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nyms. These include also words that have the same sound but different meaning. Sometimes ludicrous blunders are made by not distinguishing between words that have the same or nearly the same sound; as, when it was said that “ She was as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”
Precision is secured chiefly by the discriminating use of synonyms. Synonyms are words which, while expressing shades of difference, have substantially the same meaning. They are not referable to the same root, as are paronyms, but are distinct classes of words derived from different sources. The English language, composed of elements from so many different languages, is rich in synonyms. While synonyms, by the various shades of meaning they express with substantially the same idea, are a means to exact expression, yet because their likeness is more prominent than their difference, they are a source of inaccuracy. If synonyms are to be a means of accuracy to the composer, he must discriminate between their meanings, and apply them with a consciousness of their difference. Hence, the distinction between synonymous expressions becomes an important study for him who would write with precision. There must be a constant use of the dictionary and a book of synonyms in testing the exactness of the word selected. The writer should not fall into the slovenly habit of thinking that the word is not quite right, but nearly enough so. If he would cultivate accuracy he must constantly seek to say precisely what his thought requires. The interest of truth demands this, for there is no way in which a statement is made to diverge from
the truth more frequently than by the careless use of synonymous expressions. The turn of thought which depends on the choice of a particular word may be the most significant distinction expressed.
It is not only important to discriminate among synonyms in order to choose the fit word, but that, in the elaboration of an idea, it may be presented under its different phases; and yet, in the repetition of the idea, the same word need not be chosen. The reiteration of the same idea in the same term is clumsy and monotonous; and there is a constant effort to find words that, in the repetition of the idea, will preserve substantially the same meaning. There is no need more constantly felt by the writer than that of many expressions for the same thing. “Not that several forms of expression are in every case to be employed; this, of course, is a matter that must be determined by the occasion. But it often happens that if the writer has not thought broadly and deeply enough to have more than one expression for his idea, the one that he has will be meager. The one apt word is very generally the result of long cogitation and debate between alternative locutions. Recognizing this fact, eminent writers have often cultivated as a private discipline the habit of putting things in many different ways, ringing changes in expression, softening and strengthening, formalizing and colloquializing, condensing and expanding, making severely accurate and making freely loose. Such a habit is untold value as means of familiarizing the literary workman with his tools."
Thus while synonyms are employed in their different shades of meaning to denote delicacy and precision, used for their likeness they secure freedom and flexibility.
It should not be forgotten that the choice of a precise word is conditioned by a clearly defined idea; and that to the careful study of synonyms as a means of securing accuracy in expression must be added discipline in forming clear, distinct, and vivid conceptions. Vague and definite ideas cannot clothe themselves in closefitting words. Whatever trains the mind to bound ideas accurately and to conceive them clearly makes possible the choice of an exact word. And, furthermore, the mind, impressed with a sense of accuracy in the idea itself, will be sensitive to the form in which it is put — will instinctively light upon the right word.
As introductory to the habit of observing synonyms, let the likenesses and unlikenesses be stated in the following groups, and each applied in its distinction:
Invent, discover; abhor, detest; haste, hurry; alone, only; clear, distinct; calm, peace, tranquillity; custom, habit; equivocal, ambiguous; avow, acknowledge, confess; industrious, laborious, diligent; in, into; two, couple; proud, vain; faculty, capacity; bonds, fetters; abdicate, desert; character, reputation; occasion, opportunity; sick, ill; pity, sympathy; stay, remain; jealousy, envy; tolerate, permit; lack, want, need; candid, open, sincere; cautious, wary, circumspect; combination, cabal, plot, conspiracy; shall, will.
Distinguish, also, between the following paronyms:
Expect, suspect; healthy, healthful; sensuous, sensual; construe, construct; predict, predicate; contemptible, contemptuous; neglect, negligence; ingenious, ingenuous; subtle, subtile; artist, artisan; womanly, womanish; emigrant, immigrant; human, humane; benevolence, beneficence.
The purpose has been not to catalogue the precepts of diction, but to illustrate the basis of all precepts in the fundamental principle of the interpreting process. Arbitrary rules confuse, discourage, and enslave; while principles give freedom, guide, inspire confidence, and command respect. With these principles fixed, the student's knowledge will crystallize about them through the necessity of his experience with language, both in construction and interpretation. Whatever the treatment, it could not take the place of such experience. With the principle of diction in words to guide, the student who aspires to clearness of expression must hope to secure it by constantly realizing the principles in himself as he reads, writes, or speaks. Especially must he observe the usage of the best writers. The dictionary and book of synonyms, while helpful in their way, cannot take the place of the diligent study of words as they are organized in the life of discourse. The dictionary cannot impart to words the life and delicacy that come from the touch of an author. “Words are the vehicle not only of thought but of sentiment and emotion ; but this they can be only as interwoven with other words. Thus alone can they get beyond the merely intellectual side of language, and from its defined meanings provided for its often far more vital undefined associations. No fineness of usage can be acquired from the dictionary alone; the grace and power, the subtilities and flexibilities of words, are seen fully only as they are fitted together, in actual
such intimate acquaintance with the best literary usage,
without a large, pure, literary vocabulary to choose from, the principles of choice will be of little avail ; and without principles of choice the composer could not consciously wield the words at his command.
ORGANIZATION OF THE IDEAS INTO THOUGHT. The primary language quality required to facilitate · this process is that of unity; and the prominent activity is that of the judgment, which acts, however, upon the constant activity of the memory and the imagination. The memory must hold the materials gathered till the judgment can organize them; and the imagination must represent in images the thought whole presented.
The first requirement under the general law of language unity is that there be no unnecessary material presented for organization. Such material requires useless effort in the organizing process; and many times it becomes so burdensome as to defeat, in a large measure, the purpose of the discourse. Hence, the law of unity requires of language first, —
Conciseness. — Only the words essential to the full and accurate expression of the thought should be used. The proper number can be only relatively determined. Immature minds require fuller expression than mature; an oral statement may need fuller expression than a written one; a familiar thought needs only to be suggested, while the features of an unfamiliar one must be brought out by a great number of words. Thus the proper number of words is determined by a great