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of the educated young woman.
To be told that you make one tired, or are performing the extraordinary phenomenon of “talking through your hat,” is a common experience. While I do not lay such broad and forcible utterances at the doors of the feminine sinners, many pet phrases which are hard worked by them were never sanctioned by the sainted Webster or Worcester.
All this concerns slang in general. College slang opens a new territory for exploration. Where the average man uses one such phrase, the youth who dwells in academic shades uses half a dozen at a conservative estimate. The one brings in slang as a mere flavor to conversation; by the other the Queen's English is smothered and overwhelmed, coming to the surface for breath only at long intervals. The collegian can be marked as quickly by his strangely idiomatic English as by his certain stamp of style. Each center of University life has its own peculiar vocabulary, and Yale is not at all behind in this branch of culture.
An analysis of Yale slang reveals two marked characteristics: an odd phrasing which differs from the slang of the outside world, and the meaningless of certain expressions which cannot be accounted for on metaphorical or any other grounds. Under the first head may be grouped such instances as the use of the word “good,” as in a salutation “How is the good Charles this morning ?”. “A large, elegant time" is the same sort of usage. This is not slang; it is rather a quaintness of expression peculiar to the Yale campus. The second class includes the commonest expressions, such as “smooth," and “ footless." These words are probably used oftener by the average Yale man than any other adjectives in his vocabulary. The first has more excuse for its usage than the latter, but as the two are antonyms, they should be discussed together. “Smooth” may mean any quality under the sun attractive or desirable. The original meaning as a quality of material objects has been lost sight of, and "smooth" may be applied to anything from a stunning Prom girl to a Sunday sermon. Just as "soft" and
“hard" have been clothed with abstract meanings in the vernacular, so "smooth" has been stolen and made a slave of. “ Footless" is the word used when "smooth" doesn't fit. Here the searcher after the “whys " is completely baffled. The meaning in common acceptance is useless, inefficient, unattractive, or otherwise lacking. Now, it is plain that any object deprived of its pedular supports is in a decidedly inefficient condition, from a man to a cigar store Indian or a square piano. Still further, versification even ceases to exist when its feet are removed. But this explanation fails to show why some other style of mutilation was not chosen to fill the want of a phrase. Certainly “headless" would have been more rational and more expressive, or “armless" fully as significant. Such are the baffling problems that confront us.
Another puzzle is the word " horse.” This is still more elastic and even more mysterious as to origin. “Horse" is used as a noun or verb indifferently. As a substantive it commonly signifies a joke or a laugh at some one else's expense. In this sense In this sense“ a good horse"
a good horse" on a man is found when he is at a disadvantage in some way or another, or has laid himself open to ridicule. For example, if De Smythe meets Miss Jones on Chapel street, and his feet fly from under him just as he makes an elaborate bow, his friends who witness the accident consider it an exceed. ingly good " horse" on De Smythe. As a verb “to horse" has two entirely distinct meanings, to wish or long for a thing, and to make sport of a person, to perpetrate "horses" on him. The student “horses" for vacation at this particular time of year, and a majority of him “horses” for recreation at frequent intervals. In the other sense a favorite pastime for many men is to “ horse" or guy a friend who has shown himself susceptible to ridicule or fun making. Horsing" is extremely wholesome mental discipline for over sensitive or super-conceited young men. “Horsing ” always implies a joke at another's expense. As to how it came into use there is no satisfactory theory to offer. In its common use the word always conveys a sense of discomfort to the object of the "horse."
It is undeniably true that to have a robust equine horse on one, weighing, say half a ton, would be discomforting in the extreme. Even one hoof, or a quarter of a horse on one's toe is far from comfortable. This may be the right theory regarding the use of the word ; but again, how much stronger in every way it would be to speak of an "elephant " or a “brace of hippopotami ” on a man. As denoting a longing or yearning after, there is no logical reason to be found for the use of the word.
The symbolic process is well illustrated in the use of the word “fruit." This luscious and appetizing term means “easy,” or is sometimes used in exclamatory fashion as synonymous with “smooth.” An examination is "fruit" if the questions have tallied with the knowledge of the victim, or an easy athletic victory is “fruit " for the team. The term is often thus used with a future sense as interchangeable with that phrase of western birth, “a cinch."
As a verb,“ to fruit," an examination is to pass a creditable paper ; "to fruit" a fellow-student is to forcibly remove as a trophy the tab on his shirt boson, a pleasing custom of obscure origin. In its present significance this word, I think, can be traced to the imaginative picture of a tree laden with ripe fruit, which is easily shaken off, and hence its use to mean anything easily attainable. I prefer this interpretation to the dark alternative that such fruit could be easily procured with darkness and a ladder to help.
“To rush" a recitation is a common phrase which needs little explanation. The term implies that the lesson has been so well learned that it is recited with fluency and without hesitation or “sparring for wind.” A "rush " is the antonym of a “flunk," and a “dead cold rush " is the acme of intellectual excellence.
These examples illustrate the striking types of local idiom or Yale dialect at present in vogue. Fashion in slang changes as often as in neckwear, and the idiom is subject to constant variation. To a stranger the news that a certain New Haven citizen “blew in down town
with his skates on, in a huge grouch and all broken up,” would imply some strange and inexplicable series of acci. dents. But the pale browed student steeped in the classic atmosphere would be able to look up from his books and translate in a few words.
The dialect story has raged among us with unpronounceable fury, in every variety of form. Kipling has given the Cockney and the brogue of the Three Privates. Barrie, the tanglesome burr of his Scotchmen, and Cable, the soft drawl of the Creole. Mountaineers, rude wild Westerners, and nasal New Englanders, talk to us in assorted tongues from every periodical. A sketch of college life in college dialect would open an unworked vein for some adventurous writer willing to attempt the task of learning the language.
The chronic use of these slang phrases is disastrous to one's power of expressing himself in good English when this becomes necessary. The vocabulary is narrowed amazingly, and the power of expression weakened, when two or three adjectives can be fetched in to express any conceivable degree of opinion from extravagant adoration to contemptuous scorn. It may be that the persistent use of our picturesque and effective phraseology will by and by make these words sanctioned by the dictionary-makers. In that case, college slang will do notable service to the English-speaking race in the enrichment of its vocabulary. However, there is considerable room for a reasonable doubt on this point.
Ralph D. Paine.
HE fame of a nation and its importance in the
world depend largely upon its men of letters, for a century's literature so reflects the customs of a people as to make it to a great extent the history of that period. For this reason alone the dramas of Henrik Ibsen are interesting. His characters are so strongly drawn that they give us an insight into Norwegian life which it would be difficult to gain from any other source. He has been called “The Norwegian Satirist,” which is not a fair title to give him because he is more than that; for, although his plays are invariably written with a purpose in view, he is less successful as a satirist than as a simple, earnest literary man who has evolved a literature out of the crude surroundings which his country affords him,-a literature which although essentially Norwegian has been read throughout the world. Unfortunately the two opposite schools of critics have, in wrangling over his works, placed Ibsen in a somewhat peculiar position, for no one seems able to adopt a moderate course when criticising his plays. Each saw an opportunity to disparage the other school, and they carried their discussions to such an extent that it is now almost impossible for anyone who writes or speaks about him to obtain a respectful hearing. This chain of circumstances has not tended to gain for Ibsen any impartial criticism, and a lesser genius would have been swamped under these contending seas of prejudice and forced approval.
There is an art in reading as in everything else, and we should take Ibsen as we find him, reading those works which are most congenial to us. A man's writings should always speak for themselves. When Ibsen is at his best his style is extremely simple and annotations to the text are superfluous. Yet there is much that is fine in his deeper dramas. But it is not likely that The Master Builder, Hedda Gabler, and other plays which his worshipers, mistaking obscurity for greatness, consider his masterpieces, will, in the translation at least, afford him anything