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My uncle Toby (Captain Shandy), when he heard my father (Squire Shandy) apply the word "scoundrelly" to a canon, rose up to protest against the application of such an adjective to such an honorable instrument. And we hope that the administration of a solemn sacrament will not be announced with such a phrase as to 66 come off."
Mr. Trollope says that the French language has been stunted by the unhealthy dressing and trimming of the Academy, while the English language has flourished like a native oak without any restraint of dictionaries. That is in some measure true, but the tone of the English language, though it might have suffered by excessive trimming, has certainly not improved by all the offshoots and grafting which have marked its progress; and had a judicious censorship been exercised, it might have been spared many words or the misapplication of some words that now interfere with that precision which is an important element in a language by which the new facts and ideas are to be transmitted to succeeding generations.
But is a word that seems to play
many parts in English composition, as an adverb, a preposition, and a conjunction. And a carelessness in its use may convey a meaning not intended by the user.
But as a disjunctive conjunction is simple, regular. "I will go, but he will remain." It is in its use as an adverb or a preposition that we find it abused :
"I have but two dollars in my purse." Here "but" is used for only," and is an adverb, and the sentence conveys a meaning not to be mistaken, yet it would be better to use "only."
But is used as a preposition in the sentence, "I have no child but John," that is, "Take away John and I have no child." The two uses of" but "given above are confounded.
"It was necessary to have a majority, but six members were present." "But" in that example should be followed by "only."
We copy the following from a paper: "We had doubts whether people would come, but eighty men were there." Now it may be asked whether eighty was a smaller number than had been expected, or whether expectation had been realized by there being quite as many as had been looked for? In the first meaning, "only" should take the place of "but;" in the last meaning, yet should be used.
The word "either," which in its true meaning is distributive or alternative, and never dual, has come now to take the place of "each," and unfortunately poetic usage even as high as Milton sanctions it. Milton says: "On either hand stood," &c. So people say: "She had a glove on either hand," when it is evident that the sentence means, "She had a glove on each hand." "Take either path." That does not mean "take both paths," but, "take either one path or the other."
In the use of certain words we
must be guided by correspondent words. The comparative degree of an adjective corresponds with "than;" "either" corresponds with "or."
"She had a glove on each hand" "She had a glove on either the left or the right hand, but not on both hands." "Take either path (one or the other), but do not take both paths."
The pronunciation of the word "either as if written "ither" is simply abominable. There is no analogy for such a sound of ei in English words. In German it would be correct, but not in English. We recall at this moment no word of our language in which ei is sounded as i. The words height and heighten may be adduced, but any scholar will perceive that these words come from "high," and while they retain the proper pronunciation of the vowel, they differ in orthography from the easy pronunciation of the words. We notice that of late "hight" is finding favor.
It was not intended to notice erroneous "orthoepy," else perhaps the vicious pronunciation of “wound” as "woond" would have been particularly noticed. That affectation of French sounds is painful to a cultivated ear, and it is without analogy in English.
It was not the intention of the writer of these articles to present more than a few instances of inaccuracies in the use of words, but
such a presentation may lead to inquiries that must result in more careful regard to the importance of accuracy.
Errors may exist and often are found in the composition of the best of writers. They are slips of the pen, momentary lack of vigilance relative to some early acquired bad habit. They may be errors of the compositors that escape the eye of the proof-reader or the care of the printer. They will scarcely become injurious, because they will not be sustained by the same error in other parts of the book or article. We speak of errors which are acquiring the sanction of use, which poor writers perpetrate by a want of knowledge of the language, and good writers seem to justify by their carelessness.
It is difficult for men of the best education and of much care to avoid some peculiarities of their Own locality. Daniel Webster never cleared his vocabulary of the New Englandism "be you" instead of "are you," and Walter Scott rhymed "canal" with "fall" and "all."
The people of the South, in this country, and in many parts of Ireland, and (such is the influence of error) in many parts of the Middle States, continually use the auxiliary "will" for "shall," e. g., "I will be so occupied to-morrow that I will not be able to come."
It was springtide-happy springtide-
Leaving tokens of her tread;
Once again I saw the children,
But the ground was white with snow;
Ah! how tenderly they press it,
Happy springtide, laughing springtide,
Every swift-returning moment
Some fresh fleeting pleasure born;
From joy's laden lap the flowers
And they fall unculled, unheeded-
Then the winter, then the winter,
And we see our treasures dimly
Oh, the foolish, heedless children,
Fondly prize each heaven-sent pleasure,
With the blossoms of its May!
LOST AND FOUND.
IN TWO PARTS.-PART I.
"INDEED, Michael, I cannot take it. Thank you kindly for thinking of me, but the 'kerchief I won't take. Maybe there's many as will be only too glad of it, but I'd rather not, so please don't be angered at my saying so."
The speaker was a remarkably pretty girl, of some nineteen summers, whose deep blue eye, dark wavy hair, and bright complexion, betrayed the Irish blood that had run in her mother's veins, as did the erect carriage of her shapely head, uncovered by hat or bonnet, and the free light step, untrammelled save by the short blue petticoat that descended but little below her knees, displaying the neat ankles in their dark gray stockings, and the well-shaped foot in its heavy shoes. Norah Grey's mother had indeed been a wild Irish girl, and her child had inherited along with these traits of form the deep passionaté nature that had laid the young wife in her grave but two short months after the day that had seen her husband's body, stiff and cold, borne home by the sorrowing mates who had seen him struck down by a drunken man whom he had endeavored to prevent drowning himself. The man who stood by, Michael White, was a dark-looking fellow, several years her senior, with heavy overhanging brows, and a thin-lipped mouth, that spoke a cruel and determined nature. He held a bright pink handkerchief in his hand, and his eyes were fixed on Norah with an angry glitter in them.
"You won't take it, won't you, Norah Grey?" he said, fiercely. "But you wore Harry Duncan's ribbon in your hair yesterday. I knew it, for I saw him buy it. But
mark you, I'm not going to let him get the better of me. I'll pay him out for it, and you too, if you throw me over for him. I'm not a man to break my word. Look to yourself, Norah Grey."
The girl's eyes flashed, and she raised her head proudly. "As to throwing you over, I never had nought to say to you, so that's not true. You're a base coward to try and frighten a girl; but that's not the way to gain me. I'll take Harry Duncan's ribbons, and I'll take Harry Duncan too, and it's little I'm feared of your black looks and your threats. I'll never be wife of yours while the sea has waves, or the sun shines above us; so now you know my mind."
She took up a bundle of sticks that lay on the ground beside her, and moved away with a quick step and a flushed cheek. Michael White gazed after her with a lowering brow, as her tall figure, standing out against the red evening sky, gradually lessened and finally disappeared from the broad furzecovered common that stretched along the tops of the lofty cliffs for many miles on that wild coast. He really loved the beautiful Irish girl; but he had found out by chance from the uncle she lived with, that Norah had a little fortune of her own, safely invested in a neighboring town, and he knew that Harry Duncan, the finest and best-looking young sailor in that little fishing village, was no slight favorite of Norah's, and jealousy and avarice lent their aid to the love that her bright eyes and glowing cheeks had kindled.
"She shall be mine," he muttered fiercely, as his eyes rested on her retreating figure. "I like her
the better for her spirit, and I'll soon break it if it troubles me. Besides, Duncan shall never crow over me, nor boast that he took the girl I loved from me. I'll kill him or her first."
He struck his hat fiercely on to his head, and thrusting the rejected handkerchief into his pocket, strode away towards the quiet cottage on the downs that owned him for its master. Meanwhile, Norah was descending the steep narrow path that led to the village. The snug little hamlet of Beck's Cliff nestled in a small bay, sheltered on every side by lofty white cliffs, against whose rugged base the angry sea beat and roared in impotent fury through the long winter. That treacherous monster looked mild enough now, as it lay gleaming and glowing beneath the western sun, and breaking in easy wavelets along the sands, where, seated beside their boats, the fishermen were mending their nets, while their bare-legged children danced and shouted in the water, or built mimic cottages and dug mimic canals. The little thatched cabins gleamed white among the trees that grew almost to the water's edge, and wives and mothers were sitting at their doors, work in hand, or tossing their last white-haired chubby urchins in their arms, as they gossiped with their neighbors over the low stone walls that separated their tiny gardens. A group of lads in their blue and white sailor's costume, some with picturesque red caps on their heads, were playing leap-frog under the shade of one of the lofty cliffs; and as Norah, placing her heavy bundle of firewood on the ground, seated herself on a mossy gray stone to rest and enjoy the calm beauty of the scene below, her eyes rested on this group with a long inquiring gaze, and a half smile on her rosy lips. Presently she was seen; a shout ascended, and a tarred straw hat was
waved; five minutes more, and a flushed breathless young man, who had been looking on at the game, threw himself on the ground at her feet.
"Why do you leave them all, Harry?" said Norah, looking, however, with a sunny smile into the eyes that were raised to hers. "Sure, it's better fun for you down there than with me, for I'm tired and a bit out of sorts."
"What's put you out, Norah dear?" asked the young sailor. "You look bright enough, but I can't say I feel quite bright myself. There's a weight over me, and I didn't care to be larking with those fellows. I was more than glad when I sighted your pretty face shining down on me. But tell me, what's put you out?"
Norah's face flushed. Michael White," she said, hotly; "he makes me that wild I could beat him! He's forever after me, and won't take no, and I'd lie in the grave before I'd be wife of his; I hate him."
"He's a bad man, I'm thinking," said Harry, gravely, "and not one I'd like you to anger, Norah. There's no saying what he won't do when he's up. But, Norah dear, why don't you tell him bold, that you've promised to be my wife? Maybe he'd be quiet then."
"That's just what I daren't do," replied Norah, hastily, "for he'd mark you ill, I'm thinking. He's bitter against you now, and says he'll spite both you and me because I wore your ribbon yestreen. Harry, he's a bad man; don't you go near him, or let him anger you, or maybe he'll kill you."
Harry Duncan laughed scornfully, but his brow was clouded.
"I'm not feared of him, Norah," he said; "but I wish you'd keep away from him. I'm going a fishing to-morrow early, and mayhap I won't be back for a day or two; but you won't let him frighten you