Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

immigrant corrupts the already un. And ‘American' is a word of wonbraced speech of the child of the native- drous import to its hearers. The educaborn is a fact so undeniable that educa- tors who were striving to persuade the tors have recognized the danger, and youth of this country to speak with have striven to counteract it. The correctness a language which they were youthful Pole and the youthful Serb obliged to admit had been imported forget their own tongues without ac- from England, eliminated, as far as quiring ours. I have listened for ten possible, the unpopular adjective ‘Engminutes to the voluble utterances of lish.' There were rare and bold alluhalf a dozen young Jews in a Fifth Ave- sions to the ‘English tongue’; but for nue bus before it dawned on me that the most part the appeal was made they were not speaking Yiddish, but for ‘pure, forceful, American speech.' what was meant to be, and thought to Schoolchildren were asked to pledge

mining ours. I have lies without ac- fobliged to admit

tiplied a thousandfold,' says a despair- can language' by lopping off syllaing philologist, the man without a bles, or using base substitutes for yes language.'

and no. One school had an 'ain'tless Ten years ago the first Good Speech week.' Another put up a poster, ‘ReWeek was started as a protest against member the final G.' Shops inserted this careless corruption of our tongue. the more familiar Good Speech apostroIts object was to awaken in the alert phes in their advertisements. MovingAmerican mind some conception of picture producers screened them with what language means, and what ad- “Topics of the Times.' A few entervantages may accrue from its preserva prising clergymen preached sermons tion. Unfortunately, the wave of senti- on ‘The Integrity of Language, and ment which popularized Old Home 'The Sanctity of Words. A Detroit Week, and Boy Scout Week, and club registered a heroic resolution to Mother's Day, and No More War Day, avoid the cheaper forms of slang was necessarily lacking when so ab- such expressions as 'Say, lissen'; ‘You stract a thing as speech came under said something'; 'I'll say so,' and consideration. People saw the point, 'What do you know about that?' It but could not dilate with any emotion was felt that when men dispensed with over it.

these familiar and beloved phrases, they Moreover, incidental diversions, like would have to think up other phrases wearing a white carnation, or revisit- to replace them; and that any thinking one's birthplace, are easy and ing about the words they used every pleasant, while fundamental reforms day could not fail to be a novel and are admittedly laborious. Therefore stimulating process. the promoters of the movement were That we are a phrase-ridden nation compelled to overemphasize its prac- is apparent to every newspaper reader. tical utility. Pupils in the public A few of the cheapest combinations schools were told that clear convincing ‘red-blooded men,' 'great open spaces,' speech in a pleasant well-modulated "battle of the sexes,' — have been voice was a financial as well as a social drained dry of substance in movingasset. 'Invest in Good Speech. It picture halls. It is the exclusive privipays daily dividends,' was a slogan lege of the film to 'send the red corwhich might have startled Mr. James, puscles tingling through the veins' of but which was expected to carry the stolid audience which sits motionweight with the great American public. less and soporific as though asphyxiated

by the foul air. But 'God's out-of- comparative innocence, of meeting; to doors' still lingers on the printed page; find itself grafted on a social and politiand so does the misappropriated word, cal order that was without precedent, 'colorful,' and 'tang' – a bit of educat- and incalculably expansive. ed slang worse than the slang of the It was a mighty experience for a gutters. A purist has recently protested tongue which had been guarded with against the substitution of 'home' for some tenderness at home, and which "house' in the notices of real-estate had grown in excellence with every agents; and the daily advertisements generation of Englishmen. I know of of American women's clothing as de- no single line which expresses the persigned for 'milady's wear' is an intol- fection of language as it is expressed erable affectation. 'Correctness, that in Dr. Johnson's analysis of Dryden's humble merit of prose,' is not out of prose: ‘What is little is gay; what is place in the walks of commercial life. great is splendid.' The whole duty of the

An American critic has called our educated writer, the whole enjoyment attention to the fact that Henry James of the educated reader, are compressed habitually conveys his elusive and into those ten words. somewhat complicated conceptions in Mr. James is not the only critic who the simplest terms at his command. has pondered upon the mutual reacThe sentences are involved; ‘his con- tions of men and speech, upon the cern is to be precise, not to be clear'; phrases which have been forged by the words are plain, unpretentious and human emotions, and upon the human well-bred. It is the speech of cultivat- emotions which have been in turn ed England. It is the speech of Eng. swayed by the traditional force of land, cultivated or not.

phrases. This instinctive preference for the 'If reason may be trusted,' says tried and tested, for the blazed trail Mr. Henry Sedgwick, 'nevertheless of language, is held to indicate a lack its processes must be expressed in of intellectual curiosity; but Mr. words; and words are full of prejudices, James was intellectually so curious inheritors of old partisanships, most that common human curiosity, which fitful in their elusive and subtle is part of our normal make-up, was metamorphoses. frozen out of his consciousness. It was The richness of allusion in our everyintellectual curiosity which interested day language escapes notice, but it is him profoundly in British speech, car- not without its influence on our subried by fate to an alien continent, and conscious conceptions. The careless forced at the bayonet's point upon an cruelty of the phrase, ‘Hanging is too incredible array of alien populations. good for him,' echoes the conscious

‘Keep in sight the interesting truth cruelty of the persecutor, as he lives, that no language, so far back as our hating and hateful, in Pilgrim's Progacquaintance with history goes, has ress. The solemn swing of 'From now known any such ordeal, any such stress to Doomsday,' is heavy with the weight and strain, as was to await the English of mediævalism. The great traditions in this new community. It came over, of Christianity have powerfully affectas the phrase is, without fear and with- ed the languages of the Western world, out guile, to find itself transplanted to and have lent them incomparable spaces it had never dreamed, in its com- splendor and sweetness. The Spanish parative humility, of covering, to con- tongue is so full of religious derivatives ditions it had never dreamed, in its that it has been called the language of

phros

esses mids are fuisanships, subtle

prayer. Just as the Italian who cannot the vowel-cutting of the French actor read sees his Bible on the walls of and orator to the gem-cutting of the church and cloister and campo santo, French lapidary. Lord Morley sorrowso the Spaniard who cannot read hears fully confessed that the French have the echoes of his creed in the words he more regard for their language, whether uses all his life, and responds instinc- they are writing it or speaking it, than tively to their dominion.

the English have for theirs. Strange and interesting links in the It is a severe and conscientious, as story of the human race are revealed in well as a tender and a proud regard. the study of phraseology. Strange and It is part of the intellectual discipline interesting influences — national, reli- of the nation. gious, and industrial — are at work on For France, ever on the alert to our speech to-day. Linguistic idiosyn- guard this high inheritance, is far from crasies are social idiosyncrasies. I the danger of complacency. She thought of this when I heard an Ameri- watches sharply for any indication of can prelate - a man of learning and slackness on the part of her educators. piety — allude in a sermon to‘the most It is not enough that a young engineer important and influential of the saints should be accurately informed unless and martyrs.' It sounded aggressively he can accurately voice his information; modern. 'Powerful' is a word well- unless he can write a clear, concise, fitted to the Church Triumphant. intelligent, and well-ordered report. 'Virgo potens' is as significant and as A schoolboy is expected to be what Mr. satisfying as 'Virgo clemens.' But ‘im- James calls ‘tidy' in his speech. An portant' has a bustling accent, and an actress is required to be articulate, ‘influential' martyr suggests a heaven- pleasing and precise, to give to every ly banking-house.

word she utters its meaning and its I have read in the reports of far- charm. traveled adventurers that the most. The high-pitched, artificial, and convincing example of language reflect- eminently ill-bred voices of many ing social conditions may be found in American actresses unfit them for their the speech of certain African tribes profession. They can act intelligently, who have a separate word for the but they cannot speak agreeably. The killing of each and every undesired stage has always been the exponent of relative; one word for the killing of correct vocalization, of that delicacy, an uncle and another for the killing finality, and finish which sets high the of an aunt; one word for the killing standard of speech. It was left for an of a grandfather and another for the American dramatist to complain that killing of a grandson. A rich and he was compelled to rewrite his play in precise vocabulary to properly express order to eliminate all the words which the recurrent incidents of life.

his leading lady mispronounced. Educated Englishmen and Ameri- If some Americans can speak supercans have generously admired the care- latively well, why cannot more Ameriful art with which the educated French cans speak pleasingly? Nature is not man uses his incomparable tongue. to blame for our deficiencies. The fault Santayana says that this precision is is ours. The good American voice is part of the 'profound research and per- very good indeed. Subtle and sweet fect lucidity which has made French inheritances linger in its shaded vowels. scholarship one of the glories of Euro. Propriety and a sense of distinction pean culture.' Henry James compared control its cadences. It has more ani

who have a hewand every understreet correct var

mation than the English voice, and a making shift to converse in such English richer emotional range. The American as they can master. If the mastery be is less embarrassed by his emotions than imperfect, the responsiveness of these is the Englishman, and when he feels multiplying multitudes to images evokstrongly the truth, or the shame, or the ed by a world-wide tongue is the most sorrow his words convey, his voice stupendous fact in modern history. grows vibrant and appealing. He Dr. Arnold Schröer has emphasized a senses his mastery over a diction ‘nobly blessed truth when he says that the culrobust and tenderly vulnerable.' The tural connection between England and formed and finished utterances of an the United States has never been broolder civilization entrance his attentive ken, and that their common language, ear.

as represented by their common literaNext to the conquest of the world by ture, gives them a common purpose and the Latin tongue through the power a common delight in life. In so far as and sovereignty of Rome comes the this language is the expression of jurisconquest of the world by the English prudence, of democracy, of mercantile tongue through the colonizing genius adyenture, it is a strong link between of England. In the second year of nations that have builded on the same the Great War, when the vision of foundations. In so far as it is the me‘der Tag' still illuminated German dium of social and intellectual pleasures, hearts, and Lissauer had expressed it is an indissoluble bond. Our converwith animation his distaste for English sation with our friends in Boston or interlopers, there were sanguine school. New York ties us up with English men men in Germany who prophesied and women conversing with their that a conquering Fatherland would friends in remote quarters of the globe. drive 'the bastard tongue of canting The treasures of the ‘island-pirates' island-pirates' back to the British are our treasures. The heaped-up shores, and replace it elsewhere with gold of Shakespeare and Wordsworth the blessing of the German speech, and Keats is part of our spending ‘which comes direct from the hand money. of God.'

With truth has it been said that This reform has been temporarily reading and writing constitute a liberal sidetracked; and, for the present, one education if one is taught what to read hundred and sixty million people are and how to write.

THE HOLY ONE OF BENARES

BY DHAN GOPAL MUKERJI

Here evit

God and

temets and

umed

BENARES again! The bend of the kananda — all have their place here. Ganges that first came to view glittered It is the vast banyan tree which gives and flashed like a scimitar held under shelter to any spirit that wishes to the sun. It was three o'clock in the come to it. Here every arch is a soul afternoon when we entered the Holy story and every roof the footstool of City. From the distant bridge over God. There is no other city in the which we walked, the turrets and world, unless it be Rome, to which one towers of the thronging temples rose can point suggesting an image of what to the sky that burned like a turquoise Benares means to us. shell. Stone upon stone, — yellow, Color on color beat upon us like a gray and brown, - houses upon houses, changing sea. The tawny minarets of rose tier upon tier; some had blue doors the Beni Madhav rose clear against the and windows, and some red; but each intense red of the large gaunt templeand all breathed only one spirit: it was towers next to it; the latter in turn the city of holiness raised above the stood against the pure white domes of world on the trident of Shiva. Even lesser houses of worship. And over the monkeys in the temple of the them all danced the gleaming turMother seemed holy to me.

quoise sky, on fire with the sun. Men Benares cannot be described. It is and animals jostled one another as we held aloft on the trident of holiness – walked the ancient flagstone, while no description can come near it. I can beside us paced the multitude of pilonly set down a few impressions as grims clad in robes of ochre, yellow, background to my experiences there. white, and red. The large Shiva bulls, I expected to be disappointed, for I their humps throbbing with heat and had come to it after a long sojourn in fat, rubbed their sleepy gray sides an utterly alien world; and instead against us. of disappointment – I felt its over- That July afternoon was not a day, whelming majesty. It was Brahmanism but a revelation. No sooner had we

sect rises amongst us, in Benares it will veil of delusions had been torn asunder, find a temple and worshipers. In truth, giving us a glimpse of the road that we the long arm of the Eternal Religion were destined to travel in order to that abides here reaches out and sus- reach the Holy One. It seemed quite tains any new religious experience that natural that every one we met should utters itself in any form of worship. point out to us the way. In Benares Thousands of years, thousands of re- the streets have no names, and houses ligious teachers — Buddha, Shankara, are not numbered; yet everyone whom Ramanuj, Nanak, Kabir, and Vive. we asked for direction told us which

« ElőzőTovább »