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Title: Society for Pure English Tract 4 - The Pronunciation of English Words Derived from the Latin
Author: Sargeaunt, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Society for Pure English Tract 4 - The Pronunciation of English Words Derived from the Latin" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

  Transcriber's Note: Phonetic characters are represented by the
          following symbols:
  [^1] = raised "1", etc.
  [e] = inverted "e" or schwa
  [oe] = oe ligature character
  ['x] = any letter "x" with acute accent
  [=x] = any letter "x" with macron
  [)x] = any letter "x" with breve
  [=xy] = any pair of letters "xy" with joining macron, except
  [=OE], [=ae] = OE, ae ligature characters with macron
  ['oe], ['ae] = oe, ae ligature characters with acute accent and
  [)xy] = any pair of letters "xy" with joining breve, except
  [)AE], [)ae], [)OE], [)oe] = AE, ae, OE, oe ligature characters
          with breve








[This paper may perhaps need a few words of introduction concerning
the history of the pronunciation of Latin in England.

The Latin taught by Pope Gregory's missionaries to their English
converts at the beginning of the seventh century was a living
language. Its pronunciation, in the mouths of educated people when
they spoke carefully, was still practically what it had been in
the first century, with the following important exceptions. 1. The
consonantal _u_ was sounded like the _v_ of modern English, 2. The _c_
before front vowels (_e_, _i_, _o_, _æ_, _oe_), and the combinations
_t[)i]_, _c[)i]_ before vowels, were pronounced _ts_. 3. The _g_
before front vowels had a sound closely resembling that of the Latin
consonantal _i_. 4. The _s_ between vowels was pronounced like our
_s_. 5. The combinations _æ_, _oe_ were no longer pronounced as
diphthongs, but like the simple _e_. 6. The ancient vowel-quantities
were preserved only in the penultima of polysyllables (where they
determined the stress); in all other positions the original system of
quantities had given place to a new system based mainly on rhythm. Of
this system in detail we have little certain knowledge; but one of
its features was that the vowel which ended the first syllable of
a disyllabic was always long: _p[=a]ter_, _p[=a]trem_, _D[=e]us_,
_p[=i]us_, _[=i]ter_, _[=o]vis_, _h[=u]mus_.

Even so early as the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine
tells us that the vowel-quantities, which it was necessary to learn
in order to write verse correctly, were not observed in speech. The
Latin-speaking schoolboy had to learn them in much the same fashion as
did the English schoolboy of the nineteenth century.

It is interesting to observe that, while the English scholars of
the tenth century pronounced their Latin in the manner which their
ancestors had learned from the continental missionaries, the tradition
of the ancient vowel-quantities still survived (to some extent at
least) among their British neighbours, whose knowledge of Latin was an
inheritance from the days of Roman rule. On this point the following
passage from the preface to Ælfric's Latin Grammar (written for
English schoolboys about A.D. 1000) is instructive:--

    Miror ualde quare multi corripiunt sillabas in prosa quae in
    metro breues sunt, cum prosa absoluta sit a lege metri; sicut
    pronuntiant _pater_ brittonice et _malus_ et similia, quae in
    metro habentur breues. Mihi tamen uidetur melius inuocare Deum
    Patrem honorifice producta sillaba quam brittonice corripere,
    quia nec Deus arti grammaticae subiciendus est.

The British contagion of which Ælfric here complains had no permanent
effect. For after the Norman Conquest English boys learned their Latin
from teachers whose ordinary language was French. For a time, they
were not usually taught to write or read English, but only French
and Latin; so that the Englishmen who attempted to write their native
language did so in a phonetic orthography on a French basis. The
higher classes in England, all through the thirteenth century, had two
native languages, English and French.

In the grammar schools, the Latin lessons were given in French; it was
not till the middle of the fourteenth century that a bold educational
reformer, John Cornwall, could venture to make English the vehicle
of instruction. In reading Latin, the rhythmically-determined
vowel-quantities of post-classical times were used; and the Roman
letters were pronounced, first as they were in French, and afterwards
as in English, but in the fourteenth century this made little

In Chaucer's time, the other nations of Europe, no less than England,
pronounced Latin after the fashion of their own vernaculars. When,
subsequently, the phonetic values of the letters in the vernacular
gradually changed, the Latin pronunciation altered likewise. Hence, in
the end, the pronunciation of Latin has become different in different
countries. A scholar born in Italy has great difficulty in following
a Frenchman speaking Latin. He has greater difficulty in understanding
an Englishman's Latin, because in English the changes in the sounds
of the letters have been greater than in any other language. Every
vowel-letter has several sounds, and the normal long sound of every
vowel-letter has no resemblance whatever to its normal short sound. As
in England the pronunciation of Latin developed insensibly along with
that of the native tongue, it eventually became so peculiar that by
comparison the 'continental pronunciation' may be regarded as uniform.

It is sometimes imagined that the modern English way of pronouncing
Latin was a deliberate invention of the Protestant reformers. For this
view there is no foundation in fact. It may be conceded that English
ecclesiastics and scholars who had frequent occasion to converse in
Latin with Italians would learn to pronounce it in the Italian way;
and no doubt the Reformation must have operated to arrest the growing
tendency to the Italianization of English Latin. But there is no
evidence that before the Reformation the un-English pronunciation was
taught in the schools. The grammar-school pronunciation of the early
nineteenth century was the lineal descendant of the grammar-school
pronunciation of the fourteenth century.

This traditional system of pronunciation is now rapidly becoming
obsolete, and for very good reasons. But it is the basis of the
pronunciation of the many classical derivatives in English; and
therefore it is highly important that we should understand precisely
what it was before it began to be sophisticated (as in our own early
days) by sporadic and inconsistent attempts to restore the classical
quantities. In the following paper Mr. Sargeaunt describes, with a
minuteness not before attempted, the genuine English tradition of
Latin pronunciation, and points out its significance as a factor in
the development of modern English.


       *       *       *       *       *

It seems not to be generally known that there is a real principle
in the English pronunciation of words borrowed from Latin and Greek,
whether directly or through French. In this matter the very knowledge
of classical Latin, of its stresses and its quantities, still more
perhaps an acquaintance with Greek, is apt to mislead. Some speakers
seem to think that their scholarship will be doubted unless they say
'doctrínal' and 'scriptúral' and 'cinéma'. The object of this paper is
to show by setting forth the principles consciously or unconsciously
followed by our ancestors that such pronunciations are as erroneous
as in the case of the ordinary man they are unnatural and pedantic.
An exception for which there is a reason must of course be accepted,
but an exception for which reason is unsound is on every ground to
be deprecated. Among other motives for preserving the traditional
pronunciation must be reckoned the claim of poetry. Mark Pattison
notes how a passage of Pope which deals with the Barrier Treaty loses
much of its effect because we no longer stress the second syllable of
'barrier'. Pope's word is gone beyond recovery, but others which are
threatened by false theories may yet be preserved.

The _New English Dictionary_, whose business it is to record facts,
shows that in not a few common words there is at present much
confusion and uncertainty concerning the right pronunciation. This
applies mostly to the position of the stress or, as some prefer to
call it, the accent, but in many cases it is true also of the quantity
of the vowels. It is desirable to show that there is a principle in
this matter, rules which have been naturally and unconsciously obeyed,
because they harmonize with the genius of the English tongue.

For nearly three centuries from the Reformation to the Victorian era
there was in this country a uniform pronunciation of Latin. It had its
own definite principles, involving in some cases a disregard of the
classical quantities though not of the classical stress or accent. It
survives in borrowed words such as _[=a]li[)a]s_ and _st[)a]mina_,
in naturalized legal phrases, such as _N[=i]s[=i] Prius_ and _[=o]nus
probandi_, and with some few changes in the Westminster Play. This
pronunciation is now out of fashion, but, since its supersession does
not justify a change in the pronunciation of words which have become
part of our language, it will be well to begin with a formulation of
its rules.

The rule of Latin stress was observed as it obtained in the time
of Quintilian. In the earliest Latin the usage had been other, the
stress coming as early in the word as was possible. Down to the days
of Terence and probably somewhat later the old rule still held good
of quadrisyllables with the scansion of _m[)u]l[)i][)e]r[)i]s_ or
_m[)u]l[)i][)e]r[=e]s_, but in other words had given way to the later
Quintilian rule, that all words with a long unit as penultimate
had the stress on the vowel in that unit, while words of more
than two syllables with a short penultimate had the stress on the
antepenultimate. I say 'unit' because here, as in scansion, what
counts is not the syllable, but the vowel plus all the consonants
that come between it and the next vowel. Thus _inférnus_, where the
penultimate vowel is short, no less than _suprémus_, where it is long,
has the stress on the penultima. In _volucris_, where the penultimate
unit was short, as it was in prose and could be in verse, the stress
was on the _o_, but when _ucr_ made a long unit the stress comes on
the _u_, though of course the vowel remains short. In polysyllables
there was a secondary stress on the alternate vowels. Ignorance of
this usage has made a present-day critic falsely accuse Shakespeare
of a false quantity in the line

  Coríolánus in Coríoli.

It may be safely said that from the Reformation to the nineteenth
century no Englishman pronounced the last word otherwise than I have
written it. The author of the Pronouncing Dictionary attached to
the 'Dictionary of Gardening' unfortunately instructs us to say
_gládiolus_ on the ground that the _i_ is short. The ground alleged,
though true, is irrelevant, and, although Terence would have
pronounced it _gládiolus_, Quintilian, like Cicero, would have said
_gladíolus_. Mr. Myles quotes Pliny for the word, but Pliny would no
more have thought of saying _gládiolus_ than we should now think of
saying 'laboúr' except when we are reading Chaucer.

We need not here discuss the dubious exceptions to this rule, such
as words with an enclitic attached, e.g. _prim[)a]que_ in which some
authorities put the stress on the vowel which precedes the enclitic,
or such clipt words as 'illuc', where the stress may at one time have
fallen on the last vowel. In any case no English word is concerned.

In very long words the due alternation of stressed and unstressed
vowels was not easy to maintain. There was no difficulty in such
a combination as _hónoríficábilí_ or as _tudínitátibús_, but
with the halves put together there would be a tendency to say
_hónoríficabilitúdinitátibus_. Thus there ought not to be much
difficulty in saying _Cónstantínopólitáni_, whether you keep the long
antepenultima or shorten it after the English way; but he who forced
the reluctant word to end an hexameter must have had 'Constantinóple'
in his mind, and therefore said _Constántinópolitáni_ with two false
stresses. The result was an illicit lengthening of the second _o_.
His other false quantity, the shortening of the second _i_, was
due to the English pronunciation, the influence of such words as
'metropol[)i]tan', and, as old schoolmasters used to put it, a neglect
of the Gradus. Even when the stress falls on this antepenultimate
_i_, it is short in English speech. Doubtless Milton shortened it in
'Areopagitica', just as English usage made him lengthen the initial
vowel of the word.

Probably very few of the Englishmen who used the traditional
pronunciation of Latin knew that they gave many different sounds to
each of the symbols or letters. Words which have been transported
bodily into English will provide examples under each head. It will be
understood that in the traditional pronunciation of Latin these words
were spoken exactly as they are spoken in the English of the present
day. For the sake of simplicity it may be allowed us to ignore some
distinctions rightly made by phoneticians. Thus the long initial vowel
of _alias_ is not really the same as the long initial vowel of _area_,
but the two will be treated as identical. It will thus be possible to
write of only three kinds of vowels, long, short, and obscure.

The letter or symbol _a_ stood for two long sounds, heard in the first
syllables of _alias_ and of _larva_, for the short sound heard in the
first syllable of _stamina_, and for the obscure sound heard in the
last syllable of each of these last two words in English.

The letter _e_ stood for the long sounds heard in _genus_ and in
_verbum_, for the short sound heard in _item_, and for the obscure
sound heard in _cancer_. When it ended a word it had, if short, the
sound of a short _i_, as in _pro lege_, _rege_, _grege_, as also in
unstressed syllables in such words as _precentor_ and _regalia_.

The letter _i_ stood for the two long sounds heard in _minor_ and in
_circus_ and for the short sound heard in _premium_ and _incubus_.

The letter _o_ stood for the two long sounds heard in _odium_ and in
_corpus_, for the short sound in _scrofula_, and for the obscure in

The two long sounds of _u_ are heard in _rumor_, if that spelling
may be allowed, and in the middle syllable of _laburnum_, the two
short sounds in the first _u_ of _incubus_ and in the first _u_ of
_lustrum_, the obscure sound in the final syllables of these two
words. Further the long sound was preceded except after _l_ and _r_ by
a parasitic _y_ as in _albumen_ and _incubus_. This parasitic _y_ is
perhaps not of very long standing. In some old families the tradition
still compels such pronunciations as _moosic_.

The diphthongs _æ_ and _oe_ were merely _e_, while _au_ and _eu_ were
sounded as in our _August_ and _Euxine_. The two latter diphthongs
stood alone in never being shortened even when they were unstressed
and followed by two consonants. Thus men said _[=Eu]stolia_ and
_[=Au]gustus_, while they said _[)Æ]schylus_ and _[)OE]dipus._ Dryden
and many others usually wrote the _Æ_ as _E_. Thus Garrick in a letter
commends an adaptation of 'Eschylus', and although Boswell reports him
as asking Harris 'Pray, Sir, have you read Potter's _Æschylus_?' both
the speaker and the reporter called the name _Eschylus_.

The letter _y_ was treated as _i_.

The consonants were pronounced as in English words derived from Latin.
Thus _c_ before _e_, _i_, _y_, _æ_, and _oe_ was _s_, as in _census_,
_circus_, _Cyrus_, _Cæsar_, and _coelestial_, a spelling not classical
and now out of use. Elsewhere _c_ was _k_. Before the same vowels _g_
was _j_ (d[ezh]), as in _genus_, _gibbus_, _gyrus_. The sibilant was
voiced or voiceless as in English words, the one in _rosaceus_, the
other in _saliva_.

It will be seen that the Latin sounds were throughout frankly
Anglicized. According to Burney a like principle was followed by
Burke when he read French poetry aloud. He read it as though it were
English. Thus on his lips the French word _comment_ was pronounced as
the English word _comment_.

The rule that overrode all others, though it has the exceptions given
below, was that vowels and any other diphthongs than _au_ and _eu_, if
they were followed by two consonants, were pronounced short. Thus _a_
in _magnus_, though long in classical Latin, was pronounced as in our
'magnitude', and _e_ in _census_, in Greek transcription represented
by [Greek: eta], was pronounced short, as it is when borrowed into
English. So were the penultimate vowels in _villa_, _nullus_, _cæspes_.

This rule of shortening the vowel before two consonants held good even
when in fact only one was pronounced, as in _nullus_ and other words
where a double consonant was written and in Italian pronounced.

Moreover, the parasitic _y_ was treated as a consonant, hence our

In the penultima _qu_ was treated as a single consonant, so that the
vowel was pronounced long in _[=a]quam_, _[=e]quam_, _in[=i]quam_,
_l[=o]quor_. So it was after _o_, hence our 'coll[=o]quial'; but in
earlier syllables than the penultima _qu_ was treated as a double
consonant, hence our 'sub[)a]queous', 'equity', 'iniquity'.


1. When the former of the two consonants was _r_ and the latter
another consonant than _r_, as in the series represented by _larva_,
_verbum_, _circus_, _corpus_, _laburnum_, the vowels are a separate
class of long vowels, though not really recognized as such. Of course
our ancestors and the Gradus marked them long because in verse the
vowel with the two consonants makes a long unit.

2. A fully stressed vowel before a mute and _r_, or before _d_
or _pl_, was pronounced long in the penultima. Latin examples are
_labrum_, _Hebrum_, _librum_, _probrum_, _rubrum_, _acrem_, _cedrum_,
_vafrum_, _agrum_, _pigrum_, _aprum_, _veprem_, _patrem_, _citrum_,
_utrum_, _triplus_, _duplex_, _Cyclops_. Moreover, in other syllables
than the penultima the vowel in the same combinations was pronounced
long if the two following vowels had no consonant between them, as
_patria_, _Hadria_, _acrius_. (Our 'triple' comes from _triplum_ and
is a duplicate of '_treble_'. Perhaps the short vowel is due to its
passage through French. Our 'citron' comes from _citronem_, in which
_i_ was short.)

3. The preposition and adverb _post_ was pronounced with a long vowel
both by itself and in composition with verbs, but its adjectives
did not follow suit. Hence we say in English 'p[=o]stpone', but
'p[)o]sterior' and 'p[)o]sthumous'.

Monosyllables ending in a vowel were pronounced long, those ending in
a consonant short. Enclitics like _que_ were no real exception as
they formed part of the preceding word. There were, however, some real

1. Pronouns ending in _-os_, as _hos_, _quos_. These followed _eos_
and _illos_.

2. Words ending in _-es_, as _pes_, _res_.

3. Words ending in _r_, as _par_, _fer_, _vir_, _cor_, _fur_. These
had that form of long vowel which we use in 'part', 'fertile',
'virtue', 'cordate', 'furtive'.

In, disyllables the former vowel or diphthong, if followed by a single
consonant, or by a mute and _r_, or by _cl_ or _pl_, was pronounced
long, a usage which according to Mr. Henry Bradley dates in spoken
Latin from the fourth century. Examples are _apex_, _tenet_, _item_,
_focus_, _pupa_, _Psyche_, _Cæsar_, _foetus_. I believe that at first
the only exceptions were _tibi_, _sibi_, _ibi_, _quibus_, _tribus_. In
later days the imperfect and future of _sum_ became exceptions. Here
perhaps the short vowel arose from the hideous and wholly erroneous
habit, happily never universal though still in some vogue, of reciting
_erám_, _erás_, _erát_. There are actually schoolbooks which treat the
verse _ictus_, the beat of the chanter's foot, as a word stress and
prescribe _terra tribús scopulís_. I can say of these books only
_Pereant ipsi, mutescant scriptores_, and do not mind using a
post-classical word in order to say it.

In disyllables the former vowel or diphthong, if followed immediately
by another vowel or diphthong, had the quality, and if emphatic also
the quality, of a long vowel. The distinction was not recognized,
and seems not to be generally acknowledged even now. We seem not to
have borrowed many words which will illustrate this. We have however
_fiat_, and _pius_ was pronounced exactly as we pronounce 'pious',
while for a diphthong we may quote Shelley,

  Mid the mountains Euganean
  I stood listening to the paean.

English derivatives will show the long quality of the vowels in _aer_,
_deus_, _coit_, _duo_. To these add _Graius_.

The rule of _apex_ applies also to words of more than two syllables
with long penultima, as _gravamen_, _arena_, _saliva_, _abdomen_,
_acumen_. The rule of _aer_ also holds good though it hardly has
other instances than Greek names, as _Macháon_, _Ænéas_, _Thalía_,
_Achelóus_, _Ach['æ]i_.

In words of more than two syllables with short penultima the vowel
in the stressed antepenultima was pronounced short when there was a
consonant between the two last vowels, and _i_ and _y_ were short
even when no consonant stood in that place. Examples are _stamina_,
_Sexagesima_, _minimum_, _modicum_, _tibia_, _Polybius_. But _u_,
_au_, _eu_ were, as usual, exceptions, as _tumulus_, _Aufidus_,
_Eutychus_. I believe that originally men said _C[)æ]sarem_, as they
certainly said _c[)æ]spitem_ and _C[)æ]tulum_, as also _C[)æ]sarea_,
but here in familiar words the cases came to follow the nominative.

Exceptions to the rule were verb forms which had _[=a]v_, _[=e]v_,
_[=i]v_, or _[=o]v_ in the antepenultima, as _am[=a]veram_,
_defieverat_, _audivero_, _moveras_, and like forms from aorists with
the penultima long, as _suaseram_, _egero_, _miserat_, _roseras_, and
their compounds.

This rule was among the first to break down, and about the middle
of the nineteenth century the Westminster Play began to observe the
true quantities in the antepenultimate syllables. Thus in spite of
'cons[)i]deration' boys said _s[=i]dera_, and in spite of 'n[)o]minal'
they said _nômina_, while they still said _s[)o]litus_ and

On the other hand the following rule, of which borrowed words provide
many examples, still obtains in the Play. In words of more than two
syllables any vowel in the antepenultima other than _i_ or _y_ was
pronounced long if no consonant divided the two following vowels.
Possibly the reason was that there was a synæresis of the two vowels,
but I doubt this, for a parasitic _y_ was treated as a consonant.
Examples are _alias_, _genius_, _odium_, _junior_, _anæmia_, and
on the other hand _f[)i]lius_, _L[)y]dia_. Compound verbs with a
short prefix were exceptions, as _[)o]beo_, _r[)e]creo_, whence our
'recreant'. A long prefix remained long as in _d[=e]sino_. The only
other exception that I can remember was _Ph[)o]loe_.

In polysyllables the general rule was that all vowels and diphthongs
before the penultima other than _u_, when it bore a primary or
secondary stress, and _au_ and _eu_ were pronounced short except
where the 'alias' rule or the 'larva' rule applied. Thus we said
_h[)e]r[)e]ditaritis_, _[)æ]qu[)a]bilitas_, _imb[)e]cillus_,
_susp[)i]cionem_, but _fid[=u]ciarius_, _m[=e]diocritas_,
_p[=a]rticipare_. I do not know why the popular voice now gives
_[)A]riadne_, for our forefathers said _[=A]riadne_ as they said

In very long words the alternation of stress and no-stress was
insisted on. I remember a schoolmaster who took his degree at Oxford
in the year 1827 reproving a boy for saying _Álphesib['oe]us_ instead
of _Alphesib['oe]us_, and I suspect that Wordsworth meant no inverted
stress in

  Laódamía, that at Jove's command--

nor Landor in

  Artémidóra, gods invisible--

though I hope that they did.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not to be thought that these rules were in any way arbitrary. So
little was this so that, I believe, they were never even formulated.
If examples with the quantities marked were ever given, they must have
been for the use of foreigners settling in England. English boys did
not want rules, and their teachers could not really have given them.
The teachers did not understand that each vowel represented not two
sounds only, a long and a short, but many more. This fact was no more
understood by John Walker, the actor and lexicographer, who in 1798
published a Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek and Latin
proper names. His general rule was wrong as a general rule, and so far
as it agreed with facts it was useless. He says that when a vowel ends
a syllable it is long, and when it does not it is short. Apart from
the confusion of cause and effect there is the error of identifying
for instance the _e_ in _beatus_ and the _e_ in _habebat_. Moreover,
Walker confounds the _u_ in 'curfew', really long, with the short and
otherwise different _u_ in 'but'. The rule was useless as a guide,
for it did not say whether _moneo_ for instance was to be read as
_ino-neo_ or as _mon-eo_, and therefore whether the _o_ was to be long
or short. Even Walker's list is no exact guide. He gives for instance
_M[=o]-na_, which is right, and _M[=o]-næses_, which is not. Now
without going into the difference between long vowels and ordinary
vowels, of which latter some are long in scansion and some short,
it is clear that there is no identity. In fact _Mona_, has the long
_o_ of 'moan' and _Monæses_ the ordinary _o_ of 'monaster'. A boy at
school was not troubled by these matters. He had only two things to
learn, first the quantity of the penultimate unit, second the fact
that a final vowel was pronounced. When he knew these two things
he gave the Latin word the sounds which it would have if it were
an English word imported from the Latin. Thus he finds the word
_civilitate_. I am not sure that he could find it, but that does not
matter. He would know 'civility', and he learns that the penultima of
the Latin word is long. Therefore he says _c[)i]v[)i]l[)i]t[=a]t[)e]_.
Again he knows '[)i]nf[)i]n[)i]t' (I must be allowed to spell the
word as it is pronounced except in corrupt quires). He finds that
the penultima of _infinitivus_ is long, and he therefore says
_[)i]nf[)i]n[)i]t[=i]v[)u]s_. Again he knows 'irradiate', and
finding that the penultima of _irradiabitur_ is short he says
_[)i]rr[=a]d[)i][)a]b[)i]t[)u]r_. It is true that some of these
verb forms under the influence of their congeners came to have
an exceptional pronunciation. Thus _irradi[=a]bit_ led at last to
_irradi[=a]bitur_, but I doubt whether this occurred before the
nineteenth century. The word _dabitur_, almost naturalized by Luther's
adage of _date et dabitur_, kept its short _a_ down to the time when
it regained it, in a slightly different form, by its Roman right;
and _am[)a]mini_ and _mon[)e]mini_ were unwavering in their use. Old
people said _v[=a]ri[)a]bilis_ long after the true quantities had
asserted themselves, and the word as the specific name of a plant may
be heard even now. Its first syllable of course follows what I shall
call the 'alias' rule. We may still see this rule in other instances.
All men say 'hippopót[)a]mus', and even those who know that this _a_
is short in Greek can say nothing but 'Mesopot[=a]mia', unless indeed
the word lose its blessed and comforting powers in a disyllabic
abbreviation. When a country was named after Cecil Rhodes, where the
_e_ in the surname is mute, we all called it 'Rhod[=e]sia'. Had it
been named after a Newman, where the _a_ is short or rather obscure,
we should all have called it 'Newm[=a]nia ', while, named after a
Davis, it would certainly have been 'Dav[)i]sia'. The process of
thought would in each case have been unconscious. A new example is
'aviation', whose first vowel has been instinctively lengthened.

Again, when the word 'telegram' was coined, some scholars objected to
its formation and insisted upon 'telegrapheme', but the most obdurate
Grecian did not propose to keep the long Greek vowel in the first
syllable. When only the other day 'cinematograph' made its not wholly
desirable appearance, it made no claim to a long vowel in either of
its two first syllables. Not till it was reasonably shortened into
'c[)i]n[)e]ma' did a Judge from the Bench make a lawless decree for a
long second vowel, and even he left the _i_ short though it is long in

Of course with the manner of speech the quantities had to be learnt
separately. The task was not as difficult as some may think. To boys
with a taste for making verses the thumbing of a Gradus (I hope that
no one calls it a Gr[)a]dus) was always a delightful occupation, and
a quantity once learnt was seldom forgotten. It must be admitted that,
as boys were forced to do verses, whether they could or not, there
were always some who could read and yet forget.

Although these usages did not precede but followed the pronunciation
of words already borrowed from Latin, we may use them to classify
the changes of quantity. We shall see that although there are some
exceptions for which it is difficult to give a reason, yet most of
the exceptions fall under two classes. When words came to us through
French, the pronunciation was often affected by the French form of the
word. Thus the adjective 'present' would, if it had come direct from
Latin, have had a long vowel in the first syllable. To an English ear
'pr[)e]sent' seemed nearer than 'pr[=e]sent' to the French 'présent'.
The _N.E.D._ says that 'gladiator' comes straight from the Latin
'gladiatorem'. Surely in that case it would have had its first vowel
long, as in 'radiator' and 'mediator'. In any case its pronunciation
must have been affected by 'gladiateur'. The other class of exceptions
consists of words deliberately introduced by writers at a late period.
Thus 'adorable' began as a penman's word. Following 'inéxorable' and
the like it should have been 'ádorable'. Actually it was formed by
adding _-able_ to 'adóre', like 'laughable'. It is now too stiff in
the joints to think of a change, and must continue to figure with the
other sins of the Restoration.

Before dealing with the words as classified by their formation, we may
make short lists of typical words to show that for the pronunciation
of English derivatives it is idle to refer to the classical

From _[=æ]_: [)e]difice, [)e]mulate, c[)e]rulean, qu[)e]stion.

From _[=oe]_: [)e]conomy, [)e]cumenical, conf[)e]derate.

From _[=a]_,: don[)a]tive, n[)a]tural, cl[)a]mour, [)a]verse.

From _[)a]_: [=a]lien, st[=a]tion, st[=a]ble, [=a]miable.

From _[=e]_: [)e]vident, Quadrag[)e]sima, pl[)e]nitude, s[)e]gregate.

From _[)e]_: s[=e]ries, s[=e]nile, g[=e]nus, g[=e]nius.

From _[=i]_: lasc[)i]vious, erad[)i]cate, d[)i]vidend, f[)i]lial,

From _[)i]_: l[=i]bel, m[=i]tre, s[=i]lex.

From _[=o]_: [)o]rator, pr[)o]minent, pr[)o]montory, s[)o]litude.

From _[)o]_: b[=o]vine, l[=o]cal, f[=o]rum, coll[=o]quial.

From _[=u]_: fig[)u]rative, script[)u]ral, sol[)u]ble.

From _[)u]_: n[=u]merous, C[=u]pid, all[=u]vial, cer[=u]lean.

The _N.E.D._ prefers the spelling 'oecumenical'; but Newman wrote
naturally 'ecumenical', and so does Dr. J.B. Bury. Dublin scholarship
has in this matter been markedly correct.


In classification it seems simplest to take the words according
to their Latin stems. We must, however, first deal with a class of
adjectives borrowed bodily from the Latin nominative masculine with
the insertion of a meaningless _o_ before the final _-us_.[1] These
of course follow the rules given above. In words of more than two
syllables the antepenultimate and stressed vowel is shortened, as
'[)e]mulous' from _æmulus_ and in 'fr[)i]volous' from _fr[=i]volus_,
except where by the 'alias' rule it is long, as in 'egr[=e]gious' from
_egr[)e]gius_. Words coined on this analogy also follow the rules.
Thus 'glabrous' and 'fibrous' have the vowels long, as in the
traditional pronunciation of _glabrum_ and _fibrum_, where the vowels
in classical Latin were short. The stressed _u_ being always long we
have 'lug[=u]brious' and 'sal[=u]brious', the length being independent
of the 'alias' rule. Some words ending in _-ous_ are not of this
class. Thus 'odorous' and 'clamorous' appear in Italian as _odoroso_
and _clamoroso_. Milton has

  Sonórous mettal blowing Martial sounds.

The Italian is _sonoro_, and our word was simply the Latin _sonorus_
borrowed bodily at a somewhat late period. Hence the stress remains
on the penultima. Skeat thought that the word would at last become
'sónorous'. It maybe hoped that Milton's line will save it from the
effect of a false analogy.

[Footnote 1: I regard this statement as inaccurate. The _-ous_ in
these words does not come from the nominative ending _-us_, but is the
ordinary _-ous_ from L. _-osus_ (through Fr.). It was added to many
Latin adjective stems, because the need of a distinctly adjectival
ending was felt. Similarly in early French _-eux_ was appended to
adjectives when they were felt to require a termination, as in
_pieux_ from _pi-us_. Compare the English _capacious_, _veracious_,
_hilarious_, where _-ous_ is added to other stems than those in _o_.
Other suffixes of Latin origin are used in the same way: e.g. _-al_ in
_aerial_, _ethereal_.--H.B.]

In classifying by stems it will be well to add, where possible, words
of Greek origin. Except in some late introductions Greek words, except
when introduced bodily, have been treated as if they came through
Latin, and some of the bodily introductions are in the same case. Thus
'anæsthetic' is spelt with the Latin diphthong and the Latin _c_.
Even 'skeleton' had a _c_ to start with, while the modern and wholly
abominable 'kaleidoscope' is unprincipled on the face of it.

STEMS ENDING IN -ANT AND -ENT. These are participles or words formed
as such. Our words have shed a syllable, thus _regentem_ has become
'regent'. Disyllables follow the 'apex' rule and lengthen the first
vowel, as 'agent', 'decent', 'potent'. Exceptions are 'clement' and
'present', perhaps under French influence. Words of more than two
syllables with a single consonant before the termination throw the
stress back and shorten a long penultima, as 'ignorant', 'president',
'confident', 'adjutant'. Where there are two heavy consonants, the
stress remains on the penultima, as 'consultant', 'triumphant', even
when one of the consonants is not pronounced, as 'reminiscent'. In
some cases the Latinists seem to have deliberately altered the
natural pronunciation. Thus Gower has 'ápparaúnt', but the word became
'appárent' before Shakespeare's time, and later introductions such as
'adherent' followed it. What right 'adjacent' has to its long vowel
and penultimate stress I do not know, but it cannot be altered now.

STEMS ENDING IN -ATO AND -UTO. These are mostly past participles, but
many of them are used in English as verbs. It must be admitted that
the disyllabic words are not wholly constant to a principle. Those
verbs that come from _-latum_ consistently stress the last vowel,
as 'dilate', 'relate', 'collate'. So does 'create', because of one
vowel following another. Of the rest all the words of any rank have
the stress on the penultima, as 'vibrate', 'frustrate', 'mígrate',
'cástrate', 'púlsate', 'vácate'. Thus Pope has

  The whisper, that to greatness still too near,
  Perhaps, yet vibrates on his Sov'reign's ear,

and Shelley

  Music, when soft voices die,
  Vibrates in the memory.

There are, however, verbs of no literary account which in usage
either vary in the stress or take it on the latter syllable. Such are
'locate', 'orate', 'negate', 'placate', and perhaps 'rotate'. With
most of these we could well dispense. 'Equate' is mainly a technical
word. Dictionaries seem to prefer the stress on the ultima, but some
at least of the early Victorian mathematicians said 'équate', and the
pronunciation is to be supported. Trisyllabic verbs throw the stress
back and shorten the penultima, as 'dés[)o]late', 'súff[)o]cate',
'scínt[)i]llate'. Even words with heavy double consonants have adopted
this habit. Thus where Browning has (like Milton and Cowper)

  I the Trinity illústrate
    Drinking water'd orange pulp,
  In three sips the Arian frustrate.
    While he drains his at one gulp,

it is now usual to say 'íllustrate'.

Adjectives of this class take as early a stress as they can, as
'órnate', 'pínnate', 'délicate', 'fórtunate'. Nouns from all these
words throw the accent back and shorten or obscure all but the
penultimate vowel, as 'ignorance', 'evaporation'.

STEMS IN -IA. Here even disyllables shorten the penultima, as 'copy',
'province', while longer words throw the stress back as well as
shorten the penultima, as 'injury', 'colony', while 'ignominy' almost
lost its penultimate vowel, and therefore threw back the stress to the
first syllable. Shakespeare frankly writes the word as a trisyllable,

  Thy ignomy sleep with thee in the grave.

Milton restored the lost syllable, often eliding the final vowel, as

  Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain.

Even with heavy consonants we have the early stress, as in 'industry'.
Greek words follow the same rules, as 'agony', 'melody'. Some words
of this class have under French influence been further abbreviated, as

Corresponding STEMS IN -IO keep the same rules. Perhaps the only
disyllable is 'study'; the shortening of a stressed _u_ shows its
immediate derivation from the old French _estudie_. Trisyllabic
examples are 'colloquy', 'ministry', 'perjury'. Many words of this
class have been further abbreviated in their passage through French.
Such are 'benefice', 'divorce', 'office', 'presage', 'suffrage',
'vestige', 'adverb', 'homicide', 'proverb'. The stress in 'divórce'
is due to the long vowel and the two consonants. A few of these
words have been borrowed bodily from Latin, as 'odium', 'tedium',

STEMS IN -DO AND -TO (-SO). These words lose the final Latin syllable
and keep the stress on the vowel which bore it in Latin. The stressed
vowel, except in _au_, _eu_, is short, even when, as in 'vivid',
'florid', it was long in classical Latin. This, of course, is in
accord with the English pronunciation of Latin. Examples are 'acid',
'tepid', 'rigid', 'horrid', 'humid', 'lurid ', 'absurd', 'tacit',
'digit', 'deposit', 'compact', 'complex', 'revise', 'response',
'acute'. Those which have the suffix _-es_ prefixed throw the stress
back, as 'honest', 'modest'. Those which have the suffix _-men_
prefixed also throw the stress back, as 'moment', 'pigment',
'torment', and to the antepenultima, if there be one, as 'argument',
'armament', 'emolument', the penultimate vowel becoming short or
obscure. In 'temperament' the tendency of the second syllable to
disappear has carried the stress still further back. We may compare
'Séptuagint', where _u_ becomes consonantal. An exception for which I
cannot account is 'cemént', but Shakespeare has 'cément'.

STEMS IN -T[=A]T. These are nouns and have the stress on the
antepenultima, which in Latin bore the secondary stress. They
of course show the usual shortening of the vowels with the usual
exceptions. Examples are 'charity', 'equity', 'liberty', 'ferocity',
'authority', and with long antepenultima 'immunity', 'security',
'university'. With no vowel before the penultima the long quality is,
as usual, preserved, as in 'satiety'.

STEMS IN -OSO. These are adjectives and throw the stress back to the
antepenultima, if there be one. In disyllables the penultimate vowel
is long, as in 'famous', 'vinous'; in longer words the antepenultimate
vowel is short, as 'criminous', 'generous'. Many, however, fall
under the 'alias' rule, as 'ingenious', 'odious', while those which
have _i_ in the penultimate run the two last syllables into one, as
'pernicious', 'religious', 'vicious'. A few late introductions, coming
straight from the Latin, retained the Latin stress, as 'morose',

STEMS IN -T[=O]RIO AND -S[=O]RIO. In these words the stress goes
back to the fourth syllable from the end, this in Latin having the
secondary stress, or, as in 'circulatory', 'ambulatory', even further.
In fact the _o_, which of course is shortened, tends to disappear.
Examples are 'declamatory', 'desultory', 'oratory', 'predatory',
'territory'. Three consonants running, as in 'perfunctory', keep the
stress where it has to be in a trisyllable, such as 'victory'. So does
a long vowel before _r_ and another consonant, as in 'precursory'.
Otherwise two consonants have not this effect, as in 'prómontory',
'cónsistory'. In spite of Milton's

  A gloomy Consistory, and them amidst
  With looks agast and sad he thus bespake,

the word is sometimes mispronounced.

STEMS IN -[=A]RIO. These follow the same rules, except that, as in
'ádversary', combinations like _ers_ are shortened and the stress goes
back; and that words ending in _-entary_, such as 'elementary' and
'testamentary', stress the antepenultima. Examples are 'antiquary',
'honorary', 'voluntary', 'emissary'. It is difficult to see a reason
for an irregular quantity in the antepenultima of some trisyllables.
The general rule makes it short, as in 'granary', 'salary', but in
'library' and 'notary' it has been lengthened. The _N.E.D._ gives
'pl[=e]nary', but our grandfathers said 'pl[)e]nary'. Of course
'diary' gives a long quality to the _i_.

STEMS IN -[)I]LI. These seem originally to have retained the short
_i_. Thus Milton's spelling is 'facil' and 'fertil' while other
seventeenth-century writers give 'steril'. This pronunciation still
obtains in America, but in England the words seem to have been usually
assimilated to 'fragile', as Milton spells it, which perhaps always
lengthened the vowel. The penultimate vowel is short.

STEMS IN -[=I]LI. Here the long _i_ is retained, and in disyllables
the penultima is lengthened, as in 'anile', 'senile', 'virile'.
There is no excuse for following the classical quantity in the former
syllables of any of these words. As an English word 'sedilia' shortens
the antepenultimate, like 'tibia' and the rest, the 'alias' rule not
applying when the vowel is _i_.

STEMS IN -B[)I]LI. These mostly come through French and change the
suffix into _-ble_. Disyllables lengthen the penultima, as 'able',
'stable', 'noble', while 'mobile', as in French, lengthens its
latter vowel. Trisyllables shorten and stress the antepenultima,
as 'placable', 'equable', but of course _u_ remains long, as in
'mutable'. Longer words throw the stress further back, except mere
negatives, like 'implácable', and words with heavy consonants such as
'delectable'. Examples are 'miserable', 'admirable', 'intolerable',
'despicable'. The Poet Laureate holds that in these words Milton kept
the long Italian _a_ of the penultimate or secondary stress.

  Fall'n Cherube, to be weak is miserable.

In English we have naturalized _-able_ as a suffix and added it to
almost any verb, as 'laughable', 'indescribable', 'desirable'. The
last word may have been taken from French. The form 'des[)i]derable'
occurs from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. Originally
'acceptable' threw the stress back, as in Milton's

  So fit, so acceptable, so Divine,

but the double mute has brought it into line with 'delectable'.
Nowadays one sometimes hears 'dispútable', 'despícable', but these
are intolerable vulgarisms.

SUFFIXES IN T[)I]LI AND S[)I]LI. These words mostly lengthen the _i_
and make the usual shortenings, as 'missile', 'sessile', 'textile',
'volatile', but of course 'futile'. Exceptions which I cannot explain
are 'foss[)i]l' and 'fus[)i]le'.

SUFFIX IN [=A]LI. These adjectives shorten the _-a_ and, with the
usual exceptions, the preceding vowels, as 'dóctrinal', 'fílial',
'líberal', 'márital', 'medícinal', but of course by the 'alias'
rule 'arb[=o]real' (not a classical word in Latin) and 'g[=e]nial'.
Words like 'national' and 'rational' were treated like trisyllables,
which they now are. The stress is on the antepenultima except when
heavy consonants bring it on to the penultima, as in 'sepulcral',
'parental', 'triumphal'.

Those who say 'doctrínal' on the ground that the second vowel is long
in Latin commit themselves to 'medicínal', 'natúral', 'nutríment',
'instrúment', and, if their own principle be applied, they make false
quantities by the dozen every day of their lives.

Three words mostly mispronounced are, from their rarity, perhaps not
past rescue. They are 'décanal', 'ruridécanal', and 'prébendal'. There
is no more reason for saying 'decánal' than for saying 'matrónal' or
for saying 'prebéndal' than for saying 'caléndar'. Of course words
like 'tremendous', being imported whole, keep the original stress.
In our case the Latin words came into existence as _décanális_,
_prébendális_, parallel with _náturális_, which gives us 'nátural'.
That mostly wrong-headed man, Burgon of Chichester, was correct in
speaking of his rights or at any rate his claims as 'décanal'.

STEMS IN -LO. Of these 'stimulus' and 'villa' have been borrowed
whole, while _umbella_ is corrupted into 'umbrella'. Disyllables
lengthen the penultima, as 'stable', 'title', 'pupil'. Under French
influence 'disciple' follows their example. In longer words the usual
shortenings are made, as in 'frivolous', 'ridiculous'. The older
words in _-ulo_ change the suffix into _-le_, as 'uncle', 'maniple',
'tabernacle', 'conventicle', 'receptacle', 'panicle'. Later words
retain the _u_, as 'vestibule', 'reticule', 'molecule'.

STEMS IN -NO. The many words of this class are a grief to the
classifier, who seeks in vain for reasons. Thus 'german' and 'germane'
have the same source and travelled, it seems, by the same road through
France. The Latin _hyacinth[)i]nus_ and _adamant[)i]nus_ are parallel
words, yet Milton has 'hyacinthin' for the one and 'adamantine' for
the other. One classification goes a little way. Thus 'human' and
'urban' must have come through French, 'humane' and 'urbane' direct
from Latin. On the other hand while 'meridian' and 'quartan' are
French, 'publican', 'veteran', and 'oppidan' are Latin. Words with
a long _i_, if they came early through France, shorten the vowel,
as 'doctrine', 'discipline', 'medicine', and 'masculine', while
'genuine', though a later word, followed them, but 'anserine' and
'leonine' did not. Disyllables seem to prefer the stress on the
ultima, as 'divine', 'supine', but even these are not consistent. Some
critics would scan Cassio's words

  The dívine Desdemona,

though Shakespeare nowhere else has this stress, while Shelley has.
Shelley, too, has

  She cannot know how well the súpine slaves
  Of blind authority read the truth of things.

The grammatical term, too, is 'súpine'. Later introductions also have
this stress, as 'bóvine', 'cánine', 'équine'. The last word is not
always understood. At any rate Halliwell-Phillips, referring to a
well-known story of Shakespeare's youth, says that the poet probably
attended the theatre 'in some equine capacity'. As it is agreed that
'bovine' and 'equine' lengthen the former vowel, we ought by analogy
to say 'c[=a]nine', as probably most people do. Words of more than two
syllables have the stress on the antepenultima and the vowel is short,
as in 'libertine', 'adulterine', but of course '[=u]terine'. When
heavy consonants bring the stress on to the penultima, the _i_ is
shortened, as in 'clandest[)i]n(e)', 'intest[)i]n(e)', and so in like
disyllables, as 'doctr[)i]n(e)'. The modern words 'morphin(e)' and
'strychnin(e)', coined, the one from Morpheus and the other from the
Greek name of the plant known to botanists as _Withania somnifera_,
correctly follow 'doctrine' in shortening the _i_, though another
pronunciation is sometimes heard.

STEMS IN -TUDIN. These shorten the antepenultima, as 'plenitude',
'solitude', with the usual exceptions, such as 'fortitude'.

STEMS IN -TION. These words retain the suffix, which in early days
was disyllabic, as it sometimes is in Shakespeare, for instance in

  Before a friend of this descriptión
  Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault.

Thus they came under the 'alias' rule, and what is now the penultimate
vowel is long unless it be _i_. Examples are 'nation', 'accretion',
'emotion', 'solution', while _i_ is shortened in 'petition',
'munition', and the like, and left short in 'admonition' and
others. In military use an exception is made by 'ration', but the
pronunciation is confined to one sense of the word, and is new at
that. I remember old soldiers of George III who spoke of 'r[=a]tions'.
Perhaps the ugly change is due to French influence.

Originally the adjectives from these words must have lengthened the
fourth vowel from the end long, as n[=a]t[)i][)o]nal, but when _ti_
became _sh_ they came to follow the rule of Latin trisyllables in our

STEMS IN -IC. Of these words we have a good many, both Latin and
Greek. Those that came direct keep the stress on the vowel which was
antepenultimate and is in English penultimate, and this vowel is short
whatever its original quantity. Examples are 'aquatic', 'italic',
'Germanic'. Words that came through French threw the stress back, as
'lúnatic'. Skeat says that 'fanatic' came through French, but he can
hardly be right, for the pronunciation 'fánatic' is barely three score
years old. There is no inverted stress in Milton's

  Fanátic Egypt and her priests.

As for 'unique' it is a modern borrowing from French, and of late
'ántique' or 'ántic', as Shakespeare has it, has followed in one of
its senses the French use. It is a pity in face of Milton's

  With mask and ántique Pageantry,

and it obscures the etymological identity of 'antique' and 'antic',
but the old pronunciation is irredeemable. At least the new avoids the
homophonic inconvenience.

Greek words of this class used as adjectives mostly follow the
same rule, as 'sporadic', 'dynamic', 'pneumatic', 'esoteric',
'philanthropic', 'emetic', 'panegyric'. As nouns the earlier
introductions threw the stress back, as 'heretic', 'arithmetic',
but later words follow the adjectives, as 'emetic', 'enclitic',
'panegyric'. As for 'politic', which is stressed as we stress both by
Shakespeare and by Milton, it must be under French influence, though
Skeat seems to think that it came straight from Latin.

STEMS IN -OS. These words agree in being disyllabic, but otherwise
they are a tiresome and quarrelsome people. For their diversity in
spelling some can make a defence, since 'horror', 'pallor', 'stupor'
came straight from Latin, but 'tenor', coming through French, should
have joined hands with 'colour', 'honour', 'odour'. The short vowel is
inevitable in 'horror' and 'pallor', the long in 'ardour', 'stupor',
'tumour'. The rest are at war, 'clamour', 'colour', 'honour',
'dolour', 'rigour', 'squalor', 'tenor', 'vigour' in the short
legion, 'favour', 'labour', 'odour', 'vapour' in the long. Their
camp-followers ending in -ous are under their discipline, so that,
while 'cl[)a]morous', 'r[)i]gorous', 'v[)i]gorous' agree with
the general rule, '[=o]dorous' makes an exception to it. All
the derivatives of _favor_ are exceptions to the general rule,
for 'favourite' and 'favorable' keep its long _a_. Of course
'l[)a]b[=o]rious' is quite in order, and so is 'v[)a]pid'.

STEMS IN -TOR AND -SOR. These words, when they came through French,
threw the stress back and shortened the penultimate, _[=o]r[=a]torem_
becoming _orateur_, and then '[)o]r[)a]tor', with the stress on the
antepenultimate. Others of the same type are 'auditor', 'competitor',
'senator', and Shelley has

  The sister-pest, congrégator of slaves,

while 'amateur' is borrowed whole from French and stresses its ultima.
Trisyllables of course shorten the first vowel, as 'cr[)e]ditor',
'j[)a]nitor'. Polysyllables follow the stress of the verbs; thus
'ágitate' gives 'ágitator' and 'compóse' gives 'compósitor'. To the
first class belongs 'circulator', 'educator', 'imitator', 'moderator',
'negotiator', 'prevaricator', with which 'gladiator' associates
itself; to the second belongs 'competitor'. Words which came straight
from Latin keep the stress of the Latin nominative, as 'creator',
'spectator', 'testator', 'coadjutor', 'assessor', to which in Walton's
honour must be added 'Piscator' and 'Venator'. On 'curator' he who
decides does so at his peril. On one occasion Eldon from the Bench
corrected Erskine for saying 'cúr[)a]tor'. 'Cur[=a]tor, Mr. Erskine,
cur[=a]tor.' 'I am glad', was the reply, 'to be set right by so
eminent a sen[=a]tor and so eloquent an or[=a]tor as your Lordship.'
Neither eminent lawyer knew much about it, but each was so far right
that he stuck to the custom of his country. On other grounds Erskine
might be thought to have committed himself to 'tést[)a]tor', if not
quite to the 'testy tricks' of Sally in Mrs. Gaskell's 'Ruth'.

STEMS IN -ERO AND -URO. Adjectives of this type keep the Latin stress,
which thus falls on the ultima, and shorten or obscure the penultimate
vowel, as 'mature', 'obscure', 'severe', 'sincere', but of course
'[=a]ustere'. Of like form though of other origin is 'secure'. Nouns
take an early stress, as 'áperture', 'sépulture', 'líterature',
'témperature', unless two mutes obstruct, as in 'conjécture'. Of the
disyllables 'nature' keeps a long penultima, while 'figure' has it
short, not because of the Latin quantity, but because of the French.

The lonely word 'mediocre' lengthens its first vowel by the 'alias'
rule and also stresses it. Whether the penultima has more than a
secondary stress is a matter of dispute.

STEMS IN -ARI. These words have the stress on the antepenultima,
which they shorten, as in 'secular' or keep short as in 'jocular',
'familiar', but of course 'pec[=u]liar'.


It will have been seen that Greek words are usually treated as Latin.
Thus 'crisis' lengthens the penultima under the 'apex' rule, while
'critical' has it short under the general rule of polysyllables.
Other examples of lengthening are 'bathos', 'pathos', while the long
quantity is of course kept in 'colon' and 'crasis'. For the 'alias'
rule we may quote '[=a]theist', 'cryptog[=a]mia', 'h[=o]meopathy',
'heterog[=e]neous', 'pandem[=o]nium', while the normal shortenings
are found in 'an[)o]nymous', 'eph[)e]meral', 'pand[)e]monium',
'[)e]r[)e]mite'. Ignorance of English usage has made some editors
flounder on a line of Pope's:

  Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite.

The birthplace of Aristotle was of course Stag[=i]ra or, as it is now
fashionable to transcribe it, Stageira, as Pope doubtless knew, but
the editors who accuse him of a false quantity in Greek are on the
contrary themselves guilty of one in English. The penultima in English
is short whether it was long or, as in 'dynamite' and 'malachite',
short in Greek.

There is, however, one distinct class of Greek words in which the
Latin rule is not followed. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
there were scholars who rightly or wrongly treated the Greek accent as
a mark of stress. It is clear that this habit led to an inability to
maintain a long quantity in an unstressed syllable. Shakespeare must
have learnt his little Greek from a scholar who had this habit, for he
writes 'Andrón[)i]cus' and also

  I am misánthr[)o]pos and hate mankind.

Of course all scholars shortened the first vowel of the word, and
doubtless Shakespeare shortened also the third. Busby also thus
spoke Greek with the result that Dryden in later life sometimes
wrote epsilon instead of eta and also spoke of 'Cleoménes' and
'Iphig[=e]n[)i]a'. As a boy at Westminster he wrote

  Learn'd, Vertuous, Pious, Great, and have by this
  An universal Metempsuchosis.

Macaulay with an ignorance very unusual in him rebuked his nephew for
saying 'metamórph[)o]sis', and Dr. Johnson, had he been living, would
have rebuked Macaulay. For the sake of our poets we ought to save
'apothé[)o]sis', which is in some danger. Garth may perhaps be

  Allots the prince of his celestial line
  An Apotheosis and rights divine,

but 'Rejected Addresses' should still carry weight. In the burlesque
couplet, ascribed in the first edition to the younger Colman and
afterwards transferred to Theodore Hook, we have

  That John and Mrs. Bull from ale and tea-houses
  May shout huzza for Punch's apotheosis.

It need hardly be said that 'tea-houses' like 'grandfathers' has the
stress on the antepenultimate.

There are other words of Greek origin which now break the rules,
though I believe the infringement to be quite modern. First we have
the class beginning with _proto_. It can hardly be doubted that our
ancestors followed rule and said 'pr[)o]tocol', and 'pr[)o]totype',
and I suspect also 'pr[)o]tomartyr'. There seems, however, to be
a general agreement nowadays to keep the Greek omega. As for
'protagonist' the word is so technical and is often so ludicrously
misunderstood that writers on the Greek drama would do well to retain
the Greek termination and say 'protagonistes'; for 'protagonist' is
very commonly mistaken and used for the opposite of 'antagonist'.

Next come words beginning with _hypo_ or _hyph_. In a disyllable the
vowel is long by the 'apex' rule, as in 'hyphen'. In longer words
it should be short. So once it was, and we still say 'hypocaust',
'hypocrit', 'hypochondria' (whence 'hypped'), 'hypothesis', and
others, but a large group of technical and scientific words seems
determined to have a long _y_. It looks as though there were a belief
that _y_ is naturally long, though the French influence which gives us
't[=y]rant' does not extend to 'tyranny'. I do not know what Mr. Hardy
calls his poem, but I hope he follows the old use and calls it 'The
D[)y]nasts'. It might be thought that 'd[)y]nasty' was safe, but it
is not. Some modern words like 'dynamite' have been misused from their

Another class begins with _hydro-_ from the Greek word for water. None
of them seem to be very old, but probably 'hydraulic' began life with
a short _y_. Surely Mrs. Malaprop, when she meant 'hysterics' and said
'hydrostatics', must have used the short _y_. Of course 'hydra' which
comes from the same root follows the 'apex' rule.

Words beginning with _hyper-_ seem nowadays always to have a long _y_
except that one sometimes hears 'h[)y]perbole' and 'h[)y]perbolical'.
Of course both in _hypo-_ and in _hyper-_ the vowel is short in Greek,
so that here at least the strange lengthening cannot be ascribed to
the Grecians. The false theory of a long _y_ has not affected 'cynic'
or 'cynical', while 'Cyril' has been saved by being a Christian
name. We may yet hope to retain _y_ short in 'cylinder', 'cynosure',
'lycanthropy', 'mythology', 'pyramid', 'pyrotechnic', 'sycamore',
'synonym', 'typical'. As for 'h[=y]brid' it seems as much a caprice
as '[=a]crid', a pronunciation often heard. Though 'acrid' is a false
formation it ought to follow 'vivid' and 'florid'. The 'alias' rule
enforces a long _y_ in 'hygiene' and 'hygienic'.

On the matter of Greek names the lettern and the pulpit are grievous
offenders. Once it was not so. The clergymen of the old type and
the scholars of the Oxford Retrogression said T[)i]m[=o]th[)e][)u]s,
because they had a sense of English and followed, consciously or
unconsciously, the 'alias' rule. If there was ever an error, it was
on the lips of some illiterate literate who made three syllables of
the word. Now it seems fashionable to say T[=i]m[)o]th[)e][)u]s. The
literate was better than this, for he at least had no theory, and
frank ignorance is to be forgiven. It is no shame to a man not to know
that the second _i_ in 'Villiers' is as mute as that in 'Parliament'
or that Bolingbroke's name began with Bull and ended with brook, but
when ignorance constructs a theory it is quite another matter. The
etymological theory of pronunciation is intolerable. Etymology was
a charming nymph even when men had but a distant acquaintance with
her, and a nearer view adds to her graces; but when she is dragged
reluctant from her element she flops like a stranded mermaid. The
curate says 'Deuteronómy', and on his theory ought to say 'económy'
and 'etymológy'. When Robert Gomery--why not give the reverend
poetaster his real if less elegant name--published his once popular
work, every one called it 'The Omnípresence of the Deïty', and Shelley
had already written

  And, as I look'd, the bright omnípresence
  Of morning through the orient cavern flowed.

It is true that Ken a century earlier had committed himself to

  Thou while below wert yet on high
  By Omniprésent Deity,

and later Coleridge, perhaps characteristically, had sinned with

  There is one Mind, one omniprésent Mind,

but neither the bishop nor the poet would have said 'omniscíence', or

Another word to show signs of etymological corruption is
'[)e]volution'. It seems to have been introduced as a technical term
of the art of war, and of course, like 'd[)e]volution', shortened
the _e_. The biologists first borrowed it and later seem desirous of
corrupting it. Perhaps they think of such words as '[=e]gress', but
the long vowel is right in the stressed penultimate.

One natural tendency in English runs strongly against etymology.
This is the tendency to throw the stress back, which about a century
ago turned 'contémplate' into 'cóntemplate' and somewhat later
'illústrate' into 'íllustrate'. Shakespeare and Milton pronounced
'instinct' as we pronounce 'distinct' and 'aspect' as we pronounce
'respect'. Thus Belarius is made to say

            'Tis wonder
  That an invisible instínct should frame them
  To royalty unlearn'd,

and Milton has

  By this new felt attraction and instinct,

and also

  In battailous aspéct and neerer view.

The retrogression of the stress is in these instances well
established, and we cannot quarrel with it; but against some very
recent instances a protest may be made. One seems to be a corruption
of the War. In 1884 the _N.E.D._ recognized no pronunciation of it
save 'allý', as in Romeo's

  This gentleman, the prince's neer Alie.

The late Mr. B.B. Rogers in his translations of Aristophanes has of
course no other pronunciation. His verses are too good to be spoiled
by what began as a vulgarism. Another equally recent vulgarism, not
recognized by the _N.E.D._ and bad enough to make George Russell turn
in his grave, is 'mágazine' for 'magazíne'. It is not yet common, but
such vulgarisms are apt to climb.

In times not quite so recent the word 'prophecy' has changed, not
indeed its stress, but the quantity of its final vowel. When Alford
wrote 'The Queen's English', every one lengthened the last vowel, as
in the verb, nor do I remember any other pronunciation in my boyhood.
Now the _N.E.D._ gives the short vowel only. Alford to his own
satisfaction accounted for the long vowel by the diphthong _ei_ of
the Greek. It is to be feared that his explanation would involve
'dynast[=y]' and 'polic[=y]', even if it did not oblige us to turn
'Pompey' into 'Pomp[=y]'. In this case it may be suspected that
the noun was assimilated to the verb, which follows the analogy of
'magnify' and 'multiply'. The voice of the people which now gives
us 'prophec[)y]' seems here to have felt the power of analogy and
assuredly will prevail.


It is to be hoped that except in reading Latin and Greek texts we
shall keep to the traditional pronunciation of proper names as it
is enshrined in our poetry and other literature. We must continue to
lengthen the stressed penultimate vowel in Athos, Cato, Draco, Eros,
Hebrus, Lichas, Nero, Otho, Plato, Pylos, Remus, Samos, Titus, Venus,
and the many other disyllables wherein it was short in the ancient
tongues. On the other hand we shall shorten the originally long
stressed antepenultimate vowel in Brasidas, Euripides, Icarus,
Lavinia, Lucilius, Lydia, Nicias, Onesimus, Pegasus, Pyramus, Regulus,
Romulus, Scipio, Sisyphus, Socrates, Thucydides, and many more.

Quin, and the actors of his day, used to give to the first vowel in
'Cato' the sound of the _a_ in 'father'. They probably thought that
they were Italianizing such names. In fact their use was neither Latin
nor English. They were like the men of to-day who speak of the town
opposite Dover as 'Cally', a name neither French nor English. A town
which once sent members to the English Parliament has a right to an
English name. Prior rhymed it with 'Alice' and Browning has

  When Fortune's malice
  Lost her Calais.

Shakespeare, of course, spelt it 'Callis', and this form, which was
first evicted by Pope, whom other editors servilely followed, ought
to be restored to Shakespeare's text. In the pronunciation of Cato the
stage regained the English diphthong in the mouth of Garrick, whose
good sense was often in evidence. It is recorded that his example
was not at once followed in Scotland or Ireland. If there was any
Highlander on the stage it may be hoped that he gave to the vowel the
true Latin sound as it appears in 'Mactavish'.

A once well-known schoolmaster, a correspondent of Conington's, had
a daughter born to him whom in his unregenerate days he christened
Rosa. At a later time he became a purist in quantities, and then he
shortened the _o_ and took the voice out of the _s_ and spoke of her
and to her as Rossa. The mother and the sisters refused to acknowledge
what they regarded as a touch of shamrock and clung persistently
to the English flower. The good gentleman did not call his son
Sol[=o]mon,[2] though this is the form which ought to be used by
those who turn the traditional English 'Elk[)a]nah' into 'Elk[=a]nah',
'Ab[)a]na' into 'Ab[=a]na', and 'Zeb[)u]lun' into 'Zeb[=u]lun'. If
they do not know

  Poor Elk[)a]nah, all other troubles past,
  For bread in Smithfield dragons hiss'd at last,

yet at least they ought to know

  Of Abb[)a]na and Pharphar, lucid streams.

The malison of Milton on their heads! If the translators of the Bible
had foreseen 'Zeb[=u]lun', they would have chosen some other word than
'princes' to avoid the cacophony of 'the princes of Zeb[=u]lun'.

[Footnote 2: But pedantry would not suggest this. The New Testament
has [Greek: Solomôn], and the Latin Christian poets have the _o_ short.
True, the Vatican Septuagint has [Greek: Salômôn], but there the vowel
of the first syllable is _a_.--H.B.]

That these usages were familiar is evident from the pronunciation of
proper, especially Biblical, names. Thus 'B[=a]bel' and 'B[)a]bylon',
'N[=i]nus' and 'N[)i]neveh', were spoken as unconsciously as
M[=i]chael' and 'M[)i]chaelmas'. Nobody thought of asking the quantity
of the Hebrew vowels before he spoke of 'C[=a]leb' and 'B[=a]rak', of
'G[)i]deon' and 'G[)i]lead', of 'D[)e]borah' and 'Ab[)i]melech', of
'[=E]phraim' and 'B[=e]lial'. The seeming exceptions can be explained.
Thus the priest said 'H[)e]rod' because in the Vulgate he read
'H[)e]rodes', but there was no Greek or Latin form to make him say
anything else than 'M[=e]roz', 'P[=e]rez', 'S[=e]rah', 'T[=e]resh'.
He said '[)A]dam' because, although the Septuagint and other books
retained the bare form of the name, there were other writings in
which the name was extended by a Latin termination. There was no like
extension to tempt him to say anything but 'C[=a]desh', '[=E]dom',
'J[=a]don', 'N[=a]dab'. I must admit my inability to explain
'Th[)o]mas', but doubtless there is a reason. The abbreviated form was
of course first 'Th[)o]m' and then 'T[)o]m'. Possibly the pet name has
claimed dominion over the classical form. As in the _herba impia_
of the early botanists, these young shoots sometimes refuse to be
'trash'd for overtopping'.

A story is told of an eccentric Essex rector. He was reading in
church the fourth chapter of Judges, and after 'Now D[)e]borah, a
prophetess', suddenly stopped, not much to the astonishment of
the rustics, for they knew his ways. Then he went on 'Deb[)o]rah?
Deb[)o]rah? Deb[=o]rah! Now Deb[=o]rah, a prophetess', and so on.
Probably a freak of memory had reminded him that the letter was
omega in the Septuagint. It will be remembered that Miss Jenkyns in
_Cranford_ liked her sister to call her Deb[=o]rah, 'her father having
once said that the Hebrew name ought to be so pronounced', and it will
not be forgotten that the good rector was too sound a scholar to read
'Deb[=o]rah' at the lettern.

An anecdote of Burgon's is to the point. He had preached in St. Mary's
what he regarded as an epoch-making sermon, and afterwards he walked
home to Oriel with Hawkins, the famous Provost. He looked for comment
and hoped for praise, but the Provost's only remark was, 'Why do
you say Emm[=a]us?' 'I don't know; isn't it Emm[=a]us?' 'No, no;
Emm[)a]us, Emm[)a]us.' When Hawkins was young, in the days of George
III, every one said Emmaus, and in such matters he would say, 'I will
have no innovations in my time.' On the King's lips the phrase, as
referring to politics, was foolish, but Hawkins used it with sense.

PS.--I had meant to cite an anecdote of Johnson. As he walked in the
Strand, a man with a napkin in his hand and no hat stept out of a
tavern and said, 'Pray, Sir, is it irréparable or irrepáirable that
one should say?'--'The last, I think, Sir, for the adjective ought to
follow the verb; but you had better consult my dictionary than me,
for that was the result of more thought than you will now give me time
for.' The dictionary rightly gives _irréparable_, and both the rule
and example of the Doctor's _obiter dicta_ (literally _obiter_) are



       *       *       *       *       *


Several correspondents complain of the incompleteness of the list
of Homophones in Tract II. The object of that list was to convince
readers of the magnitude of the mischief, and the consequent
necessity for preserving niceties of pronunciation: evidence of its
incompleteness must strengthen its plea. The following words may be
added; they are set here in the order of the literary alphabet.

Add to Table I (p. 7)

  band, [^1] _a tie_, [^2] _a company_.

  bend, [^1] _verb_, [^2] _heraldic sub._

  bay, [^1] _tree_, [^2] _arm of sea_, [^3] _window_,
    [^4] _barking of dog_, and '_at bay_',
    [^5] _a dam_, [^6] _of antler_, [^7] _a colour_.

  blaze, [^1] _of flame_, [^2] _to sound forth_.

  bluff, [^1] _adj. & sub. = broad = fronted_,
    [^2] _blinker_, [^3] _sub. and v. confusing_ [^1] _and_ [^2].

  boom, [^1] _to hum_, [^2] _= beam_.

  cant, [^1] _whine_, [^2] _to tilt_.

  chaff, [^1] _of wheat_, [^2] _= chafe (slang)_.

  cove, [^1] _a recess_, [^2] _= chap (slang)_.

  file, [^1] _string_, [^2] _rasp_, [^3] _= to defile_.

  grave, [^1] _sub._, [^2] _adj._

  hind, [^1] _fem. of stag_, [^2] _a peasant_, [^3] _adj. of behind_.

  limb, [^1] _member_, [^2] _edge_, [^3] limn.

  limber, [^1] _shaft of cart (verb in artillery)_,
    [^2] _naut. subs._, [^3] _adj. pliant_.

  loom, [^1] _subs._, [^2] _v._

  nice, gneiss.

  ounce, [^1] _animal_, [^2] _a weight_.

  plash, [^1] _= pleach_, [^2] _a puddle_.

  port, [^1] _demeanour, & military v._,
    [^2] _haven_, [^3] _gate & naut.= port-hole_,
    [^4] _= larboard_, [^5] _a wine_.

  shingle, [^1] _a wooden tile_, [^2] _gravel_,
    [^3] (_in pl._) _a disease_.

  shrub, [^1] _a bush_, [^2] _a drink_.

  smack, [^1] _a sounding blow_, [^2] _a fishing boat_, [^3] _taste_.

  throw, throe.

Also note that _so_ should be added to _sew, sow_, and that the words
_leech_, _leach_, are not sufficiently credited with etymological
variety: [see below p. 33].

To Table II add

  when, _wen_.

To Table VIII

The following words, the absence of which has been noted, are not true


To Table IX add

  must [^1] _obs? new wine_, [^2] _verb._

To Shakespearean obsoletes p. 27 add

  limn, _lost in_ limb.

       *       *       *       *       *


The Poet Laureate has pointed out that several useful words have been
lost to the English language because their identity in sound with
other words renders it impossible to use them without the risk either
of being misunderstood or of calling up undesirable associations.
It is owing to this cause that English--or, at least, the English of
Great Britain--has no word that can correctly be used as a general
designation for a member of the healing profession. In America, I
believe, the word is 'physician'; but in England that appellation
belongs to one branch of the profession exclusively. The most usual
term here is 'doctor'; but the M.D. rightly objects to the application
of this title to his professional brother who has no degree; and
in a university town to say that John Smith is a doctor would be
inconveniently ambiguous. 'Medical man' is cumbrous, and has the
further disadvantage (in these days) of not being of common gender.
Now the lack of any proper word for a meaning so constantly needing
to be expressed is certainly a serious defect in modern (insular)
English. The Americans have some right to crow over us here; but their
'physician' is a long word; and though it has been good English in
the sense of _medicus_ for six hundred years, it ought by etymology
to mean what _physicien_ does in French, and _physicist_ in modern
English. Our ancestors were better off in this respect than either we
or the Americans. The only native word to denote a practiser of the
healing art is _leech_, which is better than the foreign 'physician'
because it is shorter. It was once a term of high dignity: Chaucer
could apply it figuratively to God, as the healer of souls; and even
in the sixteenth century a poet could address his lady as 'My sorowes
leech'. Why can we not so use it now? Why do we not speak of 'The
Royal College of Leeches'? Obviously, because a word of the same form
happens to be the name of an ugly little animal of disgusting habits.
If I were to introduce my medical attendant to a friend with the
words 'This is my leech', the gentleman (or lady) so presented would
think I was indulging in the same sort of pleasantry as is used when
a coachman is called a 'whip'; and he (or she) would probably not
consider the joke to be in the best of taste. Of course all educated
people know that it was once not unusual to speak of a man of medicine
as a 'leech'; but probably there are many who imagine that this
designation was a disparaging allusion to the man's tool of trade, and
that it could be applied only to inferior members of the profession.
The ancient appellation of the healer is so far obsolete that if I
were to answer a question as to a man's profession with the words 'Oh,
he is a leech', there would be some risk of being misunderstood to
mean that he was a money-lender.

Etymologists generally have regarded the name of the bloodsucking
animal as the same word with _leech_ a physician, the assumption being
that the animal received its name from its use as a remedial agent.
But the early forms, both in English and Low German, show that the
words are originally unconnected. The English for _medicus_ was in
the tenth century _l['æ]ce_ or _léce_, and in the thirteenth century
_leche_; the word for _sanguisuga_ was in the tenth century _lyce_,
and in the thirteenth century _liche_. According to phonetic law the
latter word should have become _litch_ in modern English; but it very
early underwent a punning alteration which made it homophonous with
the ancient word for physician. The unfortunate consequence is that
the English language has hopelessly lost a valuable word, for which it
has never been able to find a satisfactory substitute.



On this very difficult question the attitude of a careful English
speaker is shown in the following extract from a letter addressed to


'I find that I do not _naturally_ distinguish _metal_ and _mettle_
in pronunciation, tho' when there is any danger of ambiguity I say
_metal_ for the former and _met'l_ for the latter; and I should
probably do so (without thinking about it) in a public speech. In my
young days the people about me usually pronounced _met'l_ for both.
Theoretically I think the distinction is a desirable one to make;
the fact that the words are etymologically identical seems to me
irrelevant. The words are distinctly two in modern use: when we talk
of _mettle_ (meaning spiritedness) there is in our mind no thought
whatever of the etymological sense of the word, and the recollection
of it, if it occurred, would only be disturbing. So I intend in future
to pronounce metal as _met[e]l_ (when I don't forget). And I am not
sure that _met[e]l_ is, strictly speaking, a "spelling-pronunciation":
It is possible that the difference in spelling originated in a
difference of pronunciation, not the other way about. For _metal_ in
its literal sense was originally a scientific word, and in that sense
may have been pronounced carefully by people who would pronounce
it carelessly when they used it in a colloquial transferred sense
approaching to slang.

'The question of _principal_ and _principle_ is different. When I was
young, educated people in my circle always, I believe, distinguished
them; so to this day when I hear principal pronounced as principle it
gives me a squirm, tho' I am afraid nearly everybody does it now. That
the words are etymologically distinct does not greatly matter; it is
of more importance that I have sometimes been puzzled to know which
word a speaker meant; if I remember right, I once had to ask.

'It would be worth while to distinguish _flower_ and _flour_ (which
originally, like _metal_ and _mettle_, were the same word); yet in
practice it is not easy to make the difference audible. The homophony
is sometimes inconvenient.'


On p. 37 of TRACT II the words 'the Anglo-prussian society which Mr.
Jones represents' have given offence and appear to be inaccurate. The
German title of the series in which Jones's Dictionary is one has the
following arrangement of words facing the English title:






and this misled me. I am assured that, though the dictionary may
be rightly described as Anglo-Prussian, the Phonetic Association is
Gallo-Scandinavian. In behalf of the S.P.E. I apologize to the A.
Ph. I. for my mistake which has led one of its eminent associates to
accuse me of bearing illwill towards the Germans. The logic of that
reproach baffles me utterly.


       *       *       *       *       *



'An Old Cricketer' writes:

'After reading your remarks on the ambiguity of the word _fast_ (Tract
III, p. 12) I read in the report of a Lancashire cricket match that
_Makepeace was the only batsman who was fast-footed_. But for the
context and my knowledge of the game I should have concluded that
Makepeace kept his feet immovably on the crease; but the very opposite
was intended. At school we used to translate [Greek: podas
ôkus Achilleus] "swift-footed Achilles", and I took that to mean that
Achilles was a sprinter. I suppose _quick-footed_ would be the epithet
for Makepeace.'

SPRINTER is a good word, though _Sprinting Achilles_ could not be


A correspondent from Newcastle writes advocating the recognition
of the word _brattle_ as descriptive of thunder. It is a good old
echo-word used by Dunbar and Douglas and Burns and by modern English
writers. It is familiar through the first stanza of Burns's poem 'To a

  Wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beastie,
  O what a panic's in thy breastie.
  Thou need na start awa sae hasty
      Wi' bickering brattle....

which is not suggestive of thunder. The _N.E.D._ explains this as 'to
run with brattling feet, to scamper'.

In Burns's 'A Winter Night', it is the noisy confusion of _biting
Boreas_ in the bare trees and bushes:

  I thought me on the ourie cattle
  Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
        O' winter war.

It is possible that _brattle_ has fallen into disuse through too
indiscriminate application. After Burns's famous poem the word can
establish itself only in the sense of a scurrying dry noise: it is too
small for thunder.

We would call attention to the principle involved in this judgement,
for it is one of the main objects of our society to assist and guide
Englishmen in the use of their language by fully exposing the facts
that should determine their practice. Every word has its history,
and no word can prosper in the speech or writing of those who do not
respect its inherited and unalterable associations; these cannot be
got rid of by ignoring them. Littré in the preface to his dictionary
claims for it this pre-eminent quality of usefulness, that it will
enable his countrymen to speak and write good French by acquainting
them with historic tradition, and he says that it was enthusiasm for
this one purpose that sustained him in his great work. Its object was
to harmonize the present use of the language with the past usage, in
order that the present usage may possess all the fullness, richness,
and certitude which it can have, and which naturally belong to it. His
words are: 'Avant tout, et pour ramener à une idée mère ce qui va être
expliqué dans la _Préface_, je dirai, définissant ce dictionnaire,
qu'il embrasse et combine l'usage présent de la langue et son usage
passé, afin de donner à l'usage présent toute la plénitude et la
sûreté qu'il comporte.'

It is the intention of our society to offer only expert and
well-considered opinion on these literary matters, which are often
popularly handled in the newspapers and journals as fit subjects
for private taste and uninformed prejudice: and since the Oxford
Dictionary has done more fully for English what Littré did for French,
our task is comparatively easy. But experts cannot be expected, all of
them, to have the self-denying zeal of Émile Littré, and the worth of
our tracts will probably improve with the increase of our subscribers.


As Burns happens to use _bickering_ as his epithet for the mouse's
brattle, we may take this word as another illustration of Littré's
principle. The _N.E.D._ gives the original meaning as _skirmish_, and
quotes Shakespeare,

  If I longer stay
  We shall begin our ancient bickerings,

which a man transposing the third and fourth words might say to-day
without rising above colloquial speech; but there is another allied
signification which Milton has in

  Smoak and bickering flame;

and this is followed by many later writers. It would seem therefore,
if the word is to have a special sense, that it must be focused in the
idea of something that both wavers and skirmishes, and this suggests
another word which caught our eye in the dictionary, that is


It is defined in the _N.E.D._ as 'a brawl, wrangle, squabble' and
marked _obsolete_. It seems to differ from its numerous synonyms by
the suggestion of what we call a muddle: that is an active wrangling
which has become inextricably confused.


Mr. Ernest Stenhouse sends us notes on Tract II, from which we extract
the following:

'_Poll_ (= to cut the hair) is still familiar in Lancashire. _Tickle_
(unstable) is obsolescent but not yet obsolete. As a child I often
heard _meterly_ (= moderately): e.g. _meterly fausse_ (? false) =
moderately cunning. It may still be in use. _Bout_ (= without = A.S.
butan) is commonly heard.

'The words tabulated in Tract II, p. 34, and the following pairs are
not homophones in Lancashire: stork, stalk; pattern, patten; because
although the _r_ in stork and pattern is not trilled as in Scotland,
it is distinctly indicated by a modification of the preceding vowel,
somewhat similar to that heard in the _[(or]e_ words (p. 35).

'Homophony may arise from a failure to make distinctions that are
recognized in P.S.P. Thus in Lancashire the diphthong sound in _flow_,
_snow_, _bone_, _coal_, _those_, &c., is very often pronounced as a
pure vowel (cf. French _eau_, _mot_): hence confusion arises between
_flow_ and _flaw_, _sow_ and _saw_, _coal_ and _call_: both these
vowel sounds tending to become indistinguishable from the French


_Feasible_ is a good example of a word which appears in danger of
being lost through incorrect and ignorant use. It can very well
happen that a word which is not quite comfortable may feel its way
to a useful place in defiance of etymology; and in such cases it is
pedantry to object to its instinctive vagaries. But _feasible_ is a
well-set comfortable word which is being ignorantly deprived of its
useful definite signification. In the following note Mr. Fowler puts
its case clearly, and his quotations, being typically illustrative of
the manner in which this sort of mischief comes about, are worthy of

'With those who feel that the use of an ordinary word for an ordinary
notion does not do justice to their vocabulary or sufficiently exhibit
their cultivation, who in fact prefer the stylish to the working word,
_feasible_ is now a prime favourite. Its proper sense is "capable of
being done, accomplished, or carried out". That is, it means the same
as _possible_ in one of the latter's senses, and its true function
is to be used instead of _possible_ where that might be ambiguous. _A
thunderstorm is possible_ (but not _feasible_). Irrigation is possible
(or, indifferently, _feasible_). _A counter-revolution is possible_;
i.e., (a) one may for all we know happen, or (b) we can if we choose
bring one about; but, if _b_ is the meaning, _feasible_ is better than
_possible_ because it cannot properly bear sense _a_, and therefore
obviates ambiguity.

'The wrong use of _feasible_ is that in which, by a slipshod
extension, it is allowed to have also the other sense of _possible_,
and that of _probable_. This is described by the highest authority
as "hardly a justifiable sense etymologically, and ... recognized
by no dictionary". It is however becoming very common; in all the
following quotations, it will be seen that the natural word would
be either _possible_ or _probable_, one of which should have been
chosen:--Continuing, Mr. Wood said: "I think it is very feasible that
the strike may be brought to an end this week, and it is a significant
coincidence that ...". / Witness said it was quite feasible that if he
had had night binoculars he would have seen the iceberg earlier. / We
ourselves believe that this is the most feasible explanation of the
tradition. / This would appear to offer a feasible explanation of the
scaffold puzzle.'


Mr. Sargeaunt (on p. 26) suggests that we might do well to keep the
full Greek form of this word, and speak and write _protagonistes_.
Familiarity with _Agonistes_ in the title of Milton's drama, where
it is correctly used as equivalent to 'mighty champion', would be
misleading, and the rejection of the English form 'protagonist' seems
otherwise undesirable. The following remarks by Mr. Fowler show that
popular diction is destroying the word; and if ignorance be allowed
its way we shall have a good word destroyed.

'The word that has so suddenly become a prime favourite with
journalists, who more often than not make it mean champion or advocate
or defender, has no right whatever to any of those meanings, and
almost certainly owes them to the mistaking of the first syllable
(representing Greek [Greek: prôtos] "first") for [Greek: pro] "on
behalf of"--a mistake made easy by the accidental resemblance to
_antagonist_. "Accidental", since the Greek [Greek: agônistês] has
different meanings in the two words, in one "combatant", but in
the other "play-actor". The Greek [Greek: prôtagônistês] means the
actor who takes the chief part in a play--a sense readily admitting of
figurative application to the most conspicuous personage in any affair.
The deuteragonist and tritagonist take parts of second and third
importance, and to talk of several protagonists, or of a chief
protagonist or the like, is an absurdity. In the newspapers it is a
rarity to meet _protagonist_ in a legitimate sense; but two examples
of it are put first in the following collection. All the others are
outrages on this learned-sounding word, because some of them
distinguish between chief protagonists and others who are not chief,
some state or imply that there are more protagonists than one in an
affair, and the rest use _protagonist_ as a mere synonym for advocate.

'Legitimate uses: _The "cher Halévy" who is the protagonist of the
amazing dialogue. / Marco Landi, the protagonist and narrator of a
story which is skilfully contrived and excellently told, is a fairly
familiar type of soldier of fortune._

'Absurd uses with _chief_, &c.: _The chief protagonist is a young
Nonconformist minister. / Unlike a number of the leading protagonists
in the Home Rule fight, Sir Edward Carson was not in Parliament
when.... / It presents a spiritual conflict, centred about its two
chief protagonists, but shared in by all its characters._

'Absurd plural uses: _One of the protagonists of that glorious fight
for Parliamentary Reform in 1866 is still actively among us. / One
of these immense protagonists must fall, and, as we have already
foreshadowed, it is the Duke. / By a tragic but rapid process of
elimination most of the protagonists have now been removed. / As on a
stage where all the protagonists of a drama assemble at the end of the
last act. / That letter is essential to a true understanding of
the relations of the three great protagonists at this period. / The
protagonists in the drama, which has the motion and structure of a
Greek tragedy_ (Fy! fy!--a Greek tragedy and protagonists?).

'Confusions with _advocate_, &c.: _The new Warden is a strenuous
protagonist of that party in Convocation. / Mr ----, an enthusiastic
protagonist of militant Protestantism. / The chief protagonist on the
company's side in the latest railway strike, Mr ----. / It was a
happy thought that placed in the hands of the son of one of the great
protagonists of Evolution the materials for the biography of another.
/ But most of the protagonists of this demand have shifted their
ground. / As for what the medium himself or his protagonists may think
of them--for etymological purposes that is neither here nor there._

'Perhaps we need not consider the Greek scholar's feelings; he
has many advantages over the rest of us, and cannot expect that in
addition he shall be allowed to forbid us a word that we find useful.
Is it useful? or is it merely a pretentious blundering substitute for
words that are useful? _Pro-_ in _protagonist_ is not the opposite of
_anti-_; _-agonist_ is not the same as in _antagonist_; _advocate_
and _champion_ and _defender_ and _combatant_ are better words for the
wrong senses given to _protagonist_; and _protagonist_ in its right
sense of _the_ (not _a_) chief actor in an affair has still work to do
if it could only be allowed to mind its own business.'

       *       *       *       *       *


We are glad to reprint the following short extracts from the _New York
Times Book Review and Magazine_, September 26, 1920.


    'Among those who joined it (the S.P.E.) immediately were
    Arthur J. Balfour, A.C. Bradley, Austin Dobson, Thomas Hardy,
    J.W. Mackail, Gilbert Murray, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and Mrs.
    Wharton.... The rallying of these men and women of letters
    was not more significant than the prompt adhesion of the
    Professors of English in the various British Universities:
    W.M. Dixon, Oliver Elton, E.S. Gordon, C.H. Herford, W.P.
    Ker, G.C. Moore-Smith, F.W. Moorman, A. Quiller-Couch, George
    Saintsbury, and H.C.K. Wyld....

    'There is a peril to the proper development of the language in
    offensive affectations, in persistent pedantry, and in other
    results of that comprehensive ignorance of the history of
    English, which we find plentifully revealed in many of our
    grammars. It is high time that men who love the language, who
    can use it deftly and forcibly, and who are acquainted with
    the principles and the processes of its growth, should raise
    the standard of independence....

    'It is encouraging to realize that the atrophy of the
    word-making habit is less obvious in the United States than
    it is in Great Britain.... We cannot but regret that it is
    not now possible to credit to their several inventors American
    compounds of a delightful expressiveness--_windjammer,
    loan-shark, scare-head_, and that more delectable
    _pussy-footed_--all of them verbal creations with an
    imaginative quality almost Elizabethan in its felicity, and
    all of them examples of the purest English.... We Americans
    made the compound _farm-hand_, and employ it in preference to
    the British [English?] _agricultural labourer_.

    '_The attention of the officers of the society may be called
    to the late Professor Lounsbury's lively and enlightening_
    History of the English Language, _and to Professor George
    Philip Krapp's illuminating study of_ Modern English.


       *       *       *       *       *


Of the proceedings of the Society for the first year ending Xmas,

The Society still remains governed by the small committee of its
original founders: the support of the public and the press has been
altogether satisfactory: the suggestions and programme which the
committee originally put forward have met with nothing but favourable
criticism; no opposition has been aroused, and we are therefore
encouraged to meet the numerous invitations that we have received from
all parts of the English-speaking world to make our activities more
widely known. The sale of the Tracts has been sufficient to pay their
expenses; and we are in this respect very much indebted to the Oxford
University Press for its generous co-operation; for it has enabled us
to offer our subscribers good workmanship at a reasonable price. The
publication of this Tract IV closes our first 'year': we regret that
the prevalent national disturbances have extended it beyond the solar
period, but the conditions render explanation and apology needless.

Our list shows 188 members, and their names include many well-known
men of letters, Professors of Literature, Editors, Journalists,
and others interested in the history and present condition of the
language. Nineteen members sent donations (above 10s. 6d.) which
together amounted to about £40; and thirty-two sent subscriptions of
ten shillings for the supply of one year's publications.

To these subscribers (whose names are printed in the list below) all
the four Tracts for this year have been sent: and it will appear that
since they might have bought the four Tracts for 7s. 6d., they have
made a donation of 2s. 6d. apiece to the funds of the Society. This
margin is very useful and we hope that they will renew their 10s.
subscription in advance for the ensuing year. That will ensure their
receiving the Society's papers as they are issued, and it will
much assist the machinery of publication. Also Members who have not
hitherto subscribed are now specially invited to do so. They can
judge of the Society's work, and can best support it in this way.
The publications of 1921 _will be sent as soon as issued to all such

Subscriptions may be sent to the Secretary, L. Pearsall Smith, 11 St.
Leonard's Terrace, Chelsea, London, S.W., to whom all communications
should be addressed, or they may be paid direct to 'Treasurer of
S.P.E.', Barclay's Bank, High Street, Oxford.

       *       *       *       *       *


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     Brindley, H.H., 25 Madingly Road, Cambridge.
  *  Brown, Miss E.O., Bournstream, Wotton-under-Edge.
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     Dixon, Prof. J. Main, Univ. S. California, Los Angeles.
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