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In the next place, we may observe, that where the words are not monosyllables, we often make them so, as much as lies in our power, by our rapidity of pronunciation ; as it generally happens in most of our long words which are derived from the Latin, where we contract the length of the syllables, that gives them a grave and solemn air in their own language, to make them more proper for dispatch, and more conformable to the genius of our tongue. This we may find in a multitude of words, as ' liberty, conspiracy, theatre, orator,' &c.
The same natural aversion to loquacity has of late years made a very considerable alteration in our langnage, by closing in one syllable the termination of our præterperfect tense, as in the words “ drown'd, walk'd, arriv'd,' for drowned, walked, arrived ;' which has very much disfigured the tongue, and turned a tenth part of our smoothest words into so many clusters of consonants. This is the more remarkable, because the want of vowels in our language has heen the general complaint of our politest authors, who nevertheless are the men that have made these retrenchments, and consequently very much increased our former scarcity.
This reflection on the words that end in ed, I hava beard in conversation from one of the greatest geniuses this age has produced. I think we may add to the foregoing observation, the change which has happened in our language by the abbreviation of several words that are terminated in elb, by substituting an s in the room of the last syllable, as in ' drowns, walks, arrives,' and innumerable other words, which, in the pronunciation of our forefathers, were « drowneth, walketh, arriveth.' This has wonderfully multiplied
a letter which was before too frequent in the English tongue, and added to that bissing in our language which is taken so much notice of by foreigners ; but at the same time humours our taciturnity, and eases us of many superfluous syllables.
I might here observe that the same single letter, on many occasions, does the office of a whole word, and represents the his and her of our forefathers. There is no doubt but the ear of a foreigner, which is the best judge in this case, would very much disapprove of such innovations, which indeed we do ourselves in some measure, by retaining the old termination in writing, and in all the solemn offices of our religion.
As in the instances I have given we have epitomized many of our particular words, to the detriment of our tongue, so on other occasions we have drawn two words into one; which has likewise very much untuned our language, and clogged it with consonants, as,
mayn't, can't, shan't, won't,' and the like, for ' may pot, can not, shall not, will not,' &c.
It is, perhaps, this humour of 'speaking no more than we needs must, which has so miserably curtailed some of our words, that in familiar writings and conversations they often lose all but their first syllables, as in' mob, rep. pos. incog.' and the like; and as all ridiculous words inake their first entry into a language by familiar phrases, I dare not answer for these that they will not in time be looked upon as a part of our tongue. We see some of our poets have been so indiscreet as to imitate Hudibras's doggrel expressions in their serious compositions, by throwing out the signs of our substantives, which are essential to the English language. Nay, this humour of shortening our language had once run so far, that some of our celebrated
authors, authors, among whom we may reckon sir Roger L'Estrange in particular, began to prune their words of all superfluous letters, as they termed them, in order to adjust the spelling to the pronunciation; which would have confounded all our etymologies, and have quite destroyed our tongue.
We may here likewise observe, that our proper names, when familiarized in English, generally dwindle to monosyllables; whereas, in other modern languages, they receive a softer turn on this occasion, by the addition of a new syllable. Nich, in Italian, is Nicolini; Jack, in French, Janot; and so of the rest.
There is another particular in our language, which is a great instance of our frugality of words, and that is the suppressing of several particles, which must be produced in other tongues to make a sentence intelligible. This often perplexes the best writers, when they find the relatives whom, which, or that, at their mercy, whether they may have admission or not; and will never be decided until we have something like an Academy, that by the best authorities and rules, drawn from the analogy of languages, shall settle all controversies between grammar and idiom.
I have only considered our language as it shows the genius and natural temper of the English, which is modest, thoughtful, and sincere, and which perhaps may recommend the people, though it has spoiled the tongue. We might, perhaps, carry the same thought into other languages, and deduce a great part of what is peculiar to them from the genius of the people who speak thein, It is certain, the light talkative humour of the French has not a little infected their tongue, which might be shown by many instances; as the genius of the Italians, which is so much addicted to music and ceremony, has moulded all their words and phrases to those particular uses. The stateliness and gravity of the Spaniards shows itself to perfection in the solemnity of their language, and the blunt honest humour of the Germans sounds.better in the roughness of the High Dutch than it would in a politer tongue,
The medium between a fop and a sloven is what à man of senise would endeavour to keep ; yet I remember Mr. Osborn advises his son to appear, in his habit, rather above than below his fortune; and tells him, that he will find a handsome suit of clothes always procures some additional respect. I have indeed myself observed, that my banker ever bows lowest to me when I wear my full-bottomed wig; and writes me Mr. or Esq. accordingly as he sees me dressed.
I shall conclude this paper with an adventure which I was myself an eye-witness of very lately.
I happened the other day to call in at a celebrated coffee-house near the Temple. I had not been there long when there came in an elderly man, very meanly dressed, and sat down by me : he had a thread-bare Joose coat on, which it was plain he wore to keep himself warm, and not to favour bis under-suit, which seemed to have been at least its contemporary: : his short wig and hat were both answerable to the rest of his apparel. He was no sooner seated than he called for a dish of tea : but as several yentlemen in the room wanted other things, the boys of the house did not think themselves at leisure to mind him. I could ob
serve the old fellow was very uneasy at the affront, and at his being obliged to repeat his commands several times to no purpose; until at last one of the lads presented him with some stale tea in a broken dish, accompanied with a plate of brown sugar; which so raised his indignation, that, after several obliging appellations of dog and rascal, he asked him aloud before the whole company, 'why he must be used with less respect than that fop there?' pointing to a well-dressed young gentleman who was drinking tea at the opposite table. The boy of the house replied, with a good deal of pertness, that his master had two sorts of customers, and that the gentleman at the other table had given him many a sixpence for wiping his shoes. By this time the young Templar, who found his honour concerned in the dispute,' and that the eyes of the whole coffee-house were upon him, had thrown aside a paper he had in his hand, and was coming towards us, while we at the table made what haste we could to get away from the impending quarrel ; but were all of us surprised to see him, as he approached nearer, put on an air of deference and respect. To whom the old man said, “Hark you, sirrah, I will pay off your extravagant bills once more ; but will take effectual care for the future, that your prodigality.shall not spirit up a parcel of rascals to insult your father.'
Though I by no means approve either the impudence of the servants or the extravagance of the son, I cannot but think the old gentleman was, in some measure, justly served for walking in masquerade; I mean, appearing in a dress so much beneath his quality and estate.
MR. E. BUDGELL
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.