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lity; but being vulgar upstarts of recent times, they can never rise to the classic title of good expressions, or to the honour of polite usage.
2. Longer words and syllables contract (whilst language is unfixed) into shorter, and the longer the word, the greater the contraction. Thus polysylla bles become monosyllables, and monosyllables frequently shorten into a single letter: as AUDITUS contr. into Udito, It.; Ouï, Fr.; EGo, contr. into
Eck, Ick, Ich, ‡ Ic, then I, Je, Fr. ; Io, It. ; Yo, Sp.; HABEO, contr. into Ho, It.; He, Sp.; Ai, Fr., &c. &c.
Such is the process of every living language on the face of the earth until checked by grammatic authority, which is late in coming into existence, and not till long after the lawless anarchy of custom (the sovereign arbiter of language according to Horace) has committed strange etymologic outrages in mutilating and disfiguring the monuments of classic antiquity. These disfigurations are the true Gothic Origin of the modern languages: and even the Italians, those modern Latins, consider themselves indebted for their language to the Lombards.
The contractions in question are made in every possible manner; sometimes the beginning and sometimes the termination of words is cut off, and sometimes the middle is thrust out and the two extremes compressed into the closest possible contact; especially by the French, who, next to the AngloSaxons, have been guilty of the greatest etymologic
havock. The following ancient and modern names of places are presented as instances of the process of verbal contraction above indicated. The oldest form
is put first.
Acarnania, now Carnia; Aciris, Acri; Adranum, Aderno; Ænona, Nóna; Ænus, In; Agrigentum, Gergenti; Aletium, Lecci; Alexandria, Scanderia Alexandrium, Scandalia; Aluta, Alth; Ambiani, Amiens; Amisia, Emse; Amisus, Amid; Amphipolis, Emboli; Antipolis, Antibe; Aquæ Sextiæ, Aix; Arelatum, Arles; Arsenariaria, Arzen; Ateste, Este; Agusta, Aosta; Augustodunum, Autun ; Auximum, Osimo; Barathra, Brata; Borbetomagus, Worms; Cabilonum, Challon; Cæsar Augusta, Saragosa; Ligeris, Loire; Mæandrus, Madre; Matrona, Marne; Metaurus, Marro; Magantiacum, Mentz; Rhodanus, Rhone; Thessalonica, Salonichi; Garienus, Yar; Eboracum, York; Castellum, Cassel; Conimbrica, Coimbra; Damascus, Damas; Forum Julii, Friuli; Lugdunum, Lyons; Novesium, Neus; Noviodunum, Noyon; Telo Martius, Toulon; Tridentum, Trent, &c. &c.
These instances besides answering the immediate purpose, serve also to exemplify nearly all the remarks concerning the alphabetic interchanges and transmutations. It may be observed, that many names of places whose orthography has been fixed, are much abbreviated in common speech as Cirencester pronounced Sister, &c. From this as well as from all the foregoing examples, it plainly ap
pears not only that long words are contracted into shorter forms, but that the longer the name the greater the contraction; as in all cases the more difficult and unmanageable a word is, the greater is its corruption in process of time. The following instances are taken almost at random.
ELEEMOSYNA, Alms; EPISCOPOS, Bishop; (Abispo, Sp.; Vescovo, It.; Evêque, Fr.; such are the caprices of etymology!) Presbyter, Priest; OBLITERO, Bluther, Blur, Blot; Collect, Cull; Coil (Cueillir, Fr., &c.); Bull, (as Irish Bull,) Blunder, contr. of Balena a terra, It., Balæna ad TERRAM, a long-established expression; Seacalf, Seal; DESPICATUS, Despite, Spite; Succumb, Sink; Secure, Sure; SEMINO, Sow; Sluice from SECLUSUS; Count, contr. of COMPUTO; Come, COMMEO; Chair, CATHEDRA; Round, ROTUNDUS; Sedate, Sad, &c.
Such instances might be multiplied indefinitely; but the reader is referred to the Dictionary, where the modes and stages of transmutation and contraction are more fully presented to view. We merely subjoin a few examples of proper names.
Benjamin, Ben; Robert, Rob, Bob; Joseph, Joe; Timothy, Tim; Richard, Rick, Dick; Edward, Ned; William, Will, Bill; Henry, Harry, Hal; Alexander, Ellick; Thomas, Tom; Margaret, Meg, Peg; Elizabeth, ELIZA, Bet, Bess, Betty, &c.; Sarah, Sally; Maria, Mary, Molly, Moll, Poll, &c. &c. Some of these contracted forms belong to the lower orders of the vocabulary, like all those called
flash or cant terms; but others have all the dignity of polite usage. What has thus happened to proper names, also happened in days of yore to common nouns and to all words; as is still their fate in the language of the vulgar, and in the Saxon-like literature of the uneducated members of society.
VERBAL CORRUPTIONS CONSIDERED.
THESE have been already (though not professedly) adverted to, and are, in many respects, identical with verbal contraction; but there are many changes of words from their original form which could not be included under that denomination; and, therefore, a few separate remarks may be applied to them here.
1. Words that are new, strange, and unusual, (as all foreign terms are when first imported or adopted both to the ear and the mouth,) are most liable to be corrupted or changed from their original form. There is an idiom in the sounds and in the pronunciation of every people, as well as in their phraseology, and they naturally bring the sounds and pronunciation and words of other languages (when introduced among them) to their own idiom or manner. The French (as the Greeks did before them) do so professedly and systematically; and all people, however unintentionally, do so to a considerable extent. Hence, the reason why words
adopted from other languages are often so much disguised, like foreigners in the costume of the country, that their original features can hardly be recognized. Who would suppose, for instance, that our yes, yea, ay, are the French oui ? There is not a single letter the same. The same thing would happen to words of recent importation, if we did not, by a sort of fashionable pedantry and servility in borrowing almost peculiar to us, put the new patches of French orthography as well as French pronunciation upon the old garment of our language, which was sufficiently motley before; for no confusion of tongues or mixture of all the dialects of Babylon could well equal it in anomalies. If we were to spell that truly fashionable word ennui as it is pronounced, it would be ongwee; but who would suppose, judging by the eye, that the one was metamorphosed into the other? It is sufficient to have indicated the fact almost every page of the Dictionary supplies examples and illustrations.
2. Words that are long and hard or difficult are always liable (before language is fixed by grammars and dictionaries) to be much corrupted, or changed from their first form. This has been already indicated.
3. Words much in use or which frequently pass from mouth to mouth in the hurry of common discourse, are exceedingly liable to be corrupted. Hence, all familiar household words, (and that part of our language which has descended from Saxon