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From The Gentleman's Magazine. of English - that of the great multitude FASHIONABLE ENGLISH.
of writers whom the extension of elemenHas the extension of popular education tary education and the vast increase of tended to the conservation of the En- periodical literature have produced, few glish language in its literary purity? Is take the trouble or possess the taste and not the word education, to some extent, a ability to write their native language as it misnomer? And should not the process ought to be written by all who aspire to which we designate by that name be more see their compositions in print. properly called "instruction,” that is to Thousands of articles are published say in the arts and accomplishments of every day in the newspapers, and possibly reading, writing, and arithmetic, which are thousands of novels and volumes of verse but the tools of education, and not educa. are annually given to the world without tion itself? These questions are impor- the excuse of haste which may be accepted tant, and opinion will greatly vary as to on behalf of periodical writers. In consethe answers that ought to be given to quence of this profusion of literary work them. It is true, that in the late Lord performed by neophytes, who write as Brougham's phrase, the schoolmaster has Auently as they talk, and with as little been abroad, and that the operations of preliminary study, the standard of literary that elementary functionary have been taste has fallen. Men and women wlio widely extended since Lord Brougham's adopt the literary profession without adetime; and it is also true, that between quate qualification, except a little smatthe primary power of reading, and the tering of everything, or who, having the secondary but more important power of qualification, are not able to afford them. turning that reading to profitable account, selves the time to give their talents fair there exists a mighty difference. Lord play, seldom or never take the trouble to Brougham's schoolmaster taught reading, study critically the language which is the writing, and arithmetic, and Mr. Fors- vehicle of their thoughts. A man may ter's schoolmasters teach little more. But not practise as a physician or a surgeon, a this is not education, though unthinking barrister or an attorney, without qualify; people consider it to be so and though ing himself for his vocation by time and paying the school-rate with more or less study, and the approval of the heads of unwillingness, they pride themselves on the profession to which he aspires to bedoing their duty, though perfunctorily, in long; but any man or woman can become the cause of education. In our day as in an author - or a cook — without leave every other, everybody speaks; and in our asked of anybody; and the cookery in day as in every other, few people speak these instances is often better than the well; and in our time, more perhaps authorship. than in any other — almost everybody At the same time it would be unjust to writes. But very few authors in the last deny that many leading articles and many quarter of the nineteenth century write books, written by careless and imperfectly much better than they talk.
educated people, reflect the highest credit The late Mr. G. P. Marsh of Massa- upon the ability of their authors. A slipchusetts, who died recently in the position shod and even a vulgar style of writing is of American ambassador to the kingdom quite compatible with persuasive power, of Italy, in his excellent lectures on the critical acumen, irrefragable logic, and English language, originally delivered at even with eloquence, inasmuch as all these Columbia College, New York, and after intellectual gifts are sometimes found in wards reprinted in the United States and the possession of wholly illiterate people, in England, records “that a distinguished and even of savages. But, granted the British scholar of the last century de possession of the critical acumen, the logclared that he had known but three or four ical power and the eloquence, all these of his countrymen who spoke their native qualities would be enhanced and adorned language with uniform gramınatical accu- if they were accompanied by a thorough racy, and that the great French writer, mastery of the language in which they Paul Louis Courrier, asserted that in his were exhibited, and by the graces of style day there might have been five or six which distinguish all writers of genius, persons who knew Greek thoroughly, but and even of commanding talent. that the French who could speak or write In the days in which our lot is cast, French correctly were still fewer in num- days when in consequence of the annually ber.”
increasing multiplicity of our numbers in In our day it may be said with still the limited area of these islands, creating greater truth - - as applied to the writing a pressure which a copious emigration does but little to remove or even to allevi- Among these stock phrases continually ate, the struggle for bare subsistence is employed by careless writers, mere echoes abnormally severe; and when that for of the sounds that others have made, are wealth and social pre-eminence is severer the following old acquaintances of the still, all literature of the highest order, re- daily press : quiring thought and study, stands but a “For a moment." Thus if a thing is slender chance of appreciation. People not to be endured, believed, tolerated, or are too much preoccupied with all-en. thought of, it is inevitably added that they grossing and grinding cares to find time are not to be believed, etc., for a mo or inclination for much reading beyond ment. that which the newspapers supply. And “ At large." - The community, the nathe newspapers, without meaning any dis. tion, society, the public, are scarcely ever respect to them, are so prolix, that, not mentioned in leading articles, or in contented with telling the news once, they speeches, without the unnecessary addenmake crambe repetita of it, by telling it dum “at large,” though each of these again in their editorial columns, interlard- substantives would be sufficient without ing the narrative with a needless com- it. mentary, or deducing a too obvious moral Conspicuous by its absence." — This from the tritest of stories. In addition to figure of speech was first made with this unnecessary repetition, they invade happy effect by the late Earl Russell, in what used to be the function of books and commenting upon the absence on a great purely literary periodicals, and diurnally occasion of one who ought to have been publish essays, often very readable, on a present. Since that day
more than variety of social subjects that do not come twenty years ago — the phrase, paradoxiproperly within the category of current cal though it be, but effective and intellievents, or diurnal history. One of the gible, has taken the fancy of a vast multiresults is that those who make it a point tude of over-ready writers, and has done to read the newspapers and magazines, duty almost diurnally, to prove the penury can rarely find time to read anything else. of idea of those who habitually make use If perchance these busy people desire to of it. read a book, they generally prefer one "The irony of fate" was an excellent that does not overtax their mental ener- phrase originally, but when employed gies, or which ministers solely to their without discretion by people who have amusement, or, at the best, prevents them not considered what irony means, or what from falling asleep after the business of fate is (the stern, the unbending, the in. the day is concluded.
vincible, the inevitable), it becomes a locu. In the great and increasing army of tion as idle as the parrot's utterance of newspaper writers, it is not to be expected" pretty Poll.” Irony is a jest, and a that every private in the ranks is, or ever mockery; but there is no jesting, no can be, a master of style, or one who can mockery in fate. Jesting and mockery afford time to cultivate the graces of a are human, but fate is divine. Steele, an Addison, or a Junius. It is History repeats itself.” This is an sufficient for the rank and file that they untruth, or at best a half truth, which is make themselves intelligible, and that constantly dinned into the ears of the un. they do not preach above the heads and thinking. The phrase is acceptable to the understandings of their readers. But people who would accept anything.if utwriters may be simple and intelligible tered ex cathedra and in a loud voice of and on a level with the intelligence of authority. But the assertion is baseless. those whom they address -- wbilst grind. Similar incidents occur in all ages and in ing out as from a barrel-organ the old all countries; but the germs of those insimilitudes, the old and worn-out phrases cidents, their surroundings, their developof their predecessors. For a good or apt ments, and their results are infinitely word, and a happy phrase, all readers varied in the progress of the ages. The ought to be grateful, but writers ought to execution of Charles I. in England, and beware of repeating them too often, or of Louis XVI. in France, bave been triintroducing them on all occasions relevant umphantly cited as proofs of the so-called or irrelevant, especially if they be inferior fact that there is nothing new in history; writers — mere parrots and mocking-birds but where is the repetition in the fate of – who catch a word by the ear and use it Charles I. and Louis XVI. in the subsewithout intelligence or necessity. Such quent history of both countries ? It does words and phrases soon degenerate into not exist, and the constant iteration of slang.
the phrase is not merely a misleading
platitude, but a weariness of spirit to the When daisies pied and violets blue thoughtful few who study history for them. Do paint the meadows with delight. selves and draw rational conclusions from But it is an example which cught not to its teachings.
be frequently followed - and never by " Reading between the lines." - This any one whose genius does not warrant well-worn phrase is constantly employed him in taking liberties with the language. by writers who imagine themselves to be Transpire is a word that careless writers wiser than their neighbors, and who fancy continually employ instead of to “hapthey can discover ambiguous meanings in pen.". Transpire originally signified to the plainest statements, and detect treach-emit insensible vapor through the pores ery in the mere assertion that two and of the skin. It was afterwards used mettwo are four. They "read between the aphorically in the sense of to become lines," as they say, and find that two and known, io emerge from secrecy into comtwo are intended to represent five, or pero parative or positive publicity.
This was haps five hundred, in the apparently plain a perfectly permissible and correct emstatement to which they give their sinister ployment of ihe word; but when a newspainterpretation.
per writer, commenting upon the outrages Several other phrases, unobjectionable committed by the Communists of Paris in in themselves, but rendered offensive by 1870, spoke of “the events that have reperpetual reiteration, affront the eyes of cently transpired in France,” he used a newspaper readers every morning and word without comprehending its meaning, evening; and infest the pages of the mul- and outraged his mother tongue. We have titudinous novels that serve to amuse or not yet come to the barbarism of writing, to weary the leisure of those who have "An accident transpired in the streets nothing to think about. Among these are yesterday,” but there is no knowing how “The spur of the occasion ;” “The cour. soon the superfine penny.a-liner may acage of his convictions; " " That goes with custom us to the solecism. out saying;” “ We are free to confess;' Among the recent vulgarisms that have “We have a shrewd suspicion ; " " Equal crept into the press is an abuse of the to the occasion;” “The devouring ele: suffix dom, from the Teutonic thun, as ment; “Within an inch of his life," and legitimately used in kingdom, Christenmany others equally familiar.
dom, popedom, czardoin, dukedom, earlAmong single words that may fairly dom, wisdom, martyrdom, freedom, etc. come under the designation of newspaper The word, however, does not admit of slang, are ventilate, instead of to discuss, unlimited extension at the hands either succumb instead of to die, demise instead of neologists or of would-be-comic writof death; form instead of condition cr manners; lengthy, instead of long. It “Officialdom is strong in France, in must be said for lengthy when used for Germany, and in Russia.” – Globe. Still tediously lo'g, that it is a good word in worse than officialdom, is womandom for itself, as marking a difference between the female sex, and trouserdoin, as used long, which is not too long — and long by a writer in the Pall Mall Gazette, Ocwhich is much too long; but when a tober 27, 1882, for the male sex – as the writer describes a "lengthy journey by wearers of trousers. But as Mademoi. rail,” the adjective is so misapplied, that selle Thérèse used to sing in the cafés the reader may be justified in asking if the chantants of Paris, “Rien n'est sacré pour traveller did not undertake the journey in un sapeur," so nothing is sacred to the a strengthy carriage?
grioning sciolists who aspire to be faceThe novelists in some respects are tious. greater adepts in slang than the newspa- The much-abused system of competitive pers; and borrow the language of the examination for public employment, which sculptor and the stonemason. In describ-threatens to reduce all our young men to ing the personal beauty of their heroes or one dead level of Chinese mediocrity, has beroines, they almost invariably write that enriched the already too copious vocabutheir noses are beautifully cut, and their lary of literary slang by two words: to lips and chins finely or delicately chis. cram, and to coach. Cram is a term of elled; while eyebrows are neither cut nor disparagement, but to coach is considered chiselled but carved.
legitimate, as in the following advertise. Paint is a word applied to the color of ment: “ A professor of elocution and dranatural objects, for which may be pleaded matic art, privately coaches amateurs in the great example of Shakespeare, when acting or reading." (The coach or the
man who coaches, is sometimes irrever
ently but not inappropriately called a indiscriminately and most improperly grinder).
used for naming anything — from a battle Persuasion is a word that, besides its to a ship, a street, or even a dog or a ordinary and familiar meaning - which it horse. For instance, in commenting is unnecessary to set forth — has come to upon the question of the removal of the signify the particular belief of any class grates to the ladies' gallery in the House of dissenters from the doctrines or ob- of Commons, the Times' in a leading servances of the Church of Rome. Thus, article remarked (July 12, 1869) : “ The it is correct to say that a man is of the grate question of the ladies' gallery, as “ Protestant persuasion,” the “ Methodist Mr. Lowe christened it." That horses persuasion,” the “Baptist persuasion,” are christened may be learned from a the “ Presbyterian persuasion," etc.; but writer in the Daily Telegraph, October 7, it is not correct to say that he is of the 1882, who tells the world that subsequent “ Jewish persuasion," the “ Mahomedan to the great Civil War in the United persuasion,” the “ Buddhist persuasion,” States, “ many a favorite' hunter was etc., because these are not sects of christened after Stonewall Jackson." any greater faiths or religions. But the Even stones are christened, according to prevalence of the word in religious mat- a writer in the same newspaper, October ters has led, in the newspapers, to a 22, 1882: “ This quaint, strange fossil, wholly unjustifiable abuse of it, by the commonly called thunderbolt, which is to illiterate vulgar, or by the semi-educated be found everywhere in all the oolitic and vulgar, who are more to blame for their cretaceous strata, from the lowest lias to ignorance than the utterly ignorant. Thus, the upper chalk, resembles nothing, so a reporter for the daily press, when exam. much as a large tenpenny nail or slate ined as a witness, was asked what was pin, and its appearance is sufficiently inhis business or profession - and replied dicated by its name, which, in effect, sig, that he was of the reportorial persua. nifies arrow-head. The Germans called sion! just as, if an ass could speak, he the strange object Pfeilstein and Donner. might reply, if a similar question were stein, and the French christen it pierre put to him, that he was “of the asinine de foudre." "Weights and measures
may also be christened according to the Equally, or even more, detestable is the Echo, May 25, 1880: “On a recent visit use of the word as applied to sex. In a of the weights and measures inspector letter from West Hampstead, in the Daily the unfortunate standards were observed,
Telegraph of September 8, 1982, in refer- and Dr. Siemens was summoned in due ence to the alarm created by a recent form and mulcted in two marks (25.) — burglary; the writer recommends every a warning, to all philosophers who may householder to discharge his revolver have weights not properly christered by whenever he shall find any unauthorized the authorities." Writing of a fashionperson of the “male persuasion on his able hairdresser in Paris, tie Globe, No. premises during the hours of darkness.”vember, 1881, went so far as to baptize More flagrant still is the use of the word the action of his scissors: "His place applied to a girl or woman, as a "friend has become the fashionable shaving.shop of the female persuasion.”. “One of the of all Paris and has obtained an almost female persuasion, if she be a cook in a European reputation. Shaving and hair. good family, is an awfully good friend of cutting are a branch of art in his eyes, the unmarried policeman," is the state. He studies the dress, appearance, and ment of a would-be-comic writer in the profession of his sitters, giving instruccolumns of a would-be-comic periodical. tions to his acolytes who wield the shears,
The loss of the good old English word condescending at times to add the finishclepe, whicli long ago dropped out of the ing touches. He has baptized each snip language, and which signified to call a of the scissors with some peculiar name." thing by its name, has never been satis. Even the “club” of a savage, according factorily supplied. Two irreverent and to the Daily News, February 25, 1879, vulgar substitutes have recently been was christened. “ The great hero of be found for it, both in the press and in con- Zulus, before they knew Europeans, was versation - in “ baptize” and “christen.' a warrior who christened his club the
These two words ought to be reserved for watcher of the fords.'» The Globe, April the solemn ceremony of naming a child of 10, 1879, speaks of the “christening of Christian parents at the font, or of re- our streets,” which certainly, if it could ceiving a convert into the Christian be effected with success upon many of. Church, but of late years both have been the male and female frequenters, would
be a consummation devoutly to be wished. | dare speak to her for half an hour.” “ It is quite surprising what a little use "Hereward the Wake." our modern Ædiles make of history when It is scarcely possible to take up any they christen or re-christen the streets newspaper — daily or weekly — metropoland squares of our great cities."
itan or provincial, or any magazine or Ilk. This word has been borrowed periodical whatever, without finding the from the Lowland Scotch — and signifies mathematical word “ factor” employed on the same or of the same place – as in every variety of occasion. No doubt the Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Forbes of word is sometimes convenient, and if Forbes, Macnab of Macnab, etc. In only used sparingly might be accepted as these phrases it signifies that the man's a welcome substitute for many an awkname is the same as that of his estate, ward periphrasis; but its constant iteraand ilk is substituted, to avoid a repeti- tion, without reason or relevancy, is a tion, as Mackintosh of that ilk, Forbes nuisance. Take for instance the followof that ilk, Macnab of that ilk - i.e., of ing examples of its misuse, selected at that same.
Modern writers in the press, random from recent newspapers. Writignorant of the true meaning of "ilk,” ing of the desire of the Americans to and supposing that it signifies of the same possess a monolith or obelisk, such as kind, sort, description, or genus, continu- that conveyed from Egypt to London by ally niake use of it in a sense that would the liberality and public spirit of Sir Erasmake Mackintosh of that ilk either laugh mus Wilson, the Daily Telegraph re. or shudder. Thus the Standard, Decem-marks, October 12, 1880: “If Americans ber 14, 1880, speaking of several Parisian really travel abroad, as the New York journals of the same shade of politics, World seems to think, because they have says: “The Défense, the Univers, and no obelisks at home, defeated Europe will their confrères of the same ilk, are loud not grudge them the most superior mono. in their appeals to the president to throw lith. It seems that a man of wealth and the Chamber and the Republicans over- leisure 'finds no interest to keep him in board." In the Pall Mall Gazette, Janu- New York compared to what allures him ary 24, 1869, occurs, “ Many barbarians to foreign capitals. If obelisks make a of this ilk, and even of later times;” and factor in the sum of foreign allurements, in the Daily Telegraph, February 8, 1870, by all means let New York have one or a writer informed his readers that " Ma. more all to herself.” The weather has tilda lived in St. John's villas, Twicken- also its “factor,” according to the Globe, ham, and Mr. Passmore in King Street of May 28, 1877: “As one of the factors of the same ilk."
weather, such as temperature, bumidity, Among the many corruptions which or atmospheric pressure.” So also the have long been creeping into the newspa- decline of English opera is to be attribpers are the present tenses of the verbs uted to a “factor.” “ But we, while la. io bid and to dare, which hasty writers menting that no English opera exists, persistently use for the preterite and past overlook the most essential factor in the participle bade and bidden; dared and case. Take our music schools, for exam. durst." The fact is that bade and durst, ple. What is the Royal Academy of Muand even dares, have become all but obso. sic doing on behalf of opera? Abso. lete in our day, without any possible rea lutely nothing beyond providing a small son either in grammar or in euphony: supply of men for the orchestra.” Daily Why, for instance, should not bade or bid. Telegraph, October 25, 1877. The Jes. den' be used in the following instances uits and Jesuitism have also their “facfrom the Times and the Quarterly Retor.” “Jesuitism has been charged with view? “ Mr. Charles Dickens finally atrocious crimes, credited with fabulous bid farewell to Philadelphia." Times. influence, supposed to possess almost “Uncertain even at that epoch (1864) superhuman cunning. But through evil of Austria's fidelity, Prussia bid high report and good report it has preserved for German leadership.”. Times. “He its existence, and has made itself a factor called his servants and bid them procure not to be neglected by any statesman firearms." Times. “The competition historian.” – Daily News, November, is so sharp and general that the leader of 1879. Mr. Gladstone, with his influential to-day can never be sure that he will not name and real scholarship, is also responbe outbid to-morrow." - Quarterly Re- sible for the misuse of the word. Mr. view. And why not durst in the follow- Gladstone's article on “the Hellenic Facing extract from the Rev. Charles Kings-tor in the Eastern Question appears ley? “Neither her maideos nor the priest translated into Spanish in the Revista