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CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE.

A NEW SERIES,

CONFUSION OF WORDS.

• THERE is nothing more common,” says the lively Voltaire, “ than to read and to converse to no purpose. In history, in morals, in law, in physic, and in divinity, be careful of EQUIVOCAL TERMS.” One of the ancients wrote a book to prove that there was no word which did not convey an ambiguous and uncertain meaning. If we possessed this lost book, our ingenious dictionaries of " synonyms” would not probably prove its uselessness. Whenever the same word is associated by the parties with different ideas, they may converse, or controverse, till - the crack of doom !” This, with a little obstinacy and some agility in shifting his ground, makes

Vol. II. (New Series.)

B

the fortune of an opponent.

While one party is worried in disentangling a meaning, and the other is winding and unwinding about him with another, a word of the kind we have mentioned, carelessly or perversely slipped into an argument, may prolong it for a century or two-as it has happened! Vaugelas, who passed his whole life in the study of words, would not allow that the sense was to determine the meaning of words ; for, says he, it is the business of words to explain the sense. Kant for a long while discovered in this way a facility of arguing without end, as at this moment do our political economists. * I beseech you,” exclaims a poetical critic, in the agony of a “confusion of words, “not to ask whether I mean this or that !Our critic, convinced that he has made himself understood, grows immortal by obscurity! for he shows how a few simple words, not intelligible, may admit of volumes of vindication. Throw out a word, capable of fifty senses, and you raise fifty parties ! Should some friend of peace enable the fifty to repose on one sense, that innocent word, no longer ringing the tocsin of a party, would lie in forget

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