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"And he divided unto them his living," meaning his property. And "wasted his substance with riotous living," or manner of life. Careful writers avoid the use of words in different meanings in the same sentences, or so near to each other as to lead to confusion of thought.*
The following poem, written by Professor J. Addison Alexander, D.D., shows how much meaning may be conveyed by the skillful use of monosyllabic words alone:
"Think not that strength lies in the big round word, Or that the brief and plain must needs be weak. To whom can this be true who once has heard
The cry for help, the tongue that all men speak, When want, or woe, or fear is in the throat,
So that each word gasped out is like a shriek Pressed from the sore heart, or a strange, wild note, Sung by some fay or fiend? There is a strength Which dies, if stretched too far or spun too fine,
Which has more weight than breadth, more depth than length. Let but this force of thought and speech be mine,
And he that will may take the sleek fat phrase,
* It may be interesting to note that, while in the English of the Prodigal Son about one hundred and fifty different words are employed, the original Greek makes use of less than one hundred; and while in English there are more than three hundred utterances, in the Greek there are less than two hundred and fifty, and yet both cover about the same space, or require the same time for repetition. This illustrates the fact that in English shorter words are used and more frequently repeated, while the Greek varies and compounds its original words more.
"Nor is it mere strength that the short word boasts;
On blood-stained fields. It has a voice as well
For them that weep, for them that mourn the dead;
To joy's quick step, as well as grief's slow tread,
In thought, or speech, or song, or prose, or rhyme."
In the above remarkable production, consisting of two hundred and eighty syllables, each being a word, one hundred and sixty-six different words are employed, the most of them occurring only once. This serves to show the great power of the monosyllabic part of our language.
It does not at all detract from the force of the composition that, while nearly all of the words are of Anglo-Saxon, or at least Teutonic origin, some are Celtic, and some are Latin, and some Greek. A child never asks the origin of a word that he hears; but if it is short, and expresses a thought of frequent occurrence, it is easily remembered. Brief, round, press,
strange, force, mere, serves, stain, voice, chime, prose, are from the Latin, phrase and theme are from the Greek; but they are as forcible as strength, help, speak, and the others of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Many of the most highly esteemed writers of the English language employ mostly short, simple, and ex
FORCE OF SHORT WORDS.
pressive words. We give another brief specimen to illustrate the power of words of this kind.
EXTRACT FROM AN ADDRESS BY DANIEL WEBSTER TO SOME AGED SOLDIERS OF THE REVOLUTION.
"Venerable men! You have come down to us from a former generation. Heaven has bounteously lengthened out your lives that you might behold this joyous day. You are now where you stood fifty years ago, this very hour, with your brothers and your neighbors, shoulder to shoulder, in the strife for your country. Behold, how altered! The same heavens are indeed over your heads; the same ocean rolls at your feet; but all else, how changed!"
The simplicity and appropriateness of the language of this address will be appreciated and admired by all persons of good taste.
Without caricaturing the opposite kind of style, we will translate the above into language such as many more pompous but feeble speakers would have employed, in order that the superior merits of the simple style, at least for such an occasion as called. forth the above, may be observed.
"Venerable gentlemen! You have descended to us from an an tecedent generation. Heaven has bounteously prolonged your career, that your vision might embrace this exultant epoch. You are now where you stood half a century ago, at this very instant, with your fraternal associates and intimate acquaintances, shoulder to shoulder, in the contest for your nation. Behold, how transformed! The same firmament is indeed over your heads; the same ocean rolls at your feet; but all other things, how transformed!"
The weakness and flatness of these long words, compared with the nervous original, none can fail to X
15. Abundant Thought requisite to render a simple Style agreeable.At the same time it should not be forgotten that one quality is essential to a style in which
these short and familiar words abound, to make the production impressive and valuable, and that is, abun. dance of thought and feeling, or both. Without this, the production is not only uninteresting but puerile. It is only writers who abound in thought that can safely employ a simple style.
16. Scientific Productions in Popular Language.Scientific productions usually employ technical terms, but many of late have been written in popular language. Professor Agassiz, though his native language is French, employs a style in English, that may be regarded as a model of simplicity, perspicuity, and force. We give a brief specimen :
"Before the year 1800, men had never suspected that their home had been tenanted in past times by a set of beings totally different from those that inhabit it now; still farther was it from their thought to imagine that creation after creation had followed each other in successive ages, every one stamped with a character peculiarly its own. It was Cuvier who, aroused to new labors by the hint he received from Montmartre, to which all his vast knowledge of living. animals gave him no clue, established, by means of most laborious investigations, the astounding conclusion that, prior to the existence of the animals and plants now living, this globe had been the theatre of another set of beings, every trace of whom had vanished from the surface of the earth. * * *The solid crust of the earth gave up its dead, and from the snows of Siberia, from the soil of Italy, from caves of Central Europe, from mines, from the rent sides of mountains and from their highest peaks, from the coral-beds of ancient occans, the varied animals that had possessed the earth ages before man was created spoke to us of the past."
The basis of the above style consists of plain and purely English words, while those of later origin, and derived from the Latin and other languages, are sparingly used, when precision and elegance seem to require them.
ORIGIN OF THE LONGER WORDS. 37
LONG WORDS, AND DIRECTIONS UPON THE CHOICE OF WORDS.
17. BESIDES the shorter and, on the average, most expressive words, there are many longer ones which have been introduced from the Latin, Greek, and other languages. These constitute about one-fourth of the terms found in English dictionaries, but very seldom reach so high a proportion in the language of any author. Some of them are the only single terms in the language to express the thoughts for which they stand, and therefore must be used when those thoughts are to be expressed; others bear nearly the same meaning as older and shorter words, but are generally esteemed as more elegant or sonorous, or indicative of higher culture, and are therefore often preferred.
The Anglo-Saxon language was converted into the English language, largely by receiving words from the Norman French, which were originally Latin. These words were often shortened and otherwise changed. Subsequently, also, English writers introduced many words, with more or less change of form, directly from the Latin. It was positively necessary either that they should introduce such words, or that they should combine the familiar Anglo-Saxon words into new com