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“ Neither by them or me would it be regarded as an objection.”
In English, two negatives make an affirmative; and, therefore, if we wish to deny, only one negative should be used. In the following examples, this principle is transgressed :
“We need not, nor do not, confine the purposes of God” (nor do we). “In the growth and stature of souls, as well as bodies, the common productions are of different sizes, that occasion no gazing, nor wonder” (nor any). “I'll prove that you are no composer, nor know no more of music than you do of algebra” (and know). “ Nor is danger ever apprehended in such a government from the violence of the sovereign, no more than we commonly apprehend danger from thunder or earthquakes” (take out no).
they been ? "
5. An idiom is an expression peculiar to some one language, and which, if translated literally into any other, will be pronounced incorrect. Thus, if any
. one were to translate into English the German expression, “Wo sind Sie gewesen ?” by “Where are
or the French, “ Je viens de voir mon père,” by “I come from to see my father,” every one would condemn these forms as bad English. Both these sentences have corresponding equivalents in English ; but they are not translateable word for word, and therefore they are idioms.
The style of a writer, as regards idiom, is very likely to be affected by the direction of his studies.
Many, not unnaturally, imbibe so strong a love for classical scholarship, or for the modern European languages, that they sometimes unconsciously introduce into their English compositions forms of expression which properly belong to Greek, Latin, French, or German. From this cause, some of our most learned authors are among the least idiomatic of English writers. In all cases this is a great error, because it is un-English, and distorts the proper character of our language ; but it is not unfrequently an absurd affectation, a mere ostentatious display of learning. The following are a few of the many errors of this kind that are profusely scattered over the English writings of the last and the present century :
“ The king soon found reason to repent him of his provoking such dangerous enemies.” “The popular
" lords did not fail to enlarge themselves on the subject.” “Removing the term from Westminster, sitting the parliament, was illegal.” “ Solomon was of this mind; and I make no doubt but he made as wise and true proverbs as anybody has done since, - Him only excepted, who was a much greater and wiser man than Solomon.” " Lewis the Fourteenth had reason when he said, “The Pyrenees are removed.'
This affectation of adopting French idioms is cleverly ridiculed in Hannah More's “Satirical Letter from a Lady to her Friend, in the Reign of George the Fifth
“ Alamode Castle. “ Dear Madam,
“I no sooner found myself here, than I visited my new apartments, which are composed of five pieces. The small room, which gives upon the garden, is practised through the great one, and there is no other issue. As I was exceeded with fatigue, I no sooner made my toilette, than I let myself fall upon a bed of repose, where sleep came to surprise me. My lord and I are in the intention to make good cheer, and a great expense, and this country is in possession to furnish wherewithal to amuse oneself. All that England has of illustrious, all that youth has of amiable, or beauty of ravishing, sees itself in this quarter. Render yourself here, then, my friend, and you
shall find assembled all that is best, whether for letters, whether for mirth,” &c., &c.
Many mistakes in idiom are made by the application of wrong prepositions.
“ The only actions to which we have always seen, and still see, all of them intent, are such as tend to the destruction of one another.” “ To which, as Bishop Burnet tells us, the Prince of Orange was willing to comply." “He had been perplexed with a long compliance to foreign manners."
“ Your character, which I, or any other writer, may now value ourselves (?) by drawing, will probably be dropped,” &c. “ The discovery be made and communicated with his friends." “ Not from any personal hatred to them, but in justification to the best of queens.” “The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness, or derogation to their sufficiency, to rely upon counsel.” “A supercilious attention to minute personalities is a certain indication to the want of innate dignity." “He found the greatest difficulty of writing.”
em which Philip had conceived of the ambassador.” “The greatest difficulty was
“ The est
found of fixing just sentiments.” “ The Christians were driven out of all their possessions, in acquiring of which, incredible numbers of men had perished.” “ You know the esteem I have of his philosophy.” “He is so resolved of going to the Persian court.” “ Neither he nor the other shall make me swerve out of the path which I have traced to myself.” “I do likewise dissent with the Examiner."” “ Dr. Johnson, with whom I am sorry to differ in opinion, has treated it as a work of merit.” Ovid, whom ye accuse for luxuriancy of verse.” “This effect, we may safely say, no one beforehand could have promised upon.” “A greater quantity may be taken from the heap, without making any sensible alteration upon it." “Every office of command should be entrusted to persons on whom the parliament shall confide.” “ All of which required abundance of finesse and delicatesse to manage with advantage, as well as a strict observance after times and fashions.” - The Italian universities were forced to send for their professors from Spain and France." “Napoleon sought to ally himself in marriage with the royal families in Europe, to engraft himself to an old imperial tree.” « Such were the difficulties with which the question was involved.” 6. The accounts they gave of the favourable reception of their writings with the public.” “Of various natural and acquired excellence, it is hard to say whether the British or French soldiers were the most (?) admirable.”
That our composition is free from foreign and obsolete words, and correct in its grammatical forms, is so much gained; but there are yet other points to be considered. Our grammar may be unexceptionable, and the words we employ all English, and yet we may be in error as to their application ; that is, we may use them in a sense which custom has not assigned to them. It is clear that the wrong application of words must produce obscurity of expression ; and the following remarks are therefore made to assist the learner to avoid impropriety in the use of single words.
IMPROPRIETY IN WORDS.
1. A close resemblance in sound between two words will sometimes cause us to use one for the other. Two English words are frequently derived from the same root, and yet differ in signification. Such are: 'observance' and 'observation;''endurance and duration ; ' 'ingenious' and 'ingenuous;' 'product' and produce;' 'import' and 'importance ;' conscience' and consciousness; ' 'lay' and 'lie;' timid' and timorous;' transient' and transitory,' &c.
Some writers have used the verb 'to demean oneself' in the sense of “to behave meanly ;' whereas this verb, though now but seldom used, signifies no more than to behave generally.
• E’er,' a contraction for “ever,' is sometimes mistaken for the conjunction 'ere' (before); "genii' is used for 'geniuses,' &c.
2. Mistakes in the use of words also arise from a