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which have not become naturalized in our language should be shunned. While foreign words, after they have become a part of our language, are good English, yet such must not be sought out when the more simple, homely, native word stands ready to do service. Often there is an offensive affectation displayed in seeking out words of foreign origin, especially from the Latin, when the short, simple, Saxon word would carry the idea more directly and forcibly to the head and the heart. After the foreign words are naturalized, it is not a question of native or foreign origin, but of effectiveness in conveying the idea. In guarding against the false taste which gives a preference for them, we must be careful not to form a prejudice against words of classical origin. “Seek to use both Saxon and Classical derivatives for what they are worth, and be not anxious to discard either."
Technical terms are not considered a part of the language, and should not be used except in addressing the class to which such words belong. In writings intended for some particular department of thought or industry, the terms peculiar to the class addressed are the most effective that can be selected; but they must be discarded when such subjects are treated in general literature, although with great loss in directness and precision.
Provincial words include those that are merely colloquial — employed in common conversation; and slang, the low, vulgar colloquialisms of some especial class in society. Some words that are proper in conversation are improper in formal, continued speech. Unfortunately slang needs no illustration. There are times when it seems the most compact, spirited way of saying a thing, and it may serve some immediate necessity, and in some cases find a permanent place in the language; but as a rule it is offensive, and indicates a poverty of words that would make the user blush if he were conscious of his necessity.
Within the limit of purity there is ground for a further choice. Economy of memory not only requires the use of pure words, but of these such as will be most familiar to those addressed. Some words, on account of early association, have passed into identity with the idea; and in such cases the idea follows the word without effort. Others are in a state of transition; and still others exhaust the attention because the association is new. Mark the difference of force between these: fire, conflagration; pay, remunerate; did, performed; hang, suspend; little, diminutive; see, witness; burned, consumed; answer, rejoinder; died, deceased. The more economical words are usually Saxon, but they are not more economical because they are Saxon; it is because they have become a part of our mental life through early, constant, and long association. This is why Saxon words go “strongest and straightest to men's heads and hearts.” A Latin word is as expressive as a Saxon word if it be brief, familiar, and well charged with meaning. Saxon words are the original words in the language, and denote the names of things known to our ancestors, and to all classes of people. In accounting for the greater economy secured by the use of Saxon words, Herbert Spencer says: “The most important of them is early association. A child's vocabulary is almost wholly Saxon. He says, I have, not I possess; I wish, not I desire; he does not reflect, he thinks; he does not beg for amusement, but for play; he calls things nice or nasty, not pleasant or disagreeable. The synonyms which he learns in after years never become so closely, so organically connected with the ideas signified as do these original words used in childhood, and hence the association remains less strong. But in what does a strong association between a word and an idea differ from a weak one ? Simply in the greater ease and rapidity of the suggestive action. It can be in nothing else. Both of two words, if they be strictly synonyms, eventually call up the same image. The expression — It is acid, must in the end give rise to the same thought as — It is sour; but because the term acid was learnt later in life, and has not been so often followed by the thought symbolized, it does not so readily arouse the thought as the term sour. If we remember how slowly and with what labour the appropriate ideas follow unfamiliar words in another language, and how increasing familiarity with such words brings greater rapidity and ease of comprehension, and if we consider that the same process must have gone on with the words of our mother tongue from childhood upwards, we shall clearly see that the earliest learnt and oftenest used words will, other things equal, call up images with less loss of time and energy than their later learnt synonyms.”
The most familiar words are usually the shortest and simplest, and economize not only memory in the asso
ciative act, but also perception in the presentative act. Thus the word pay has two economical values over the word remunerate. Short, simple, and familiar words are indispensable to a clear style.
While all the foregoing discussion is made in terms of clearness, that is, in terms of economy of attention, it is quite obvious that perfectly transparent language is beautiful. Language which obstructs the movement of the mind toward the meaning cannot be beautiful language, for it awakens the sense of bondage.
Also the most familiar word is the most energetic, through the fact that no energy is wasted in the interpreting act. But the positive phase of energy under this head consists in the use of such expressions as will, while expressing the idea required, suggest emotions to arouse the mind into active reception. The mind may be kept aglow with emotions awakened by ideas skillfully selected along the train of thought. Some ideas have so long been associated with life and its interests, with its weal and its woe, with its trials and triumphs, — have become so deeply rooted in sentiment and conviction that they carry with them a complex volume of rich and varied emotion. The mere reference to these in passing enriches the thought and stimulates the mind through the associations of memory to a fuller reception and realization of the matter presented. The orator instinctively draws such ideas into the current of his thought.
Concreteness. — The mind must represent to itself the idea expressed. Even when general or abstract ideas are expressed, the mind represents to itself the individuals of the class, or the concrete objects in which the abstract as an attribute is found. When an abstract or general term is used, the mind conceives the concrete and specific to which the general and abstract belong. Words are translated into thoughts through images; and this requires an effort beyond that of merely recalling the meaning of words. When the concrete and specific can be directly named instead of the abstract and general, the mind is relieved from the necessity of choosing from its store of concrete and specific ideas those which may represent the general or embody the abstract. In the expression, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow," a general truth concerning all plants is implied, and with what economy as compared with, “Consider plants, how they grow!” In the last statement the mind is necessarily busy with figuring to itself this or that type of plant, and finally choosing one or holding a great number vaguely in mind. But in the first, the mind is put at ease with a definite species, without losing anything of the general truth expressed. For the writer's purpose, the lily has all the attributes of the class. If an individual could have been mentioned here, the gain would have been still greater.
Abstract objects are made from attributes, and have no objective existence except in connection with objects as their subjects. If the mind searches for honesty, it finds not honesty, but an honest man. If, therefore, instead of naming the abstract truth, thus requiring the mind to busy itself with its concrete embodiment, the concrete be named, the labor of transforming the