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syllable of two, directly contrary to the example of the Greeks and Romans, altogether of the Gothic strain, and of a natural tendency towards relapsing into barbarity, which delights in monosyllables, and uniting of mute consonants, as it is observable in all the northern languages. And this is still more visible in the next refinement, which consists in pronouncing the first syllable in a word that has many, and dismissing the rest; such as phizz, hipps, mobb, pozz, rep, and many more ; when we are already overloaded with monosyllables, which are the disgrace of our language. Thus we cram one syllable, and cut off the rest, as the owl fattened her mice after she had bit off their legs, to prevent them from running away; and if ours be the same reason for maiming words, it will certainly answer the end ; for I am sure no other nation will desire to borrow them. Some words are hitherto but fairly split, and therefore only in their way to perfection, as incog and plenipo; but in a short time, it is to be hoped, they will be farther docked to inc and plen. This reflection has made me of late years very impatient for a peace, which I believe would save the lives of many brave words as well as men. The war has introduced abundance of polysyllables, which will never be able to live many more campaigns. Speculations, operations, preliminaries, ambassadors, palisadoes, communications, circumvallations, battalions, as numerous as they are, if they attack us too frequently in our coffeehouses, we shall certainly put them to flight, and cut off the rear.
“ The third refinement observable in the letter I send you, consists in the choice of certain words invented by some pretty fellows, such as banter, bamboozle, country put, and kidney, as it is there applied ; some of which are now struggling for the vogue, and others are in possession of it. I have done my utmost, for some years past, to stop the progress of mobb and banter, but have been plainly borne down by numbers, and betrayed by those who promised to assist me.*
“ In the last place, you are to take notice of certain choice phrases scattered through the letter; some of them tolerable enough, till they were worn to rags by servile imitators. You might easily find them, although they were not in a different priut, and therefore I need not disturb them.
“ These are the false refinements in our style, wł you ought to correct : first, by arguments and fair means; but if those fail, I think you are to make use of your authority as censor, and, by an annual index expurgatorius, expunge all words and phrases that are offensive to good sense, and condemn those barbarous mutilations of vowels and syllables. In this last point, the usual pretence is, that they spell as they speak : a noble standard for language! to depend upon the caprice of every coxcomb, who, because words are the clothing of our thoughts, cuts them out, and shapes them as he pleases, and changes them oftener than his dress. I believe all reasonable people would be content that such refiners were more sparing of their words, and liberal in their syllables. On this head I should be glad you would bestow some ad
* The Dean carried on the war against the word mob to the very last. A lady, who died in 1788, and was well known to Swift, used to say,
that the greatest scrape into which she got with him was by using the word mob. “Why do you say that ?" said he, in a passion; “ never let me hear you say that word again." Why, sir," said she," what am I to say ?” “ The rabble, to be sure," answered he.
vice upon several young readers in our churches, who, coming up
from the university full fraught with admiration of our town politeness, will needs correct the style of our prayer-books. In reading the absolution, they are very careful to say “ Pardons and absolves ;” and in the prayer for the royal family it must be endue’um, enrich'um, prosper'um, and bring'um ; then, in their sermons, they use all the modern terms of art, sham, banter, mobb, bubble, bully, cutting, shuffling, and palming; all which, and many more of the like stamp, as I have heard them often in the pulpit from some young sophisters, so I have read them in some of those sermons that have made a great noise of late. The design, it seems, is to avoid the dreadful imputation of pedantry; to shew us that they know the town, understand men and manners, and have not been poring upon old unfashionable books in the university.
“ I should be glad to see you the instrument of introducing into our style that simplicity, which is the best and truest ornament of most things in human life; which the politer ages always aimed at in their building and dress, (simplex munditiis,) as well as their productions of wit. It is manifest that all new affected modes of speech, whether borrowed from the court, the town, or the theatre, are the first perishing parts in any language; and, as I could prove by many hundred instances, have been so in ours. The writings of Hooker, who was a country clergyman, and of Parsons the Jesuit, both in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, are in a style, that, with very few allowances, would not offend any present reader ; much more clear and intelligible than those of Sir Henry Wotton, Sir Robert Naunton, Osborn, Daniel the Historian, and several others who writ later ; but, being men of the court, and affecting the phrases then in fashion, they are often either not to be understood, or appear perfectly ridiculous.
“ What remedies are to be applied to these evils I have not room to consider, having, I fear, already taken up most of your paper : besides, I think it is our office only to represent abuses, and yours to redress them.
“ I am, with great respect,
“ Yours, &c."
THE TATLER, No. CCLVIII.
SATURDAY, DEC. 2, 1710.*
Nov. 22, 1710. Dining yesterday with Mr South-British and Mr William North-Briton, two gentlemen, who, before you
ordered it otherwise, were known by the names of
* “ Steele, the rogue, has done the impudentest thing in the world : he said something in a Tatler, that we ought to use the word Great Britain, and not England, in common conversation, as,'' the finest lady in Great Britain,' &c. Upon this, Rowe, Prior, and I, sent him a letter, turning this into ridicule. He has to-day printed the letter, and signed it J. S., M. P., and N. R., the first letters of all our names.” Journal to Stella, Dec. 2, 1710.-" The modern phrase, Great Britain,' is only to distinguish it from Little Britain, where old clothes and old books are to be bought and sold.” Letter to Alderman Barber, Aug. 8, 1738.
Mr English and Mr William Scot: among other things, the maid of the house, who in her time, I believe, may have been a North-British warming-pan, brought us up a dish of North-British collops. We liked our entertainment very well ; only we observed the table-cloth, being not so fine as we could have wished, was North-British cloth. But the worst of it was, we were disturbed all dinner-time by the noise of the children, who were playing in the paved court at NorthBritish hoppers ; so we paid our North-Briton sooner than we designed, and took coach to North-Britain yard, about which place most of us live. · We had indeed gone a-foot; only we were under some apprehensions lest a North-British mist should wet a SouthBritish man to the skin.-We think this matter properly expressed, according to the accuracy of the new style, settled by you in one of your
You will please to give your opinion upon it to,
Your most humble servants,
J. S., M. P., N. R.