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lawgiver, would be universally acknowledged to be a public benefactor. How easy would that important branch of knowledge be rendered by such a work, in comparison of what it must be, when we have nothing to have recourse to, but a labyrinth of statutes, reports, and opinions. That man also would be of considerable use, though not in the same degree, who should vigilantly attend to every illegal practice that was beginning to prevail, and evince its danger, by exposing its contrariety to law. Of similar benefit, though in a different sphere, are grammar and criticism. In language, the grammarian is properly the compiler of the digest ; and the verbal critic, the man who seasonably notifies the abuses that are creeping in. Both tend to facilitate the study of the tongue to strangers, and to render natives more perfect in the knowledge of it; to advance general use into universal ; and to give a greater stability, at least, if not permanency, to custom, the most mutable thing in nature. These are advantages which, with a moderate share of attention, may be discovered, from what has been already said on the subject : but they are not the only advantages. From what I shall have occasion to observe afterward, it will probably appear, that these arts, by assisting to suppress every unlicensed term, and to stigmatize every improper idiom, tend to give greater precision, and consequently more perspicuity and beauty, to our style.
The observations made in the preceding chapter, might easily be converted into so many canons of criticism; by which, whatever is repugnant to reputable, to national, or to present use, in the sense wherein these epithets have been explained, would be condemned as a transgression of the radical laws of the language. But on this sub,ect of use, there arise two eminent questions, the determination of which may lead to the establishment of other canons not less important. The first question is this ; Is reputable, national, and present use, which, for brevity's sake, I shall hereafter simply denominate good use, always uniform in her decisions ? The second is ; As no term, idiom, or application, that is totally unsupported by her, can be admitted to be good, is every term, idiom, and application, that is countenanced by her to be esteemed good, and therefore worthy to be retained ?
Good use not always uniform in her decisions. In answer to the former of these questions, I acknowledge, that, in every case, there is not a perfect uniformity in the de
terminations, even of such use as may justly be denominated good. Wherever a considerable number of authorities can
. be produced, in support of two different, though resembling modes of expression for the same thing, there is always a divided use, and one cannot be said to speak barbarously, or to oppose the usage of the language, who conforms to either side. This divided use has place sometimes in construction, and sometimes in arrangement. In all such cases there is
for choice ; and it belongs, without question, to the cri. tical art, to lay down the principles, by which, in doubtful cases, our choice should be directed. The following canons are humbly proposed, in order to assist us in assigning the preference. Let it, in the meantime, be remembered, as a point always presupposed, that the authorities on the opposite sides, are equal, or nearly so.
When those of one side greatly preponderate, it is in vain to oppose the prevailing usage. Čustom, when wavering, may be swayed, but, when reluctant, will not be forced. And in this department a person never effects so little, as when he attempts too much.
Canon the first.
When use is divided as to any particular words or phrases, and when one of the expressions is susceptible of a different signification, whilst the other never admits but one sense; both perspicuity and variety require, that the form of expression, which is, in every instance, strictly univocal, should be preferred.
For this reason aught, signifying any thing, is preferable to ought, which is one of our defective verbs. In the preposition toward, and towards, and the adverbs forward and forwards, scarce and scarcely, backward and backwards, the two forms are used indiscriminately. But as the first form in all these is also an adjective, it is better to confine the particles to the second.
The following pertinent illustrations of the first canon, are taken from Dr. Crombie. To purpose, for “ to intend,” is better than to propose, which signifies also “ to lay before,” or “ submit to consideration :" and proposal, for “a thing offered or proposed,” is better than “ proposition,” which denotes also “ a position,” or “the affirmation of any principle or maxim.” Thus we say, “He demonstrated Euclid's proposition :" and, “ He rejected the proposal of his friend.""I am mistaken," is frequently used to denote, “I misunderstand," or "I am in error;" but as this expression may also signify, “I am misunderstood,” it is better to say, “I mistake,
Canon the second.
In doubtful cases, regard ought to be had in our decisions to the analogy of the language.
For this reason, I prefer contemporary to cotemporary. The general use, in words compounded with the syllable con, is to retain the n, before a consonant, and to expunge it before a vowel or an h mute. Thus we say, concurrence, conjuncture, concomitant; but co-equal, co-eternal, co-incide, co-heir.If, by the former canon, the adverbs backwards and forwards, are preferable to backward and forward; by this canon, from the principle of analogy, afterwards and homewards should be preferred to afterward and homeward.—The phrase, “ though he were ever so good," is preferable to," though he were never so good.” In this decision, I subscribe to the judgment of Dr. Johnson.-Sometimes whether is followed by no, sometimes by not. For instance, some would say,
" Whether he will or no ;” others, " Whether he will or not.” Of these it is the latter only that is analogical. There is an ellipsis of the verb in the last clause, which when you supply, you find it necessary to use the adverb not ; 66 Whether he will or will not."
Canon the third. When the terms or expressions are in other respects equal, that ought to be preferred which is most agreeable to the éar.-Of this we have many examples. Delicateness has very properly given way to delicacy; and for a like reason authenlicity will probably soon displace authenticalness, and vindictive dispossess vindicalive altogether.
Canon the fourth.
In cases wherein none of the foregoing rules gives either side a ground of preference, a regard to simplicity, (in which I include etymology when manifest, ought to determine our choice.
Under the name simplicity, I must be understood to comprehend also brevity ; for that expression is always the simplest which, with equal purity and perspicuity, is the briefest. We have, for instance, several active verbs, which are used either with or without a preposition indiscriminately. Thus
we say, either accept or accept of, admit or admit of, approde or approve of ; in like manner, address or address to, altain or attain to. In such instances it will hold, I suppose, pretty generally, that the simple form is preferable.
Every thing favoured by good use, not on that account worthy lo
be retained. I come now to the second question for ascertaining both the extent of the authority claimed by custom, and the rightful prerogatives of criticism. As no term, idiom, or application, that is totally unsupported by use, can be admitted to be good; is every term, idiom, and application, that is countenanced by use, to be esteemed good, and therefore worthy to be retained ?-1 answer, that though nothing in language can be good, from which use withholds her approbation, there may be many things to which she gives it, that are not in all respects good, or such as are worthy to be retained and imitated. In some instances, custom may very properly be checked by criticism, which has a sort of negative, and though not the censorian power of instant degradation, the privilege of remonstrating, and by means of this, when used discreetly, of bringing what is bad into disrepute, and so cancelling it gradually ; but which has no positive right to establish any thing. I shall therefore subjoin a few remarks, under the form of canons, in relation to those words or expressions, which may be thought to merit degradation from the rank they have hitherto maintained ; submitting these remarks entirely, as every thing of the kind must be submitted, to the final determination of the impartial public.
Canon the first.
All words and phrases which are remarkably harsh and unharmonious, and not absolutely necessary, should be rejected. -Such are the words, un-success-ful-ness, dis-interest-ed-ness ; conventiclers, peremptorily; holily, farriering. They are heavy and drawling, ill compacted, and difficult of utterance ; and they have nothing to compensate for their defect of harmony, and unpleasantness of sound.
Canon the second. When etymology plainly points to a signification different from that which the word commonly bears, propriety and Vol. 1.
simplicity both require its dismission.-Of this kind is the word beholden, for obliged or indebted. It should regularly be the passive participle of the verb to behold, which would convey a sense totally different. The verb to unloose, should analogically signify to tie, in like manner as to untie signifies to loose. To what purpose is it, then, to retain a term, without any necessity in a signification the reverse of that which its etymology manifestly suggests ?
Canon the third.
When any words become obsolete, or at least are never used, except as constituting part of particular phrases, it is better to dispense with their service entirely, and give up the phrases.—Examples of this we have in the words lief, 'dint, whit, mool, pro, and con; as, “ I had as lief go myself.” for “I
“ should like as well to go myself." “ “ He convinced his antagonist by dint of argument," that is, " by strength of argument.” “He made them yield by dint of arms,”—" by force of arms." “He is not a whit better,"_" no better." mention is a moot point," _“ a disputable point.” ".
« The question was strenuously debated pro and con,"_" on both
_ sides." These are low phraseologies; and savour so much of cant, that good writers will carefully avoid them.
• The case you
Canon the fourth. All those phrases, which, when analyzed grammatically, include a solecism ; and all those to which use has affixed a particular sense, but which, when explained by the general and established rules of the language, are susceptible either of a different sense, or of no sense, ought to be discarded altogether.
It is this kind of phraseology which is distinguished by the epithet idiomatical, and which has been originally the spawn, partly of ignorance, and partly of affectation. Of the first sort, which includes a solecism, is the phrase, “I had rather do such a thing," for, “I would rather do it." "I had do,” is a gross violation of the rules of conjugation in our language.of the second sort, which, when explained grammatically, leads to a different sense from what the words in conjunction generally bear, is, the following expression, common in the mouths of many persons; “He sings a good song.'
The words strictly considered, signify, that “the song is good;" whereas the speaker's meaning is, that " He sings well." Under the third sort, which can scarcely be considered as literally conveying any sense, may be ranked a number of