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tion. You do not want a diction gathered from the newspapers, caught from the air, common and unsuggestive; but you want one whose every word is full freighted with suggestions and associations, with beauty and power."*
The last suggestion will be felt by every good student. A stream can not rise higher than the fountain. Those who read only inferior productions, and listen only to poorly-educated speakers, will imbibe their imperfect style. Every student should read the books of classic reputation in his own language, and laboriously and discriminatingly select words when attempting to express his own thoughts.
The young writer should devote time and study to the art of composition, and should write and rewrite his productions carefully, and read and repeat them frequently, to acquire correctness, copiousness, and readiness in expression.
Reminiscences of Rufus Choate, pp. 248, 249.
DISCRIMINATION IN THE USE OF WORDS.
25. Synonymous Words.-THE English language is remarkably rich in words. As it readily receives and assimilates terms from any other language with which it comes in contact, it employs many words that have nearly the same signification. Words having precisely the same signification are called synonymous words, and the term is sometimes extended so as to embrace words that differ but slightly in meaning. Swiftness and velocity, brotherly and fraternal, yearly and annual, stay and continue, abide and remain, hint and suggest, wave and billow, are specimens of words that so closely resemble each other in signification as to be called synonymous. Inferior and careless speakers recognize no distinction in the meaning of such words. If we consult our dictionaries, we find that a large majority of the words in the language are defined or explained simply by the use of other single words that are supposed to bear a meaning nearly identical with the words defined.
26. Slight Diversity in the Meaning of Synonymous Words.-Careful scrutiny will show that in all instances these words really differ in meaning, though · sometimes by a slight shade, imperceptible to an uneducated mind. As the musical ear is trained to disC
criminate between similar sounds, and the eye of a painter to distinguish similar colors, so an educated mind will recognize a difference in the rank or comprehensiveness of words called synonymous. Correct and elegant writers and speakers recognize and observe these facts, and even ignorant readers are charmed by this discrimination and accuracy, though they know not the origin of their pleasure, and can not themselves command such power.
Swiftness, for instance, is a pure English word, coming down from the Anglo-Saxon, and universally understood. It is the exact opposite of slowness. Velocity is from the Latin, and is more elegant, but less forcible, and may even apply to objects moving slowly. We may say "a slow velocity," but not "a slow swiftness." And yet velocity is used to denote the very greatest degree of swiftness ever exhibited, as when we speak of the velocity of a cannon-ball, or of lightning, or of the celestial bodies; velocity is therefore much more comprehensive than swiftness. Such facts can be learned only by very careful and discriminating reading, which is aided by a study of other languages, ancient and modern; but a close attention to the practice of the most approved authors in our own language will largely supply the want of acquaintance with the Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Greek, and other languages from which the English is derived. Brotherly and fraternal are almost exactly the same, the former being Anglo-Saxon, and the latter Latin. If they differ at all, it is in the slightly supe rior definiteness and force of the former. Horse and
steed differ in rank. Horse is the common word, steed is the poetical word. Nag means an inferior horse, or one spoken of familiarly, as of little esteem.
It is a profitable exercise to scrutinize words closely, and to note the different effect of a sentence if a few words are exchanged for others of a similar meaning.
27. Technical Terms.- Many technical terms, or words used in a very precise sense, in the description of the sciences and arts, have been introduced into the English language, mainly from the ancient languages. In this way our speech has been greatly enriched. No science or art can be studied, or even thoroughly understood, without a knowledge of its technical terms. The common English words nearest in signification to them are too elastic and changeable in their signification to answer the purpose of those who are describing the arts and sciences.
Thus, Grammar has such technical terms as participle, prosody, subject, predicate; Geography such as latitude, longitude; Astronomy such as nodes, parallax, transit; Geology such as silurian, carbonaceous, drift; Metaphysics such as subjective, objective, nominalism, realism; Medicine, Law, Theology, Teaching, Painting, Sculpture, Navigation, War, Building, Mining, and all sciences and all practices, make use of a certain set of terms respectively, employed in a definite signification, and which, when used on other subjects, have generally a wider or looser signification than when employed technically.
28. Origin of Technical Terms.-While the technical terms of the natural sciences are mostly taken from
the Greek, those of war are derived largely from the French, those of music from the Italian, and many others are from other languages, ancient and modern. In some instances, an English word is selected and closely defined in a treatise, and thus becomes technical.
29. How used.-No one should presume to write upon any particular science or art without an accurate knowledge of its technical terms; and it is well even in unscientific or popular productions to use such terms accurately, if at all. An excessive or unnecessary use of them, even in scientific writings, and still more so in those designed for general readers, appears pedantic, and should be avoided.
30. New Words. From time to time new words spring up in the language, and old words die out or become obsolete. The scrutinizing observations of modern science are constantly discovering new objects, which must be named, and therefore scientific terms are constantly added to the language. So new com. binations of men, new actions, or circumstances arise, which demand either an old term used in a new sig nification or a new term. Such words as caucus, locate, donate, pre-empt, immigrant, skedaddle, telegram, freshet, sleigh, and many others were used first in America, and some of them are still confined to America. Wigwam, tomahawk, originated among the aborigines of North America; taboo, tattoo, came from the Pacific Islands. These are but specimens of the foreign words continually admitted into our language.
More will be said hereafter about the proper use of new words.