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THE PRINCIPLES OF RHETORIC.
PART 1. - COMPOSITION IN GENERAL.
BOOK I.- GRAMMATICAL PURITY.
The foundations of rhetoric rest upon grammar; for grammatical purity is a requisite of good writing.
Though it may be no merit to know the proper use of our native tongue, not to know it is a positive Importance of demerit, - a demerit the greater in those of us the use of lanwho have had the advantages of education. To know is comparatively easy ; but to have our knowledge always ready for use, to apply it in every sentence we frame, whether we have time to be careful or not, is far from easy. Not even eminent speakers or writers, not even those who readily detect in others errors in grammar, are themselves free from similar faults, such faults at least as may be committed, through inadvertence, in the hurry of speech or of composition. “A distinguished British scholar of the last century said he had known but three of his countrymen who spoke their native language with uniform gram
False tests of
matical accuracy, and the observation of most persons widely acquainted with English and Imerican society confirms the general truth implied in this declaration.” 1
Grammatical purity is, then, the first requisite of discourse, whether spoken or written. Whatever is addressed to English-speaking people should be in the Grammatical English tongue: it (1) should contain none purity defined. but English words and phrases, (2) should employ these words and phrases in their English meanings, and (3) should combine them according to the English idiom.
What, now, determines whether a given expression is English ?
Evidently, the answer to this question is not to be sought in inquiries concerning the origin, the history,
or the tendencies of the language. However good English interesting in themselves, however successfully prosecuted, such investigations are of little practical value in a study which has to do, not with words as they have been or might have been or may be, but with words as they are; not with the English of yesterday or with that of to-morrow, still less with a theorist's ideal English, but with the English of to-day.
In the English of to-day, one word is not preferred to another because it is derived from this or from that source; the present meaning of a word is not fixed by its etymology, nor its inflection by the inflection of other words with which it may, for some purposes, be classed. Athletics (from the Greek), farina (from the Latin). flour (from the Latin through the French), mutton (from the French), gas (a term invented by a chemist 2), are as
i George P. Marsh: Lectures on the English Language, lect. V.