Εικόνες σελίδας

which may be added such words as the following, though yet tolerated in familiar or jocular discourse; ca'nt, sha'nt, wont, for cannot, shall not, will not; rant, for rodomontade; rum, for romantic; chum, for comrade, &c. &c. Had these and all such words descended to us from the venerable antiquity of Saxon literature, they would, in all probability, have possessed, if not dignity, at least respectability; but, being vulgar upstarts of recent times, they can never rise to the classic title of good expressions, or to the honor 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 polysyllables become monosyllables, and monosyllables frequently shorten into a single letter: as auditus contracted into udito, It.; oui, Fr. Ego contracted into teck, tick, f ich, fic, then I, je, Fr.; io, It.; yo, Sp. Habeo, contracted 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 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 Anglo-Saxons, have been guilty of the greatest etymologic havoc. 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. Acarrania, now Carnia; Aciris, Acri; Adranum, Aderno; Honona, Nona; Monus, In; Agrigentum, Gergenti; Aletium, Lecci; Alexandria, Scanderia; Alexandrium, Scandalia; Aluta, Alth; Ambiana, Amiens; Amisia, Emse; Amisus, Ainid; Amphipolis, Emboli; Antipolis, Antibe; Aquae Sextiae, Aix; Arelatum, Arles; Arsenariaria, Arzen; Ateste, Este;. Agusta, Aosta; Augustodunum, Autun; Auximum, Øsimo; Barathra, Brata; Borbetomagus, Worms; Cabilonum, Challon; Caesar Augusta, Saragossa; Ligeris, Loire; Maandrus, 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; o Martius, Toulon; Tridentum, Trent, &c.

These instances, besides answering the immelate purpose, serve also to exemplify nearly all the usual alphabetical 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 appears 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. ; evéque, Fr.; such are the caprices of etymology I) presbyter, priest; oblitero, t bluther, blur, blot; collect, cull; coil (cueillir, Fr., &c.); bull (as Irish bull), blunder, contraction of balena a terra, It, balaena ad terram, a long-established expression; seacalf, seal; despicatus, despite, spite; succumb, sink; secure, sure; semino, sow; sluice from seclusus; count, contraction of computo; come, commeo; chair, cathedra; round, rotundus; sedate, sad, &c. Such instances might be multiplied indetnitely. We merely subjoin a few examples of proper names. Benjamin, Ben; Robert, stob, Bob; Joseph, Joe, Juliana, Jill; 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 former times to common nouns and to all words; and is still their fate in the language of the vulgar, and in the Saxon-like literature of the uneducated members of society.

Sect. IV.-OF VERBAL Coaruptions.

These 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, the re, a few separate remarks may be applied to t. here.

1. Words that are new, strange, and unusual (as all foreign terms are when first rmported and adapted 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 recognised. Who would suppose, for instance, that our yes, yen, 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 o 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 Babylou could well equal it in anomalies. 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 times consists chiefly of such) are usually much more metamorphosed in process of time than the learned or literary and scientific terms of a people: hence, also, the etymologic difficulty attending the particles of every language. 4. The terminations are the parts of words which are most liable to be corrupted, as is evident from a careful inspection of any given number of terms. The physical reason of this seems to be, that all men, being naturally idle and careless, are usually impatient to get to the end of any thing they have to do or say; and therefore hurry the one out of their hands and the other out of their mouth badly finished. The above fact, as well as that immediately preceding it, has been treated o by Horne Tooke with all the acuteness and dext rity which he applied so successfully to his subject, when his understanding was not biassed by theory. 5. There are many verbal corruptions which originated not in carelessness, hurry, or mere mispronunciation, but in deception occasioned by similitude of sound, in new, strange, or foreign words, to that of some others well known: thus, Chartreuse, was corrupted into CharterHouse; asparagus, corrupted into sparrowgrass; reticle, ridicule; lustrino, It. a shining silk, corrupted into lutestring ; Benzoin, Benjamin; lanterna, corrupted into lanthorn, as there happened to be horn in the old lantern, &c. &c. Thus did sheer ignorance produce many strange corruptions, as well as an etymology contemptibly absurd. 6. It is with the ignorant and the uneducated that the grossest verbal corruptions chiefly originate and abound; hence §. have, for the most part, a radical meanness and vulgarity about them (unless they have descended from Saxon literature, and possess the dignity of Gothic antiquity); for they never possessed sufficient merit to rise to any office of distinction or station of respectability. Not to adduce such striking instances of gross corruptions, as bamboozle, bother, balderdash, rip or rep (i.e. reprobate), demirip, &c. &c.: even such instances as hint, i. e. intimate, get, git, gist (i. e. gesta, i.e. res gesta), &c., are rather low words: and hence the difficulty of supporting the familiar or middle style with sufficient dignity : a task to which neither

the genius of Swift nor the taste of Addison was fully equal.


That which is here indicated has the same relation to composition, i. e. to sentences and members of sentences, as verbal contraction has to single and separate words: the one is the leaving out of letters and syllables; the other is the omitting of whole words. Both are to be accounted for in the same manner; both originate in carelessness, or hurry, or the love of ease, natural to all men; who usually take the shortest cut to the object of their thoughts and affections, and employ elliptic modes of expression, for the same reason that they adopt short-hand and other contractions or abridgments of labor. This is ever their short, direct course, when engaged in good earnest about their wishes and wants, their business and necessities. From various causes, manner, or style, will differ among individuals and among nations: that of one may be exceedingly full and redundant in expression; that of another may be as remarkable for shortness and abbreviation: some from mental taste and habit are lavish of words, as Cicero; others are sparing of them, as Sallust. There are overpowering temptations to verbal redundancy and prolixity; as when attorneys and reviewers, or, perchance, encyclopaedists, are paid so much per sheet; and there are temptations to the opposite extreme, as when the writer has to pay for an advertisement; for his words are likely to be few. even if not well ordered. But all such considerations produce no sensible effect on the language of a people, which is always tending to abbreviation in all its modes of expression; for there is this difference between the contraction of words and that of expressions: the former may be checked in process of time, the latter never can be checked; and though there be inconveniences as well as advantages attending this elliptic process, it is amenable to no grammatic law, and, therefore, is always in full operation.

That which is now under consideration was too obvious to escape observation, and therefore it has been frequently noticed by philological and metaphysical writers, as, for instance, by the ingenious Tucker: it was familiar, indeed, to mere grammarians; but Mr. Horne Tooke has treated of ellipsis in such a clear, full, and satisfactory manner, that it is unnecessary to enlarge on the question in this place, and therefore, a few illustrations will suffice.

It is difficult (if, indeed, possible) to select a single sentence or expression which is not elliptic. Take such instances as the following, which happen to occur at the moment: A prince of the blood, i.e. blood royal, or royal blood ; a man of color, i. e. dark color; a man of rank, of family, of fortune, &c., i.e. of high rank, of good family, of great fortune, &c. Nor is the ellipsis filled up by thus supplying such omitted terms, for there is hardly a single word, if, indeed, any word, in any single expression, which had not, at one time or other, more words connected with it; which were dropped, because the meaning of the expression having been once well established and effectually associated with some of the leading terms, the other could be omitted, and yet the signification retained. For example, in the expression, man of quality—man is a contraction of human, which requires being, or some equivalent word, if the ellipsis be filled up, to be connected with it: then quality (a contraction of equality, as qualis is of aequalis) manifestly requires to be connected with other words; for without their assistance, it could not express the meaning which is now suggested or

indicated by it. There is, in reality, ellipsis.

(i.e. something left out) not only in every expression, but in almost every important word; such as forma, (meaning beauty) i. e. forma venusta; libel, i.e. libellus famosus, &c. &c. And to each of such words, the synecdoche of the grammarians (that is, a part put for the whole, or, as the word implies, something that is not expressed is implied in or to be taken with that which is expressed) as really belongs, as in those cases where they have applied the term. For example, famosus requires malus, or some equilent term; or rather, fama, the noun on which the adjective is formed, requires mala; for fama of itself means merely a saying or report: when, therefore, a dyslogistic, i. e. taken in a bad sense, it had originally mala or some equivalent word connected with it. Not to dwell longer on what is so very obvious, that proof and illustration are alike redundant; this seems the proper place to explain a matter connected with it, not quite so evident, and which, therefore, has been very little considered; not only by the common class of writers on philology, and logic, and metaphysics, but even . the acute Horne Tooke, whose antipathy to suc writings as those of Harris and lord Monboddo seems, in some instances, to have obscured his understanding or biassed his judgment. That all words have originally a distinct, separate, independent meaning of their own, is a point which he has labored with as much success as acuteness; but there is another consideration which, so far as we remember, he has overlooked, or which he has refused to admit, viz. that there is a syntactic as well as verbal meaning; i.e. there is a meaning effected in composition, which connot exist without it; for no word or number of words can, by any possibility, convey that signification which is conveyed by a sentence, any more than the figures of arithmetic can indicate separately what they do by every possible mode of combination. The supposition, indeed, would be as absurd as to believe that a thing can be and not be at the same time. Now, though we cannot say that the meaning of words in composition, or when put together to make a sentence, is independent of that meaning which each of them has separately (as may be inversely affirmed), yet we can say, and do affirm, that that the one is wholly distinct from the other. And, if this fact be lost sight of, we are likely to fall into as great errors as in supposing, with Harris, that many words have no meaning at all till they are put together; as if composition had a creative power of producing something out of nothing. This is so absurd as hardly to merit

notice; but, if we do not attend to the distinct meaning produced by the combination of words, we shall be involved in not only etymologic and grammatic, but logical or metaphysical absurdities, such as those which are so plentifully spread over grammars, and dictionaries, and metaphysical disquisitions. For instance: the real attempt (a very unsuccessful one) of almost the whole of the Herculean labor of Dr. Johnson is to give, not, as it professes, verbal, but syntactic meanings; and for the same reason that it assigns ten, twenty, or thirty significations to one word, it might have assigned as many hundreds. It is, indeed, as so often pronounced, a great work, but it is not great enough by many thousand degrees for its real though not professed purpose; in reference to which it is tol, little. Syntactic, being entirely distinct (though not independent of the verbal as that is of the syntactic) from verbal signification; it follows that the elliptic process can proceed almost, if not altogether, interminably, without absolutely defeating (though it may and often does mar) the purpose of language; so that, in process of time, there is, in every sentence, every member of a sentence, every expression, and almost every word, much more implied than is expressed; much more indicated . is really signified by the sign employed; which acts as a prompter rather than reciter or narrator. Mr. Dugald Stewart is not far from the truth when he says, that the office of language is not so much to convey ideas as to call up trains of thought in the mind. The only thing about the statement to which we demur, is the term office (as if such were the original design and use and formation of language), and the subserviency to a particular theory intended by the remark.

Sect. VI.-The MUTAtions of VERBAL SigNIFICATION Considered.

That the significations of words, as well as their external form (their spelling and pronunciation), are changed in the course of time, is abundantly manifest. Mr. Horne Tooke, indeed, asserts— * Every word retains always one and the same meaning. Unnoticed abbreviation in construction and difference of position have caused the appearance of fluctuation, and have misled the grammarians of all languages both ancient and modern.”

That a word generally retains one and the same meaning is certainly true; but that every word always retains one and the same meaning, is a proposition contrary to the most decisive evidence that can be obtained on such a subject. Indeed it would be very unaccountable if all the grammarians of all languages, both ancient and modern, had been misled by mere appearances to believe that words have secondary as well as primary meanings, if no such distinction really exist. But the question admits of being easily settled by obvious and indisputable facts. Sycophant, for instance, originally meant an informer (one who gave information against persons ex

orting figs, the exporting of which was forbidden [. law at Athens), now it means a flatterer: heathen originally meant of or belonging to a nation (like Gentile from Gens) : pagan originally

meant a villager; but both these terms have long meant an idolater or worshipper of false gods: Caesar, at one time was a o: name (and, erhaps, before that, meant having bushy hair), i. it has long meant, as in Germany, Kaiser, and in Russ, Czar, an emperor; which word, emperor, originally meant the commander or general of an army. A hundred such instances might be easily collected. The question here is about a fact; not the manner of accounting for it, or the process by which it was effected; which is, perhaps, after all, what Mr. Tooke intended; so that we may have been all the while contending with a phantom, which, however, it is worth while to put down. The reasons of all such shiftings and changes of verbal signification are very obvious after a little enquiry and reflection. Indeed, they have already been virtually explained; and therefore, to avoid repetition, we shall only subjoin a few remarks. As almost every expression (if there be any exception) is elliptical; so, with almost every word (if, here, also any exception exist), there are several ideas associated in the mind of those who employ it, besides the individual idea which it was intended to indicate. The reason of this is too obvious to require any metaphysical abstrusity of theory or of explanation. There is no such entity in either the natural or moral, physical or metaphysical world, as disconnected individuality. There is not any one single entity, be it an object of our senses, a sensation, an idea, a perception, a notion, or whatever we may choose to call it, which can exist alone or in absolute solitude and separation from company. However, much, therefore, it o be intended as the sole or exclusive object of indication by any verbal sign, or by any contrivance whatever, it is after all but one of a flock or group: it may be the first or largest of the flock; it may be the most prominent figure in the group; it may occupy the fore-ground in the representation, but it is always accompanied by

a number of other entities. Herce what i lled the principle of mental associ on, or t association of ideas in the mind, so uberally loso

hised since the days of the philosopher of Malmsbury.

The fact above indicated, i.e. the complex or gregarious nature of ideas, is the origin of many shiftings or mutations of verbal signification. Here a single illustration is better than a thousand sentences. Take an instance already adduced. Heathen primarily means of a nation; or, taken substantively, i.e. elliptically, one of a nation; and, in the plural (ethnicoi, as it occurs in the New Testament), the nations : but the nations of the earth were all considered, by the Jews, idolaters, or worshippers of false gods: the word for nations was so associated from the first with this idea, as to be, in process of time, identified with and indicative of it only. This Jewish idiom (with many other Jewish notions and idioms) accompanied the Christians (who were, at first, nearly all Jews) from Judea into Europe, where it remains to the present day: and in the use of all such words as Heathen and Gentile, we, Christians and nations as we are, speak after the manner of the Jews. Take another instance

of a similar nature and origin: Pagan primarily means a villager, a countryman; or, as we have it corrupted through the medium of the French organs of speech, a peasant: but the peasants continued in the religion of their fathers; and worshipped Pavor and Pallor, and Pan and Priapus, in the old way of their first faith and early associations, long after the inhabitants of Rome and of the large towns had turned from Heathenism to Christianity. Hence, the word for villager or peasant was associated in the minds of the Christians, i.e. the town's people, with the idea of idolater or worshipper of false gods; and, being thus associated, it was soon identified with and exclusively indicative of that idea, like the term heathen. A thousand such illustrations might be given of the same process, of a similar changing or shifting of verbal signification; so that Horne Tooke wrote more confidently than advisedly when he asserted, that every word always retains one and the same meaning. It is true, as he supposes, that abbreviation in construction and change of position do cause appearances of fluctuations, where no fluctuations really exist; but there are inany changes of verbal meaning which cannot thus be accounted for, and which are explicable only on the principle of the association of ideas in the human mind, resulting from and answering to the complex nature of things as existing in the universe, and, therefore, as presented to the human senses.

Metonymy, like synecdoche, as handed down from antiquity, is mingled with error; but it has evidently a basis or substance of truth ; and neither Quintilian nor Vossius was wide of the mark of correct definition, when it was defined by the first, ‘The putting of one word for another,’ and by the last, “A trope, which changes the name of things that are naturally united, but in such a manner as that one is not the essence of the other.’


These may be summed up in the following o: :—1. When the name for a class of eings comes in process of time to indicate a circumstance or peculiarity connected with them: as, Heathen or Pagan, to denote Idolater; Scythian, Goth, Turk, Tartar, Vandal, &c., to denote barbarity and cruelty, or any person remarkable for these qualities: Jew, to indicate any one remarkably false and overreaching, &c. &c. Here a hundred instances might be given, all agreeing as to genus, but differing as to species. 2. When names, originally descriptive of of. fice, agency, &c., come to be merely obscure titles or empty compliments: as, duke, marquis, count, earl, lord, knight, squire, Mr., Sir, madam, lady, Miss, &c. &c. All such words may be compared to the Roman emperors, who were great whilst living, but who acquired deification by death. 3. When old names remain, though that to which they were originally, applied, and of which they were descriptive, has ceased, or has been superseded by something else: ss, paper, originally the name of an Egyptian flag or leaf: volume, i.e. something rolled up—a scroll; burg, burgh, burrow, was originally a fortification or fortified place; province originally signified a conquest, or country gained by successful war. Words of this description are very numerous.

4. When words, expressive of action or quality, are appropriated to objects as common or proper names. This is the most prolific origin of verbal multiplication or vocabular augmentation; for thus an indefinite number of nouns are produced by a few verbs and adjectives: thus, fact, feat, fight, fit, &c., are all originally one word; and thus the names of many animals and natural objects, as well as of metaphysical entities, are resolvable into one adjective, or one verb ; which one adjective or verb is so exceedingly diversified in spelling and pronounciation, partly by design and partly from accident, as to seem not one and the same word, but a great multitude of separate and independent words: hence, one of . causes of tautology, inanity, obscurity, and absurdity, so often observable in the speeches and writings of men.

5. When a word shifts from a primary to a secondary meaning, or, when it passes over to a concomitant idea, or from the cause to the effect, or vice versa. This is essentially the same as 1, only in a more comprehensive form to prevent mistake.

6. When a word is employed metaphorioally; for the very term metaphor, as also trope, imports a changing or turning of the word to another use than that which it originally had. Many words have lost their literal, and retain only their metaphoric import or use; many have passed back from their metaphoric to a literal, or more properly to an unmetaphoric, application.


As the members of a community range in different classes of political rank, so do the words of a language. There are here, also, high and low and middle classes. . On these distinctions a few remarks will suffice.

1. A large class of the lower orders of words has been already indicated: for those gross verbal corruptions which have originated with the ignorant and the uneducated (and which have not descended from Gothic antiquity, when ignorance had the honor of being universal) are radically vulgar, and permanently doomed to hopeless degradation.

2. Many words are low or vulgar for the same reason that old-fashioned garbs are so considered; for there is a fashion in language as in other things, and, like that of the world, it is ever passing away. New terms and expressions and modes of speech are constantly displacing the old, which linger among the lower classes long after they have been discarded by those who are at the fountain of influence; and the very circumstance of obsolete words and expressions being found only, or chiefly, among the lower classes in society. stamps their character and seals their fate. Thus the same words, which are

very honorable in one dialect of a language and part of a country, are very dishonorable in another; and this forms one of the most obstinate difficulties which the natives of Scotland have to contend with, in speaking and writing English agreeably to polite usage: for, as the dialect of the North is older by three or four centuries than that of the South, persons accustomed to the old-fashioned dialect are apt to imagine that they are keeping the very best company when guilty of employing most vulgar and disreputable expressions. This fact accounts not . for the Scotticisms, but for the vulgarisms so often detected in the productions of those beyond the Tweed, who have written with freedom and energy; as it accounts also, on the other side, for the artificial stiffness and polished feebleness of those Scottish authors who sacrifice all to taste—who dread nothing so much as the imputation of vulgarity, and who covet nothing so much as the reputation of elegant writing. It would be easy to produce instances; but they might appear invidious. We have noticed that many words become vulgar in process of time, merely from being old-fashioned; but old fashions are frequently brought up again; and there is a sort of sentimental archaism raging at present among the lovers of the olden literature, who, ever and anon, cite an obsolete phraseology for the very nonce of showing its whilom beauty, too long suffered to wrinkle unadmired in neglected desuetude. If utility could be put in competition with sentimentality, we would address a word of enquiry, or of exhortation, to these admirers of the antique in literature; but the fit will not last long ; for the sentimental passion is extremely inconstant: and though some words that had become both vulgar and obsolete, have been thrown up to the very top of fashionable literature, there is some danger of a re-action, and that many of the happiest phrases of Shakspeare will be hackneyed into contemptible vulgarity. 3. Many words become vulgar, in course of time, in consequence of being associated with gross objects, actions, and ideas; and the notion of grossness is every day becoming more fastidious in a state of progressive refinement. This is one of the most operative causes of mutation in living languages: and it is amusing to observe the variety of attempts that are made to clothe gross entities and vulgar ideas in decent and polite phraseology, and the rapid succession of terms that are first degraded and then discarded in the performance of this ungracious duty. Not to present the most obvious, and, therefore, the most disgusting instances, i. e. to our refined notions and sensibilities, take the following: guts was, at one time, a very decent term, and fit to or. at the very top of Saxon literature; but it became so very rude, upon long and familiar acquaintance, as to be wholly unbearable in any genteel family, and was turned off for no fault in the world but vulgarity: its place was supplied by belly, which was long considered a very well-bred term, and fit to appear in the very best company. But, having become disgustingly vulgar, it has also been turned

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