use, and may now be employed with freedom.
It is not easy to tell just where to draw the line; but where there is doubt as to whether a word will be understood, it is a safe rule to employ some other, or even a circumlocution.
DIRECTION. — Form sentences, where you can, containing good English equivalents for the italicized expressions:
1. In the following year the tables were turned, and the party of the Queen-mother came into power.
2. He curried favor with the leader of his party.
7. Having acquired the savoir faire, he is never afraid of making a faux pas, and in every conversation plunges in medias res.
8. It is impossible to extirp it. 9. It is pro bono publico. 10. His fastidiosity is unbearable.