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Gesner, by Solanus, and Reitzius, which are laughably absurd, and ridiculous!"
Would not the following passage from an elegant and instructive writer be improved by striking out the italicized words?
"And is there nothing analogous to this in the social world? Is not the whole frame-work of our present social system founded on the eternally unchangeable law of the subordination and subserviency of one human organism to another? In order to be happy, man must be free to develop himself. But individual freedom must necessarily engender inequality so long as one human organism has more life-energy than another. We see the results of this principle (inequality of natural gift) in a common school, where all are placed in the same circumstances and on an equal footing. What a remarkable difference in the aptness of boys for particular branches of study! With what rapidity and apparent ease some get through the tasks allotted them! How slow and wearisome the progress made by others! Undoubtedly the diligent and attentive student is generally, at the end of the term, the most advanced in his class. But even in a well-regulated school, where industrious habits are carefully cultivated, where the strictest discipline is rigidly enforced, and where all are not only expected but actually made to study, there is the same variety in the natural capacities of the scholars, the same striking diversity in their intellectual progress. When reference is made to the standing of each at the commencement and then at the close of the session, some boys have got far ahead of the others in the same branch, notwithstanding those who have had the misfortune to fall back in their class have not unfrequently received the greatest share of the time and attention of their teacher. Thus, notwithstanding the oft-cited saying of Euclid, 'There is no royal road to learning,' it is undeniable that there is such a thing as an innate or natural intellectual and moral superiority of capacity possessed by one man over another."*
+ 32. Discrimination on the proper Number of Words needed. It is possible that some persons may not consider the above extract improved by annulling the italicized words, but it should be observed that concise productions, if perspicuous, please cultivated minds, * What may be Learned from a Tree. By Harland Coultas, p. 71.
WHEN DIFFUSENESS IS ALLOWABLE.
and control the attention better than diffuse ones. The importance of this subject requires discriminating study. In some instances diffuseness, and what might be called tautology, is necessary, as when a subject is difficult to be understood by the persons addressed, or when it is disagreeable, and must be circuitously and slowly approached. A word of many syllables, slowly uttered, may sometimes be more efficient than a short, sharp expression. "He was tremendously alarmed," is more impressive than a shorter expression would be. When the author wishes a subject to be thought of more than it will be with one, even the very best expression, he may use more words than are strictly necessary. Every one should be able at pleasure to use a clear, sharp, laconic style.
FURTHER DIRECTIONS UPON THE CHOICE OF WORDS.
33. Purity of Words.-THE English language is largely made up of words that have been introduced from other languages, and this process may yet continue; still it violates good taste to use foreign terms needlessly and excessively. This practice savors of pedantry. It affects to display learning, but often betrays vanity. It frequently indicates deficiency rather than proficiency in scholarship. Ripe scholars can afford to confine themselves to one language at a time, and use foreign expressions in their composition only when they wish to express a shade of thought that can not be conveyed in the idiom of the English language, or when they wish to avail themselves of associations connected with some foreign expression, or when they wish to make a direct quotation from a production in another language.
Let a young writer remember that the profuse use of hackneyed foreign terms, usually found in a list at the close of our spelling-books and dictionaries, such as prima facie, beau ideal, legio tonans, bona fide, is not so much an indication of scholarship as either of carelessness or pedantry. When such a phrase is em
FOREIGN TERMS SOMETIMES PROPER, 61
ployed by a truly learned writer, there is an aptness or reason for its use, that can not well be comprehended except by a person familiar with the language from which it is taken. A show of erudition, with which to astonish the vulgar, may be obtained from an encyclopædia in half an hour, but it will never deceive the learned.
34. The Use of foreign Words sometimes proper.—At the same time it must be allowed that foreign words may sometimes be used with good effect. When those addressed may be presumed to understand them, when they are clothed with familiar associations, when they serve as a cloak for ideas that would be less agreeable in a native dress, or when they express what a native word can not, they may properly be employed.
Thus Walter Scott, speaking of Americans, says: "They are advancing in the lists of our literature, and they will not be long deficient in the petite morale, especially as they have, like ourselves, the rage for travelling." The word politeness might be substituted for the French words in the above, but would not be so specific; "the amenities of social intercourse" would have been too long, and neither would have suggested the thought, that a noted French writer has termed social manners "the minor morals."
Prescott, referring to a defense of the anachronisms and poems of Shakspeare by an over-ardent German admirer, adds: "The old bard, could he raise his head from the tomb, where none might disturb his
bones,* would exclaim, we imagine, "Non tali auxilio."+
It is not best to accompany foreign words with a translation, unless they are cited as authorities or proofs given in the original to secure accuracy, but translated for the information of all.
35. Advice of Bryant.—William Cullen Bryant, an elegant American writer, whose prose writings are not inferior in style to his justly-celebrated poetry, when requested to give his opinion on an article handed to him by a young man, to be printed in his newspaper, said: "My young friend, I observe that you have used several French expressions in your article. I think that, if you will study the English language, you will find it capable of expressing all the ideas that you may have. I have always found it so; and in all that I have written I do not recall an instance in which I was inclined to use a foreign word, but that, on searching, I found a better one in my own language."
Foreign words are seldom needed except for ornament. A well-cultivated taste is necessary to direct in their use, or they will offend more than they please.
36. New Words should not be recklessly Introduced.It was remarked by Dr. Noah Webster, the lexicographer, that he had never ventured to coin but one
*In these words is an allusion to the epitaph over Shakspeare's grave.
† A quotation from Virgil (Æneid, liber ii. vs. 521, 522):
"Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis
(The occasion does not need such help, nor such defenders.)