Billeder på siden

Severiy, according as the case requires : so when there is a necessity of expressing things unclean or obscene, a wise man will do it in the most decent language, to excite as few uncleanly ideas as possible in the minds of the hearers.

Note 2dly, In the length of time, and by the power of custon, words sometimes change their p:imary ideas as shall be declared, and sometimes they bave changer weir, secondary ideus, though the primary ideas may remain : so words that were once chaste, by frequent use grow obscene and uncleanly; and words that were once honourable may, in the next getiera tion, grow mean and contemptible. So the word dume originally sigoified a mistress of a family, who was a lady, and it is used still in the English law to signify a lady; but in common use now-a-days it represents a farmer's wife, or a inistiess of a family of the lower rank in the country. So those words of Rabshakeh ; Isa. xxxvi. 12. in our translation, (Eat their own dung, &c.) were doubtless decent and clean language, when our translators wrote them, above a hundred years ago. The word at has maintained its old secondary idea and inoffensive sense, to this day; but the other word in that sentence has by custom acquired a more uncleanly idea, and should now ratlier be changed into a more decent term, and so it should be read in public, unless it should be thought more proper to omit the Bentence*.

For this reason it is that the Jewish Rabbins have supplied other chaste words in the margin of the Hebrew bible, where the words of the text, through time and custom, are degenerated ; so as to carry any base and unclean secondary idea in them; and they read the word which is in the margin, which they call Keri, and not that which was written in the text, whicle they called Chetib.

Sect. IV.-Of Words common and proper. III. Words and names are common or proper. Com. mon names are such as stand for universal ideas, or a whole rank of beings, whether general or special. These are called apellatives ; so fish, bird, man, city, river, are common names; and so are trout, eel, lobster, for they all agree to many indi: viduals, and some of them to many species: but Cicero, Vir. gil, Bucephalus, London, Rome, Ætna, the Thames, are proper names, for each of them agrees only to one single being.

Note, Here, first, that a proper name may become in some sense common, when it hath been giveo to several beings of the same kind ;{ko Cæsar, which was the proper name of the first Emperor, Julius, became also a common name to all the fof

- a to start 10 t'f!So in some places of the sacred historians, where it is written; every ons that pisseth against the wall, we should read, wery male.

lowing Emperors. And Tea, which was the proper name of one sort of Indian leaf, is now-a-days, become a common name for many infusions of herbs, or plants, in water; as sage-tea, alehoof-tea, lemon-tea, &c. so Peter, Thomas, John, William, may be reckoned common names also, because they are given to many persons, unless they are determined to signify a single person at any particular time or place.

Nole in the second place, that a common name may become proper by custom, or by the time, or place, or persons that use it; as in Great Britain when we say the King, we mean our present rightful sovereign King George, who now reigns; when we speak of the Prince, we intend his Royal Highness George, Prince of Wales ; if we mention the city, when we are near London, we generally mean the city of London ; when in a country town, we say the parson, or the esquire, all the parish knows who are the single persons intended by it: so when we are speaking of the bistory of the New Testament, and use the words Peter, Paul, John, we mean those three apostles.

Note, in the third place, that any common name whatsoever is made proper, by terms of particularity added to it, as the common words pope, king, horse, garden, book, knife, &c. are designed to signity a singular idea, when we say the present pope; the king of Great Britaio ; the borse that won ihe last plate at Newinarket; the royal garden at Kensington; this book ; that kuife, &c.

Sect. V.-Of concrete and abstract Terms.
IV. Words or terms are divided into abstract and concrete.

Abstract terms signify the mode or quality of a being, without any regard to the subject in which it is; as whiteness, 'roundness, length, breadth, wisdom, mortality, life, death.

Concrete terms, while they express the quality, do also either express or imply, or refer to some subject to wbich it belongs : as rehite, round, long, broad, wise, inortal, living, dead. But these are not always noun adjectives in a grammatical sense, for a fool, a knave, a philosopher, and many other concretes are substantives, as well as knavery, folly, and philosophy, which are the abstract terms that belong to them.

Sect. VI.-OS univocal and equivocal Words. V. Words and terms are either univocal or equivocal. Univocal words are such as signify but one idea, or at least but one sort of thing; equioncal words are such as signify two or more different ideas, or different sorts of objects, The words book, bible, fish, horse, elephant, may be called univocal words; fou I know not that they signify any thing else but those ideas to which they are generally affixed; but heud is an equivocal word,



for it signifies the head of a nail, or of a pin, as well as of an animal: nail is an equivocal word, it is used for the nail of the haņd, or foot, and for an iron bail to fasten any thing. Post is equivocal, it is a piece of timber, or a swift messenger. A church is a religious assembly, or the large fair huilding where they meet; and sometimes the same word means a synod of bishops, or of presbyters, and in some places it is the pope and a general council.

Here let it be noted, that when two or more words signify the same thing, as wave and billow, mead and meadow', they are usually called synonymous words, but it seems very strange that words, which are directly contrary to each other, should sometimes represent almost the same ideas ; yet thus it is in some few instances; a valuable, or av invaluable blessing; a shameful, or a shameless villain ; a thick skull, or a thin skuilid fellow, a mere paper skull; a man of a large conscience, little conscience, or no conscience; a famous rascal, or an infamous

So uncertain a thing is human language, whose foundation and support is custoin!

As words signifying the same thing are called synonymous, 50 equivocal words, or those wbich sigoify several things, are called homonymous, or ambiguous ; and when persons use such ambiguous words, with a design to deceive, it is called equivocation.

Our simple ideas, and especially the sensible qualities, furnish us with a great variety of equivocal or ambiguous words ; for these being the first, and most natural ideas we have, we borrow some of their names, to signify many other ideas, both simple and complex. The word sweet expresses the pleasant perceptions of almost every sense; sugar is sweet, but it hath not tbe same sweetness as music ; nor hath music the sweetness of a rose ; and a swcet prospect differs from them all ; nor yet have any of these the same swcetoess as discourse, counsel, or meditation bath; yet the royal Psalmist saith of a man. We took sweet counsel together; and of God, My meditation of him shall be sweet. Biter is also such an equivocal word; there is bitter wormwood, there are bitter words, there are bitter enemies, and a bitter cold morning. So there is a sharpness in vinegar, and there is a sharpness in pain, in sorrow and in reproach ; there is a sharp eye, a sharp wit, and a sharp sword : but there is not one of these seven sharpnesses the same as another of them, and, a sharp east wind is different from them all.

There are also verbs or words of action, which are equivocal, as well as nouns or names. The words to bear, to take, to come, to get, are sufficient instances of it: or when we say, to bear a burden, to bear sorrow or reproach, to bear a name, to bear a grudge, to bear fruit, or to bear children, the word bear is used in very different senses: and so is the word get,, when we say, to get money, to get in, to get off, to get ready, to get a stomach, and to get a cold, &c.

There is also a great deal of an,biguity in many of the English particles; as but, before, beside, with, without, that, then, there, for, forth, above, about, &c. of which grammars and dictionaries will sufficiently inform us,

Sect. VII.-Various kinds of equivocal Words.

It would be endless to run through all the varieties of words and terms, which have different senses applied to them; I shall only mention therefore a few of the most remarkable and most useful distinctions among them.

Ist, The first division of equivocal words lets us know that some are equivocal only in their sound or pronunciation, others are equivocal only in writing, and others, both in writing and in sound.

Words equivocal in sound only, are such as these; the rein of a bridle, which hath the sainé sound with the reign of a king, or a shower of rain: but all three have different letters, and distinct spelling. So might or strength, is equivocal in sound, but differs in writing from mite, a little animal, or a small piece of money. And the verb to write, has the same sound with wright a workman, right or equity, and rite or ceremony; but it is spelled very differently in them all.

Words equivocal in writing only are such as these ; to tear to pieces, has the same spelling with a tear : to lead, or guide, has the same letters as leud, the metal : and a bowl for recreation, js written the same way as a bowl for drinking: but the pronun. ciation for all these is different.

But those words which are most commonly and justly called equivocal, are such as are both written and pronounced the same way, and yet liave different senses or ideas belonging to them; such are all the instances which were given in the preceding section.

Among the words which are equivocal in sound only and not in writing, there is a large field for persons who delight ja jests and puns, in riddles and quibbles, to sport themselves. This sort of words is also used by wanton persons to convey lewd ideas, noder the covert of expressions capable of a chasto meaning, which are called double entendres ; or whien persons speak falsehood with a design to deceive, under the covert of truth. Though it inust be confessed, that all sorts of equivocal words yield sufficient matter for such purposes,

There are many cases also, wherein an equivocal word in

used, for the sake of decency, to cover a foul idea : for the most chaste and modest, and well-bred persons, having sometimes a necessity to speak of the things of nature, convey their ideas in the most inoffensive language by this means. And indeed, the inere poverty of all languages makes it necessary to use equivocal words upon many occasions, as the common writings of men, and even the holy book of God, sufficiently' manifest.

2dly, Equivocal words are usually distinguished, according to their original, into such, whose various senses arise from mere chance or accident, and such as are made equivocal by design; as the word bear siguifies a shaggy beast, and it signifies also to bear or carry a burden ; this seeins to be the mere effect of chance : but if I call my dog bear, because he is shaggy, or call one of the northern constellations by that Daine,


a fancied situation of the stars in the shape of that animal, then it iq by design that the word is made yet further equivocal.

But because I think this common account of the spring or origin of equivocal words is too slight and imperfect, I shall reserve this subject to be treated of by itself, and proceed to the tbird division.

3dly, Ambiguous, or equivocal words, are such as are some times taken in a large and general sense, and sometimes in a sense more strict and limited, and have different ideas affixed to them accordingly. Religion, or virtue, taken in a large sense, includes both our duty to God and our neighbour ; but in a more strict, limited and proper sense, virtue signifies our duty towards men, and religion our duty to God. Virtue may yet be taken in the strictest sepse, and then it signifies power or courage, wbich is the sense of it in some places of the New Testamente So grace, taken in a large sense, means the favour of God, and all the spiritual blessings that proceed from it, (which is a frequent sense of it in the bible) but in a limited sense it signifies the babit of boliness wrought in us by divine favour, or a com, plex idea of the christian virtues. It may also be taken in the strictest sense ; and thus it signifies any single christian virtue, as in 2 Cor. viii. 6, 7. where it is used for liberality. So a city, in a strict and proper sepse, means the houses inclosed within the walls ; io a larger sense, it reaches to all the suburbs.

This larger and stricter sense of a word is used in almost all the sciences, as well as in theology, and in common life. The word geography, taken in a strict sepse, signifies the knowledge of the circles of the earthly globe, and the situation of the various parts of the earth ; when it is taken in a little larger sense, it includes the knowledge of the seas also; and in the largest sense of all, it extends to the various customs, habits, and goveruments of vations: 'When 'an 'astronomer' uses the

« ForrigeFortsæt »