Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

66

[ocr errors]

evil, the 'Bijou Gazetteer of the World' nearly as bad to use two words in one ought to stand at the summit of excel. sense as one word in two senses. Let us lence. It is the tiniest geographical direc- take some other examples. We read in tory we have ever seen.” This is quite the usual channels of information that illogical: if a big book is a big evil, it " Mr. Gladstone has issued invitations for does not follow that a little book is a great a full-dress Parliamentary dinner, and good. If in the main I have adhered to Lord Granville has issued invitations for a the English version, it has been froin the full-dress Parliamentary banquet.Again conviction that our translators were in the we read : “The government proposes to right.” It is rather difficult to see what divide the occupiers of land into four is the precise opinion here expressed as categories;' and almost immediately to our translators; whether an absolute after we have "the second class compre. or contingent approval is intended. “If bends ...”: so that we see the grand you think it worth your while to inspect word category merely stands for class. the school from the outside, that is for Again : “This morning the czar drove yourself to decide upon.” The decision alone through the Thier-garten, and on is not contingent on the thinking it worth his return received Field. Marshals Wranwhile : they are identical. For the last gel and Moltke, as well as many other example we take this:“... but if it does general officers, and then gave audience not retard his return to office it can hardly to numerous visitors. Towards noon the accelerate it." The meaning is, “This emperor Alexander, accompanied by the speech cannot accelerate and may retard Russian grand dukes, paid a visit ..." Mr. Disraeli's return to office.'' The “Mr. Ayrton, according to Nature, has triple occurrence of it is very awkward. accepted Dr. Hooker's explanation of the

An error not uncommon in the present letter to Mr. Gladstone's secretary, at day is the blending of two different con- which the first commissioner of works structions in one sentence. The gram- took umbrage, so that the dispute is at an mars of our childhood used to condemn end." I may remark that Mr. Ayrton is such a sentence as this: “He was more identical with the first commissioner of beloved but not so much admired as Cyn- works. A writer recently in a sketch of thio.” The former part of the sentence travels spoke of a Turkish gentleman requires to be followed by than, and not with his innumerable wives," and soon by as. The following are recent ex- after said that she “never saw him ad. amples : “The little farmer (in France] dress any of his multifarious wives.” has no greater enjoyments, if so many, as One of the illustrated periodicals gave a the English laborer." “I find public. picture of an event in recent French his. school boys generally more fuent, and as tory, entitled, “ The National Guards Fir. superficial as boys educated elsewhere.” ing on the People.” Here the change “ Mallet, for instance, records his delight from national to people slightly conceals and wonder at the Alps and the descent the strange contradiction of guardians into Italy in terms quite as warm, if much firing on those whom they ought to guard. less profuse, as those of the most im- Let us now take one example in which pressible modern tourist.” An awkward a word is repeated, but in a rather differ. construction, almost bad as a fault, is ent sense : “ The grand duke of Baden seen in the following sentence: “Messrs. sat next to the emperor William, the im

having secured the co-operation of perial crown prince of Germany sitting some of the most eminent professors of, next to the grand duke. Next came the and writers on, the various branches of other princely personages.” The word science ..."

next is used in the last instance in not A very favorite practice is that of chang. quite the same sense as in the former two ing a word where there is no correspond. instances; for all the princely personages ing change of meaning. Take the fol- could not sit in contact with the crown lowing example from a voluminous histo- prince. rian : “ Huge pinnacles of bare rock shoot A class of examples may be found in up into the azure firmament, and forests which there is an obvious incongruity overspread their sides, in which the scar- between two of the words which occur. let rhododendrons sixty feet in height are Thus, “ We are more than doubtful; surmounted by trees two hundred feet in that is, we are more than full of doubts: elevation.In a passage of this kind it this is obviously impossible. Then we may be of little consequence whether a read of “a man of more than doubtful word is retained or changed; but for any sanity." Again we read of “a more than purpose where precision is valuable it is questionable statement:” this is l sup

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]

czar

pose a very harsh elliptical construction and such an orator made a lengthened for such a sentence as “a statement to speech, when the intended meaning is that which we might apply an epithet more be made a long speech. The word lengthcondemnatory than questionable.So also ened has its appropriate meaning. Thus, we read “a mcre unobjectionable charac. after a ship has been built by the Adter.” Again : “ Let the Second Chamber miralty, it is sometimes cut into two aod be composed of elected members, and a piece inserted : this operation, very reptheir utility will be more than halved.rehensible doubtless on financial grounds, To take the half of anything is to perform is correctly described as lengthening the a definite operation, which is not suscepti. ship. It will be obvious on consideration ble of more or less. Again : “The singu. that lengthened is not synonymous with lar and almost excessive impartiality and long. Protracted and prolonged are also power of appreciation.” It is impossible to often used instead of long; though perconceive of excessive impartiality. Other haps with less decided impropriety than recent examples of these impossible com lengthened. binations are, more faultless," "less in.

A very common phrase with contro. disputable.” “The high antiquity of the versial writers is, “we shrewdly suspect.” narrative cannot reasonably be doubted, This is equivalent to, “we acutely susand almost as little its ultiinate Apostolic pect." The cleverness of the suspicion origin.The ultimate origin, that is the should, however, be attributed to the last beginning, of anything seems a con. writers by other people, and not by them. tradiction. The common phrase bad selves. health seems of the same character; it is The simple word but is often used when almost equivalent to unsound soundness it is difficult to see any shade of opposition or to unprosperous prosperity. In a pas- or contrast such as we naturally expect. sage already quoted, we read that the Thus we read: “There were several can

“gave audience to numerous vis didates, but the choice fell upon of itors," and in a similar manner a very Trinity College.” Another account of the distinguished lecturer speaks of making same transaction was expressed thus : “ It experiments "visible to a large audience." was understood that there were several It would seem from the last instance that candidates; the election fell, however, our language wants a word to denote a upon of Trinity College." mass of people collected not so much to The word mistaken is curious as being hear an address as to see what are called constantly used in a sense directly conexperiments. Perhaps if our savage fore. trary to that which, according to its formafathers had enjoyed the advantages of tion, it ought to have. Thus: “He is courses of scientific lectures, the vocabu- often mistaken, but never trivial and inlary would be supplied with the missing sipid.” “ He is often mistaken

ought to word.

mean that other people often mistake Talented is a vile barbarism which bim ; just as "he is often misunderstood" Coleridge indignantly denounced; there means that people often misunderstand is no verb to talent from which such a bim. But the writer of the above sen. participle could be deduced. Perhaps tence intends to say that “ He often makes this imaginary word is not common at the mistakes.” It would be well if we could present; though I am sorry to see from get rid of this anomalous use of the word my notes that it still finds favor with clas- mistaken. I suppose that wrong or errosical scholars. It was used some time neous would always suffice. But I must since by a well-known professor, just as admit that good writers do employ mishe was about to emigrate to America; so taken in the sense which seems contrary it may have been merely evidence that he to analogy; for example, Dugald Stewart was rendering himself familiar with the does so, and also a distinguished leading language of his adopted country.

philosopher whose style shows decided Ignore is a very popular and a very bad traces of Dugald Stewart's influence. word. As there is no good authority for I shall be thought hypercritical perhaps it, the meaning is naturally uncertain. It if I object to the use of sanction as a seems to fluctuate between wilfully con- verb; but it seems to be a comparatively cealing something and unintentionally modern innovation. I must, however, omitting something, and this vagueness admit that it is used by the two distin. rendiers it a convenient tool for an un- guished writers to whom I alluded with scrupulous orator or writer.

respect to the word mistaken. Recently The word lengthened is often used in some religious services in London were stead of long. Thus we read that such | asserted by the promoters to be under the

a

sanction of three bishops; almost immedi. because it generally involves no ambiguity, ately afterwards letters appeared from the but is used merely as an abbreviation the three bishops in which they qualified the meaning of which is obvious from the amount of their approbation : rather curi. context. But in other works there is ously all three used sunction as a verb. frequently no clue to guide us in affixing The theology of the bishops might be the a meaning to the symbol, and we can only sounder, but as to accuracy of language I interpret its presence as a sign that somethink the inferior clergy had the advan. thing has been omitted. The following is tage. By an obvious association I may an example: “ It describes a portion of say that if any words of mine could reach Hellenic philosophy: it dwells upon emiepiscopal ears, I should like to ask why a nent individuals, inquiring, theorizing, first charge is called a primary charge, reasoning, confuting, &c., as contrasted for it does not appear that this mode of with those collective political and social expression is continued. We have, I manifestations which form the matter of think, second, third, and so on, instead of history. ..." secondary, tertiary, and so on, to distin- The examples of confusion of metaphor guish the subsequent charges.

ascribed to the late Lord Castlereagh are Very eminent authors will probably al. so absurd that it might have been thought ways claim liberty and indulge in peculiar impossible to rival them. Nevertheless ities; and it would be ungrateful to be the following, though in somewhat quieter censorious on those who have permanently style, seems to me to approach very nearly enriched our literature. We must, then, to the best of those that were spoken by allow an eminent historian to use the word Castlereagh or forged for him by Mackcult for worship or superstition; so that intosh. A recent Cabinet minister de. he tells us of an indecent cult when he scribed the error of an Indian official in means an unseemly false religion. So, these words: “He remained too long un. too, we must allow another eminent histo- der the influence of the views which he rian to introduce a foreign idiom, and bad imbibed from the Board.” To imbibe speak of a man of pronounced opinions. a view seems strange, but to imbibe any.

One or two of our popular writers on thing from a Board must be very difficult. scientific subjects are fond of frequently I may observe that the phrase of Castle. introducing the word bizarre ; surely some reagh's which is now best known, seems English equivalent might be substituted to suffer from misquotation : we usually with advantage. The author of an anony. have,"an ignorant impatience of taxa. mous academical paper a few years since tion;” but the original form appears to was discovered by a slight peculiarity – have been, "an ignorant impatience of namely, the use of the words ones, if there the relaxation of taxation." be such a word : this occurred in certain The following sentence is from a voluproductions to which the author had affixed minous historian: “The decline of the his name, and so the same phenomenon material comforts of the working classes, in the unacknowledged paper betrayed the from the effects of the Revolution, had origin which had been concealed.

been incessant, and had now reached an A curious want of critical tact was dis- alarming height.” It is possible to ascend played some years since by a review of to an alarming height, but it is surely great influence. Macaulay, in his life of difficult to decline to an alarming height. Atterbury, speaking of Atterbury's daugh- “Nothing could be more one-sided than ter, says that her great wish was to see the point of view adopted by the speak. her pápa before she died. The reviewer ers.” It is very strange to speak of a condemned the use of what he called point as having a side ; and then how can the mawkish word papır. Macaulay, of one-sided adınit of comparison? A thing course, was right; he used the daughter's either has one side or it has not: there own word, and any person who consults cannot be degrees in one sidedness. Howthe original account will see that accuracy ever, even mathematicians do not always would have been sacrificed by substituting manage the word point correctly. In a father. Surely the reviewer ought to have modern valuable work we read of “ a more had sufficient respect for Macaulay's read. extended point of view,” though we know ing and memory to hesitate before pro- that a point does not admit of extension. nouncing an off-hand censure.

This curious phrase is also to be found in Cobbelt justly blamed the practice of two eminent French writers, Bailly and putting " &c.” to save the trouble of com. D'Alembert. I suppose that what is pleting a sentence properly. In mathemat. meant is, a point which commands a more ical writings this symbol may be tolerated extended view. “ Froschammer wishes

curs:

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to approach the,subject from a philosopho | bation by more than one critic from the ical standpoint.” It is impossible to stand late Professor Conington's translation of and yet to approach. Either he should Horace, in which the following line oco survey the subject from a stand-point, or approach it from a starting-point.

After life's endless babble they sleep well. so The most scientific of our Continental theologians have returned back again to Now the word endless here is extremely the relations and ramifications of the old awkward; for if the babble never paths.” Here paths and ramifications do how can anything come after it? not correspond; nor is it obvious what To digress for a moment, I may observe

I the relations of paths are. Then returned that this line gives a good illustration of back again seems to involve superfluity; the process by which what is called Latin either returned or turned back again verse is often constructed. Every person would have been better.

sees that the line is formed out of Shake. A large school had lately fallen into speare's “ After life's fitful fever he sleeps difficulties owing to internal dissensions; well.” The ingenuity of the transference in the report of a council on the subject may be admired, but it seems to me that it was stated that measures had been it is easy to give more than a due amount taken to introduce more harmony and good of admiration; and, as the instance shows, feeling. The word introduce suggests the the adaptation may issue in something idea that harmony and good feeling could bordering on the absurd. As an example be laid on like water or gas by proper in Latin versification, take the following. mechanical adjustment, or could be sup. Every one who has not quite forgotten plied like first-class furniture by a London his schoolboy days remembers the line in upholsterer.

Virgil ending with non imitabile fulmen, An orator speaking of the uselessness A good scholar, prematurely lost to his of a dean said that "he wastes his sweet college and university, having for an exerness upon the desert air, and stands like cise to translate into Latin the passage in an engine upon a siding." This is a Milton relating to the moon's peerless strange combination of metaphors. light finished a line with 11011 imitabile

The following example is curious as lumen. One can hardly wonder at the showing how an awkward metaphor has tendency to overvalue such felicitous apbeen carried out: “In the face of such propriation. assertions what is the puzzled spectator The language of the shop and the marto do.” The contrary proceeding is much ket must not be expected to be very exmore common, namely to drop a metaphor act: we may be content to be amused by prematurely or to change it. For instance: some of its peculiarities. I cannot say “ Physics and metaphysics, physiology that i have seen the statement which is and psychology, thus become united, and said to have appeared in the following the study of man passes from the uncer. form : “Dead pigs are looking up." We tain light of mere opinion to the region of find very frequently advertised, " Digesscience.' Here region corresponds very tive biscuits” – perhaps digestible bisbadly with uncertain light.

cuits are meant. In a catalogue of books Metaphors and similes require to be an “Encyclopædia of Mental Science " is employed with great care, at least by those advertised; and after the names of the who value taste and accuracy. I hope I authors we read, “invaluable, 55. 6d."; may be allowed to give one example of a this is a curious explanation of invaluable. more serious kind than those hitherto The title of a book recently advertised supplied. The words like lost sheep which is, “ Thoughts for those who are Thoughtoccur at the commencement of our Lit. ful." It might seem superfluous, not to urgy always seem to me singularly objec. say impossible, to supply thoughts to those tionable, and for two reasons. In the who are already full of thought. first place, illustrations being intended to The word limited is at present very popunfold our meaning are appropriate in ular in the domain of commerce. Thus explanation and instruction, but not in we read, “ Although the space given religious confession. And in the second was limited.” This we can readily sup. place the illustration as used by ourselves pose; for in a finite building there cannot is not accurate; for the condition of a lost be unlimited space. Booksellers can persheep does not necessarily suggest that haps say, without impropriety, that a conscious lapse from rectitude which is limited number will be printed,” as this the essence of human transgression. may only imply that the type will be

A passage has been quoted with appro. I broken up; but they sometimes tell us

a

us

[ocr errors]

that "a limited number was printed,” and tentions,” is often quoted in the far less this is an obvious truism.

expressive form,“ Hell is paved with good Some pills used to be advertised for intentions.the use of the “possessor of pains in the “Knowledge is power” is frequently back," the advertisement being accompa. attributed to Bacon, in spite of Lord Lyt. nied with a large picture representing the ton's challenge that the words cannot be unhappy capitalist tormented by his prop. found in Bacon's writings. “The style erty.

is the man” is frequently attributed to Pronouns, which are troublesome to all Buffon, although it has been pointed out writers of English, are especially embar. that Buffon said something very different; rassing to the authors of prospectuses namely, that “the style is of the man,' and advertisements. A wine company that is, “The style proceeds from the return thanks to their friends, “and, at man.” It is some satisfaction to find that the same time, they would assure them Frenchmen themselves do not leave us that it is their constant study not only to the monopoly of this error; it will be find improvements for their convenience found in Arago"; see his works, vol.' iii.,

..” Observe how the pronouns oscil. p. 560. A common proverb frequently late in their application between the com- quoted is, “The exception proves the pany and their friends.

rule;" and it seems universally assumed In selecting titles of books there is that proves here means establishes or deroom for improvement. Thus, a Quar. nonstrates. It is perhaps more likely terly Journalis not uncommon; the words that proves here means tests or tries, as strictly are suggestive of a Quarterly in the injunction, “ Prove all things." Daily publication. I remember, some [The proverb in full runs: Exceptio proyears since, observing a notice that a cerobat regulam in casibus non exceptis.] tain obscure society proposed to celebrate The words Nihil tetigit quod non orna. its triennial anniversary.

vit are perpetually offered as a supposed In one of the theological newspapers quotation from Dr. Johnson's epitaph on a clergyman seeking a curacy states as Goldsmith. Johnson wrote: an exposition of his theological position, “View's Prayer-book.” I should hope that

Qui nullum fere scribendi genus

Non tetigit, this woul not be a specimen of the ordi.

Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit. nary literary style of the applicant. The advertisements in the same periodical ex. It has been said that there is a doubt as hibit occasionally a very unpleasant blend-to the propriety of the word tetigit, and ing of religious and secular elements. that contigit would have been better. Take two examples : “ Needlewoman It seems impossible to prevent writers wanted. She must be a communicant, from using cui bono ? in the unclassica! have a long character, and be a good sense. The correct ineaning is known to dressmaker and milliner.” “Pretty fur- be of this nature: suppose that a crime nished cottage to let, with good garden, bas been committed; then inquire who

Rent moderate. Church work val. has gained by the crime — cui bono? for ued. Weekly celebrations. Near rail. obviously there is a probability that the Good fishing."

person benefited was the criminal. The A few words may be given to some usual sense implied by the quotation is popular misquotations. “The last infirm. this: What is the good ? the question ity of noble minds” is perpetually occur. being applied to whatever is for the mo. ring. Milton wrote inind not minds. It ment the object of depreciation. Those may be said that he means minds; but who use the words incorrectly may, how. the only evidence seems to be that it is ever, shelter themselves under the great difficult to affix any other sense to mind name of Leibnitz, for he takes them in the than making it equivalent to minds: this popular sense: see his works, vol. v., p. scarcely convinces me, though I admit 206. the difficulty.

A very favorite quotation consists of “ He that runs may read” is often sup the words laudator temporis acti;” but posed to be a quotation from the Bible: it should be remembered that it seems very ihe words really are, “ He may run that doubtful if these words by themselves readeth,” and it is not certain that the would form correct Latin ; the se puero sense conveyed by the popular misquota which Horace puts after them are re. tion is correct.

quired. A proverb which correctly runs thus : There is a story, resting on no good “The road to hell is paved with good in. authority, that Plato testified to the im.

[ocr errors]

etc.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »