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our oldest and most complicated associations. It is this language which has given us names for father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, son, daughter, child, home, kindred, friends. It is this which has furnished us with the greater part of those metonymies, and other figurative expressions, by which we represent to the imagination, and that in a single word, the reciprocal duties and enjoyments of hospitality, friendship, or love. Such are hearth, roof, fireside. The chief emotions, too, of which
fear, sorrow, shame; and, what is of more consequence to the orator and the poet, as well as in common life, the outward signs by which emotion is indicated are almost all Anglo-Saxon; such are tear, smile, blush, to laugh, to weep, to sigh, to groan. Most of those objects, about which the practical reason of man is employed in common life, receive their names from the Anglo-Saxon. It is the language, for the most part, of business ; of the counting-house, the shop, the market, the street, the farm; and, however miserable the man who is fond of philosophy or abstract science might be, if he had no other vocabulary but this, we must recollect that language was made not for the few, but the many, and that portion of it which enables the bulk of a nation to express their wants and transact their affairs, must be considered of at least as much importance to general happiness, as that which serves the purpose of philosophical science. Nearly all our national proverbs, in which it is truly said, so much of the practical wisdom of a nation resides, and which constitute the manual and vade mecum of "hobnailed” philosophy, are almost wholly AngloSaxon. A very large proportion (and that always the strongest) of the language of invective, humor, satire, colloquial pleasantry, is' Anglo Saxon. Almost all the terms and phrases by which we most energeti cally express anger, contempt, and indignation, are of Anglo-Saxon origin.* The Latin contributes most largely to the language of polite life, as well as to that of polite literature. Again, it is often necessary to convey ideas, which, though not truly and properly offensive in themselves, would, if clothed in the rough Saxon, appear so to the sensitive modesty of a highly refined state of society; dressed in Latin, these very same ideas shall seem decent enough. There is a large number of words, which, from the frequency with which they are used, and from their being so constantly in the mouths of the vulgar, would not be endured in polished society, though more privileged synonymes of Latin origin, or some classical circumlocution, expressing exactly the same thing, shall pass unquestioned.
There may be nothing dishonest, nothing really vulgar about the old Saxon word, yet it would be thought as uncouth in a drawing-room, as the ploughman to whose rude use it is abandoned. † Thus, the word
* One of the most distinguished orators and writers of the present age is remarkable for the Saxon force and purity of his language. He aldom uses an Anglicized Latin word, when a pure English expression is at hand. This will account, in some degree, for the strength of his language and the vehemence of his style. The reader scarcely needs to be informed, that reference is here made to the late Secretary of State, Hon. Daniel Webster.
+ To what is here said of the Saxon, may be added a short extract from Sir Walter Scott's “ Ivanhoe,” in a dialogue between the jester and the swineherd. (Vol. I. p. 25. S. H. Parker's edition.)
* stench” is lavendered over into unpleasant effluvia, or an ill odor, * sweat,” diluted into four times the number of syllables, becomes a very inoffensive thing in the shape of " perspiration."* To “squint” is soften. ed into obliquity of vision; to be “ drunk” is vulgar; but, if a man be simply intoxicated or inebriated; it is comparatively venial. Indeed, we may say of the classical names of vices, what Burke more questionably said of vices themselves, “that they lose half their deformity by losing all their grossness.” In the same manner, we all know that it is very possible for a medical man to put to as questions under the seemly disguise of scientific phraseology and polite circumlocution, which, if expressed in the bare and rude vernacular, would almost be as nauseous as his draughts and pills. Lastly; there are many thoughts which gain immensely by mere novelty and variety of expression. This the judicious poet, who knows that the connexion between thoughts and words is as intimate as that between body and spirit, well understands. There are thoughts in themselves trite and common-place, when expressed in the hackneyed terms of common life, which, if adorned by some graceful or felicitous novelty of expression, shall assume an unwonted air of dignity and ele gance. What was trivial, becomes striking; and what was plebeian, noble.
PERIPHRASE, PERIPHRASIS, OR CIRCUMLOCUTION, EU
PHEMISM AND ANTONOMASIA.
Periphrase, periphrasis, and circumlocution, are words all meaning the same thing, and are equivalent to what is gener
“How call you these grunting brutes running about on their fore legs ? ". demanded Wamba.
" Swine, fool, swine," said the herd; "every fool knows that.”
" And swine is good 'Saxon," said the jester. “But how call you the sow, when she is Hayed and drawn up by the heels like a traitor ?
"Pork," answered the swineherd.
"I am very glad every fool knows that, too,” said Wamba; "and pork, I think, is good Norman French; and so when the brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to feast · among the nobles. There is old alderman Ox, continues to hold his Saxon
epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondmen; but becomes Beef, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to con same him. Calf, too, becomes Veal, in the like manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name, when he becomes matter of enjoyment."
ally called a "roundabout expression ;' which explanation is itself an example of the figure, because it denotes in three words what periphrase, periphrasis, or circumlocution does in one. The definitions of words, as they appear in dictionaries, are periphrases. Such circumlocutions are frequently useful, especially in poetry; and are often necessary in translations from foreign languages, when we can find no word in our own, exactly equivalent to that which we have to translate.
Periphrase* is frequently useful to avoid a repetition of the same word: put periphrases of every kind require careful management; because, perhaps, more than any other figure of speech, they are apt to run into bombast.f
Under the head of periphrases may be included the figures Euphemism and Antonomasia.
Words, or phrases that call up disagreeable ideas are, in polite language, softened by means of circumlocutions. In these changes, as well as in most others, custom is the guide. It is reckoned more decorous, for example, to the memory of the departed, to say that “he perished on the scaffold,” than that “ he was hanged.” Such softened expression is called euphemism; a Greek word signifying a kind speech.
Antonomasia is a term applied to that form of expression in which a proper name is put for a common, or a common name for a proper; or, when the title, office, dignity, profession, science, or trade, is used instead of the true name of a person. Thus, when we apply to Christ the term, “the Savior of the world,” or “the Redeemer of mankind;" or to Washington, the term, “the Father of his country ;” or when we say His Excellency, instead of the governor, His Honor, instead of the judge; or, His Majesty, instead of the king, the expression is called Antonomasia. So, also, when a glutton is called a Heliogabalus (from the Roman emperor distinguished for that vice,) or a tyrant is called a Nero, we have other instances of the same form of expression.
* Periphrase, as defined by Webster, is “ The use of more words than are necessary to express the idea; as a figure of rhetoric, it is employed to avoid a common or trite manner of expression."
† Bombast is a kind of expression by which a serious attempt is made to raise a low or familiar subject above its rank, thereby never failing to make it ridiculous. Bathos is the reverse of bombast, and consists in degrading a subject by too low expressions. Both of these modes of writing equally excite the risible faculties of the reader.
Again, when we call Geography, " that science which describes the earth and its inhabitants,” or Arithmetic is termed “the science of numbers,” the antonomasia becomes apparent. It will thus be seen, that this form of expression is frequently nothing more than an instance of periphrasis, or circumlocution.
This form of expression is very common in parliamentary language and in deliberative assemblies, in which, in speaking of individual persons, they are not called by their proper names, but by their office, or some other designating appellation.* Thus, in speaking of Washington, the orator designates him, by antonomasia, as “the sage of Mount Vernon,"
Amplification is the expansion of a subject, by enumerating circumstances which are intended by an orator to excite more strongly in his audience the feelings of approbation or of blame. It is dwelling upon the subject longer than is actually necessary for its enunciation; and is in so far a species of circumlocution.*
* It is contrary to the rules of all parliamentary assemblies, to call any member by his proper name. Each individual is called by the name of the state, town, city, county, or ward, which he represents. Thus, we say, “the gentleman from Massachusetts,"'" the member from Virginia,” “the member from Ward 10," &c.; or, from his position, “the gentleman on my right,” or, “the gentleman who last spoke," &c.
The antonomasia is a figure frequently used by the most distinguished istorical writers, and especially by Mr. Gibbon, the historian of the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”
† The following passage is quoted by Mr. Booth from Scriblerus, “the perusal of the whole of which admirable satire,” says Mr. Booth, "is indispensable to every one who would study the principles of English Composition :"
“ We may define amplification to be making the most of a thought; it is the spinning-wheel of the Bathos, which draws out and spreads it in its finest thread. There are amplifiers who can extend half a dozen thin thoughts over a whole folio ; but for which, the tale of many a vast romance, and the substance of many a fair volume, might be reduced into the size of a primer.
“A passage in the 104th Psalm, He looks on the earth and it trembles, he touches the hills and they smoke,' is thus amplified by the same author:
• The hills forget they 're fixed, and in their fright
And leave the heavy panting hills behind.'” You here see the hills, not only trembling, but shaking off the woods.from their backs, to run the faster; after this, you are presented with a foot-race of mountains and woods, where the woods distance the mountains, that, like corpulent, pursy fellows, come pufling and panting a vast way behind them.
Examples of Periphrasis.
The science which teaches the proper use
treats of the habits of animals.
Examples of Euphemism.
James worked so hard that he James worked so hard that he sweat very profusely.
perspired very freely; or the perspiration stood on
him in drops. The room smells badly. There is an unpleasant efflu
via in the room. Mary is a great slut. Mary is inattentive to her per
sonal appearance; or, is careless in her personal
habits. He is a very dirty fellow. He is destitute of neatness. You lie.
You labor under a mistake.*
Examples of Antonomasia.
The Queen. Homer.
* No word of Holy Writ has in it a better turn of worldly wisdom than that from the Book of Proverbs :-"A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” The “soft answer" is, in fact, a euphemism. No one is offended who is told that “he labors under a mistake," while, perhaps, no accusation would give greater offence, than the same idea, expressed as above, unsoftened by euphemism.