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Simplicity.—Simplicity has reference to the choice of simple words and their unaffected presentation. If properly and skillfully used, words readily and generally intelligible produce their full effect.
Short words require the least attention, and are correspondingly strong. Hence the strength of the AngloSaxon element, which, as we have seen, comprises the vocabulary of common life, -the language of the emotions, of the fireside, street, market, and farm. This element predominates in the books most widely circulated; as, the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver's Travels; and it is to the home-going Saxon of these books that their popular impressiveness and general intelligibility may be ascribed. Every word in the following passage from St. John is of Saxon origin:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men."
Bain says: “Our translation of the Bible is usually referred to as showing most remarkably the force of the Saxon element in our language, whereby it is intelligible, familiar, and home-going. These qualities it certainly possesses in a very high degree; but as the translators seem to have been guided rather by an unconscious tact, which must sometimes have failed them, than by a deliberate preference of Saxon words, the statement must be received with some qualifications." In passages marked by great simplicity, the Saxon element is largely used. Of this the Gospels furnish numerous examples. Again, when emotional effect is chiefly aimed at, the translators often give the Saxon in great purity. Many examples of melody and pathos might be produced from the Psalms;
none more conspicuous, however, than the twenty-third, the whole of which contains only ten classical words.
“While the great majority of words in the English Bible are native, there is necessarily, also, a considerable mixture of the classical element. One reason of this is that the terms in use for designating ideas peculiar to Judaism or Christianity had mostly been derived from the Latin. The following are examples of such words; some of them were originally Greek, though received by us through the Latin: apostle, evangelist, bishop, baptism, grace, salvation, repent, justify, sanctify, elect, saint, angel, eternal, immortal, miracle, creation, sacrifice. These have become household words; we are as much at home with them as we should have been with native terms. Some of them are as easy and homely as the commonest of the words inherited from our simple-minded Teutonic forefathers; while some of our Saxon words, by being sparingly used, or by being connected with difficult notions (as laws and government), may not be readily followed. The classical 'flower,' 'gain,' 'branch,' 'gentle,' are quite as familiar as the Saxon 'bloom,' 'win,' 'bough,' and 'riding'; while ‘wapentake,’ ‘wardmote,’ ‘gavelkind,' though native, are not universally understood.”—Bain.
We may, therefore, greatly simplify a learned style, without resolving it into the pure Saxon. To simplify a difficult passage by the substitution of Saxon, or, failing that, of easy classical, terms, will form one of the best exercises in applying the pupil's knowledge of the sources of the English.
Writers who seek the utmost intelligibility, will avoid foreign words, not because they are foreign, but because they are not current. “I observe," says Emerson, “that all distinguished poetry is written in the oldest and simplest English words. There is a point, above coarseness and below refinement, where propriety abides.” It is well, however, to remember that classical words are more dignified in their associations. The Saxon part of the vocabulary, while favorable to feeling and pathos, contains also the coarse and vulgar words of the language. Latin and Greek words not only are freer from coarseness, but also are associated with dignity or elevation. For Saxon “sweat,” we have "perspiration”; and for many coarse, strong Saxon words—words found only in the mouths of the uneducated and unrefined, our language affords equivalents derived from the more refined Latin. We see, then, the necessity as well as the advantage of using simple English words; and these include not only natives, but many foreign derivatives, which are equally brief and clear.
DIRECTION. — Express the following sentences in simple, natural English:
1. I was confronted by a diminutive maiden, whose habiliments were indicative of penury.
2. The poor Indian lay in his last extremity.
3. There is a potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
4. Your sister was evidently laboring under some hallucination. 5. His spirit quitted its earthly habitation. 6. An individual was precipitated.
7. Who urges into motion corpulent animals of the bovine species should himself be of no mean dimensions.
8. The ruminants repose beneath the umbrageous trees.
9. These youthful personages were engaged in tumultuary recreations.
10. The conflagration reached out as if to inclose the wide city in its fiery embrace.
11. John and his canine companion uncerem
emoniously disturbed the felicitous slumbers of the old cat and her young family.
12. Many of our seemingly insignificant and barbarous conso. nental monosyllables are expressive of the mightiest thoughts.
ffluence and power, advantages extrinsic and adventitious, should very often flatter the mind with expectations of felicity which they can not give, raises no astonishment.
14. By my side was a square-built, fresh-colored personage. 15. Even if this conciliatory proceeding were a proper device
16. I bore the diminution of my riches without any outrages of sorrow or pusillanimity of dejection.
17. Their hearts are like that of the principle of evil himself—incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil.
18. They agreed to homologate the choice that had been made.
19. Out of one of the beds on which we were to repose, started up, at our entrance, a man black as a Cyclops from the forge.
20. I would inculcate the importance of a careful study of genuine English, and a conscientious scrupulosity in its accurate use.
21. I was surprised, after the civilities of my first reception, to find, instead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always promises, and, if well-conducted, might always afford, a confused wilderness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every face was clouded and every motion agitated.
22. Professions lavishly effused and parsimoniously verified are alike inconsistent with the precepts of innate rectitude, and the practice of internal policy:
DIRECTION. — Write sentences containing shorter or more familiar expressions for the following:
Aggravate, individual, residence, circumspect, simultaneously, tortuous, termination, occult, extinguish, transform, accomplish, instruct, preclude, articulate, felicity, exacerbated, antagonist, cognizance, progenitor, audacious, inaugurate, approximate, minatory, commence, indoctrinate, penetrate, auxiliaries, invalidate, atmosphere, idiosyncrasies, ethereal, pabulum, anomaly, isothermal, elimination, interpolate, æsthetic, disparage, obliterate, circumlocution, supersede.
MISCELLANEOUS EXAMPLES ON DICTION.
DIRECTION. — Tell what quality of diction-purity, propriety, precision, or simplicity-is violated here. Correct all errors in your recast of the sentences:
1. He is worthy of praise for his observation of filial duty.
2. The sellers of the newest patterns at present give extreme good bargains.
3. But what will fame be to an ephemeræ who no longer exists? 4. The protest laid quietly on the table. 5. The child died from the sequelæ of the scarlet fever.
6. The only danger that attends the multiplicity of publications is that some of then may be calculated to injure rather than benefit society.
7. I guess you may speak respectably to your superiors.
12. If we examine with minuteness the falling snow, we will observe that each flake consists of a number of exceedingly delicate particles of ice.
13. The entertainment of last evening was much enjoyed by the juvenile members of the community.
14. The cuisine was perfect.
15. During the ancien régime the peasants were grievously oppressed.
16. He dispenses favors on every side.
19. We propose to spend the greater part of the summer in studying music.
20. It was a lapsus linguæ.
21. Paterfamilias placed his hands in loving tenderness upon the heads of the children.
22. A fault inevitable by literary ladies.