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4. Serious, not light, not volatile ; grave.
Here, then, are ten distinct explanations of the same word, founded upon no etymological or radical meaning; totally disconnected; with no distinction of literal from metaphorical signi
; fication. How is it possible that any word should have such a variety of separate meanings ? - It is intelligible enough that, from the literal and metaphorical meaning, a great diversity of application may have extended : but what is the literal meaning, and how are the applications deduced from it? This the New Dictionary professes to teach :
SAD:- Wiclif renders the Latin, Petra, (a rock)—a sad stone : that is, a set (emphatically), firmly set, a fixed, a firm, stone. The Latin, firmitas, firmamentum, immobilitas, he also renders sadness ; that is, setness or settledness ; steadfastness, firmness, fixedness, stability. T'ne sadness of your bileve, in Wiclif, is in our common version, the steadfastness of Hence it is inferred, that sad is sat (by the mere change of t into d, constant in our language), and means literally, set, settled; metaphorically, sedate.
From (1), the literal meaning, set, it may be further explained, (2), Fixed, firm, steadfast or steady; confirmed, compact, cohesive, solid, dense, heavy. From (3), the metaphorical— sedate, it may be further explained. (4), Serious, grave, melancholy, gloomy, mournful, grievous.
To these must be subjoined, as a further consequence : A sad fellow; one who does sad or serious things--things that cause sadness, or sad or serious consequences ; and, thus, he is a mischievous fellow.
And the etymology is satisfactorily retraced to the Anglo-Saxon, sætt-an or sett-an, sedere, sedare,--to set, to settle. And this example furnishes an instance of the practical application of the orderly process of interpretation in its several gradations. Let the next instance be the equally common words-Slight, the adj. n. and verb; and Sly,
; the adj. Dr. Johnson tells us, that slight, the adj., is from the Dutch slicht, that slight the n. is from the Islandic slag'd, cunning; and that the verb is in two of its meanings from the adj. and in the third from the Dutch slichten. And he explains thus :
Slight, adj. (Slicht, Dutch). 1. Small, worthless, inconsiderable.
2. Not important, not cogent, weak.
To Slight (from the adjective).
SLEIGHT, n. s. (slag'd, cunning, Islandic), artful trick, cunning artifice, dexterous practice; as sleight of hand, the tricks of a juggler. This is often written, but less properly, slight.
Sly, adj. (Slith, Sax. slippery, and metaphorically, deceitful; Slægar, Islandic), meanly artful; secretly insidious ; cunning. The plan of the New Dictionary requires a different process, thus
, Slight, Sly-Slight or sleight, is slayed or sleyed, sley'd, sleyt, sleit, sleight, or slight: the past participle of the verb, to slay ;-in Anglo-Saxon, slah-an, to strike, to beat, to beat or cast down.
To slight, a verb, formed in the usual way upon the past participle, is to beat, to cast or throw down, to overthrow, to destroy, to demolish. Lord Clarendon writes. They slighted and demolished all the works of the garrison : they slighted the castle. To slaught-er an ox, is to strike, to knock it on the head.
Falstaff was slighted (i.e. thrown into the river). The Letters of Cassius were slighted off : i. e. thrown off, or aside ; disregarded ; or cast aside, as unworthy of regard.
Slight, the adjective, is--abject; cast or thrown aside or away, sc. as of little value, of little force or strength; and thus,~-unvalued or valueless, inconsiderable, inefficient, weak, feeble, small
, slender. And a slight isma disregard, neglect, disparagement, contempt, contumely.
Slight or sleight of handma throw or cast ; a dexterous cast or motion of the hand; dexterity ; adroitness. Cast was formerly used as fore-cast, project. And thus,
Slight, metaphorically, is-a dexterous, an adroit trick, or contrivance; a subtle manæuvre; a sly action. And
Sly (the participial termination ed omitted) ism-forecasting or projecting; acting with forecast, caution, circumspection; cautious, circumspect; cunning, wary, crafty, subtle.
A weaver's slay, and sleyed silk, have their origin in this same source.
And here again will be seen an instance of the same process of interpretation, by a formal subdivision, as in the preceding word sad.
These are genuine English words, and they are sufficient to establish beyond the possibility of a doubt, that every effort to trace the progress of such words from their primitive signification to their modern usages must be nugatory and unavailing, if the age of Elizabeth be the remotest period to which enquiry is to be carried.
An example of a single word, borrowed immediately from the Latin, will also exhibit the ignorance in which we must in particular instances have continued of the time of their introduction, had our researches been so limited. “ The verb, to edify,” says Mr. Todd, “ early in the seventeenth century obtained its moral
, application, --for thus Bullokar,—to edify ;—to build : sometimes to instruct.”
Mr. Todd quotes two instances from our common version of the Epistles of Saint Paul, an authority which renders the name of Bullokar worth nothing; and if it had occurred to Mr. Todd to refer to the version of Tindale, whose New Testament was printed in the beginning of the sixteenth century, or to the translation of the paraphrase by Erasmus, published in the middle of that century by Udal, the then Master of Eton, he would have been satisfied that this moral application was the common language of that time.
The metaphor was adopted by the Latin translators from the Greek, and from the Latin it was transmitted into English, somewhere about two centuries and a half before the period affixed by Mr. Todd. It is of common occurrence in the version of Wiclif, which was completed towards the close of the fourteenth century, and it is found in Peers' Plouhman, who flourished some thirty years earlier.
I must still be suffered to specify a few instances of words, which have admitted the general formulary of explanation, without the necessity of resorting to those subdivisions that have been observed in the preceding examples. Etymology is the solid ground upon which these explanations rest; and that they are with propriety and security placed upon that ground, will, I hope, be manifest to those who will take the trouble to recur to the Dictionary itself.
The two words Love and Fear, generally designated as names of leading passions in the human mind, are in reality the names of two acts, to which we are moved by certain passions or affections; and from continued association of the one with the other, the words are transferred from the act to denominate the passion; and the common practice of interpretation is to detail a description of this passion, including a specific exciting object, as the primary meaning of the word. Thus, Dr. Johnson assures us, that Love means-1. The passions between the sexes ; that Fear means-1. Dread, terrour, painful apprehension of danger. If we scrutinize
a little strictly into etymology, we shall find that the Anglo-Saxon Luf-ian, to love, has a reason for its application similar to that of the Latin Di-lig-ere, to take out or away from (sc. a number), to choose, to prefer : and is formed upon the Anglo-Saxon verb, Hlif-ian, to lift, or take out or up, to pick up, to select, to prefer : and hence the consequential applications are easily deduced. If we pursue the same course, we shall also perceive that to fear, is to fare, Anglo-Saxon, Far-an, to go, to go away; to flee, or cause to flee; to run, or cause to run away; to scare: and hence applied to the feelings of a run-away. The Anglo-Saxon, Fa-r-an, and Latin fa-r-i, are the same word; aliquod fatum, is any-thing, a word gone, gone out, uttered, spoken
To spark and to speak, (D. Spreck-en), I consider to be the same word; and to mean,throw out, to emit, to utter. We call a small particle of light thrown out, or emitted,-a spark : we call vocal, articulate sounds, thrown out, emitted, uttered,--speech. But spark or speech,
, means (any-thing) thrown out : all other respective applications, are consequential or metaphorical
, and connect themselves so closely and easily, that no formal explanatory subdivisions have been at all requisite. Again
, to tell and to till, are the same word, and mean, to lift, to arise. To till with the plough, is to raise (sc. the ground) with it. To tell with the tongue, is to raise (sc. the voice) with it; and here again no formal explanatory subdivisions have been made.
And now I ought, perhaps, to conclude this portion of the exposition of my plan, with full satisfaction that I have placed it in a light sufficiently perspicuous to common attention. But there are two words, so important in themselves, and bearing so much of novelty in the origin ascribed to them in the New Dictionary,—and they will serve also in further illustration of its mode of etymological research,—that I cannot forbear to present them. And these words are
Mercy and Belief.
AMERCE, MERCE, MERCY-Our elder writers use the words amerce and merce, indifferently: to fine, to impose, to exact, a fine, a something in final adjustment; in payment for, or in lieu of, a penalty or forfeiture ; in satisfaction of a claim or demand. To be subject to the King's grievous mercy, was to be subject to a heavy fine, payable to the King. The remission of this fine or penalty, and, generally, the remission of punishment, we now call—his Mercy, i. e. his clemency, his compassion. And the question arises, is mercy, in these two usages, two words of different origin, or one word differently applied ? The New Dictionary is profuse in quotations from pages of hitherto unexplored antiquity, to establish that mercy, in the latter application—to clemency or compassion—is no contraction of the Latin misericordia
, but is transfered or traduced from mercy, a fine: from the fine paid in ransom or redemption, to the
deliverance or pardon granted and received in return; and that it is thence further traducedto the feeling, which, it is assumed, imposes, receives, or is satisfied with, a smaller, instead of a greater, punishment; of a sum of money, for instance, in commutation for life or limb, forfeited to civil or military law.
When we amerce any man (quoth Peers), let Mercy be taxer. *
not only as we now use the latter (sc. to have faith, to give credit), but as we use the verb, to live, or have life; to dwell. The question again occurs-Are these two words distinct in their origin, or one word, differently applied ? It should be premised, that believe was written bi leue, be lyue, by lyve, separately and conjointly: and, recurring to our old authorities, we find the verb, by-leve, denoting to lyve by, or according to. “ The King would not bileue the lawes that his elders held,”—(Rob. of Gloucester, p. 470), and the noun bileve, applied, not only to life, but to that by which we may leve, or live, the means (or demeans) of life; to that whereon or wherein we may live, the dwelling, the demesne; and the obvious inference is, that it is also applied (metaphorically), to that by which we should live; to a rule of life ; to that rule, or that body of rules or laws, by which we do or ought, or know we should or ought, to live. A more emphatic or effective reddition from the Latin version, our venerable translator could not have selected. “ Lordis,” cried the terrified keeper of the prison, “ what bihoueth me to do, that I be maad saaf? And thei seiden, Bileeve thou in the Lord Jhesu, and thou schalt be saaf and thin hous.” Such was the primitive question, and such the answer. Such, as our missionaries could testify, continues to be still the question, which they are required to
The full explanation stands thus :To believe, is, to live by or according to, to abide by; to guide, conduct, regulate, govern or direct the life by; to take, accept, assume, or adopt as rule of life; and, consequentially,
To think, deem, or judge right; to be firmly persuaded of, to give credit to; to trust, or think trustworthy; to have or give faith or confidence; to confide, to think or deem faithful. I
* Peers’ Plouhman's Vision, p. 130.
+ Johnson :-MERCY, n. 8. (fr. Merci, contracted from Misericordia, Latin). 1. Tenderness; goodness; pity; willingness to spare and save ; clemency, mildness; unwillingness to punish. 2. Pardon. 3. Discretion; power of acting at pleasure. To AMERCE, v. a. (Amercier, fr. 009aluw per apepoe, seems to give the original). To punish with a pecuniary penalty; to exact a fine, to inflict a forfeiture. It is a word originally juridical, but adopted by other writers, and is used by Spenser of punishments in general.
| Johnson :-To BELIEVE, v. a. (Gelyf-an. Saxon). 1. To credit upon the authority of another, or from some other reason than our own personal knowledge. 2. To put confidence in the veracity of any one.To BELIEVE, V. D. 1. To have a firm persuasion of anything. 2. To exercise the theological virtue of faith.