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Title: Society for Pure English, Tract 03 (1920) - A Few Practical Suggestions
Author: Society for Pure English, Smith, Logan Pearsall, 1865-1949
Language: English
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[Transcriber's notes: Ligature 'oe' is represented by [oe], and the
diacritic breve is represented by [)x]]

S. P. E

_Tract No. III_



Logan Pearsall Smith






The principles of the Society for Pure English were stated in general
terms in its preliminary pamphlet; since, however, many questions have
been asked about the application of these principles, a few suggestions
about special points may be found useful. The Society does not attempt to
dictate to its members; it does, however, put forward its suggestions as
worthy of serious consideration; and, since they have received the
approval of the best scientific judgement, it is hoped that they will be
generally acceptable.

Some of them, when blankly stated, may seem trivial and unimportant; but
we neither expect nor desire to make any sudden and revolutionary changes.
A language is an established means of communication, sanctioned by the
general consent, and cannot be transformed at will. Language is, however,
of itself always changing, and if there is hesitation between current
usages, then choice becomes possible, and individuals may intervene with
good effect; for only by their preferences can the points in dispute be
finally settled. It is important, therefore, that these preferences should
be guided by right knowledge, and it is this right knowledge which the
Society makes it its aim to provide. While, therefore, any particular
ruling may seem unimportant, the principle on which that ruling is based
is not so; and its application in any special case will help to give it
authority and force. The effect of even a small number of successful
interventions will be to confirm right habits of choice, which may then,
as new opportunities arise, be applied to further cases. Among the cases
of linguistic usage which are varying and unfixed at the present time, and
in which therefore a deliberate choice is possible, the following may be

I. _The Naturalization of Foreign Words_.

There is no point on which usage is more uncertain and fluctuating than in
regard to the words which we are always borrowing from foreign languages.
Expression generally lags behind thought, and we are now more than ever
handicapped by the lack of convenient terms to describe the new
discoveries, and new ways of thinking and feeling by which our lives are
enriched and made interesting. It has been our national custom in the past
to eke out our native resources by borrowing from other languages,
especially from French, any words which we found ready to our needs; and
until recent times, these words were soon made current and convenient by
being assimilated and given English shapes and sounds. We still borrow as
freely as ever; but half the benefit of this borrowing is lost to us,
owing to our modern and pedantic attempts to preserve the foreign sounds
and shapes of imported words, which make their current use unnecessarily
difficult. Owing to our false taste in this matter many words which have
been long naturalized in the language are being now put back into their
foreign forms, and our speech is being thus gradually impoverished. This
process of de-assimilation generally begins with the restoration of
foreign accents to such words as have them in French; thus 'role' is now
written 'rôle'*[A]; 'debris', 'débris'; 'detour', 'détour'; 'depot',
'dépôt'; and the old words long established in our language, 'levee',
'naivety', now appear as 'levée', and 'naïveté'. The next step is to
italicize these words, thus treating them as complete aliens, and thus we
often see _rôle_, _dépôt_, &c. The very old English word 'rendezvous' is
now printed _rendezvous_, and 'dilettante' and 'vogue' sometimes are
printed in italics. Among other words which have been borrowed at various
times and more or less naturalized, but which are now being driven out of
the language, are the following: confrere, congee, cortege, dishabille,
distrait, ensemble, fête, flair, mellay (now _mêlée_), nonchalance,
provenance, renconter, &c. On the other hand, it is satisfactory to note
that 'employee' appears to be taking the place of 'employé'.

[Footnote A: For the words marked with an asterisk see notes on page 10.]

The printing in italics and the restoration of foreign accents is
accompanied by awkward attempts to revert to the foreign pronunciation of
these words, which of course much lessens their usefulness in
conversation. Sometimes this, as in _nuance_, or _timbre_* practically
deprives us of a word which most of us are unable to pronounce correctly;
sometimes it is merely absurd, as in 'envelope', where most people try to
give a foreign sound to a word which no one regards as an alien, and which
has been anglicized in spelling for nearly two hundred years.

Members of our Society will, we hope, do what is in their power to stop
this process of impoverishment, by writing and pronouncing as English such
words as have already been naturalized, and when a new borrowing appears
in two forms they will give their preference to the one which is most
English. There are some who may even help to enrich the language by a
bolder conquest of useful terms, and although they may suffer ridicule,
they will suffer it in a good cause, and will only be sharing the
short-lived denunciation which former innovators incurred when they
borrowed so many concise and useful terms from France and Italy to enlarge
and adorn our English speech. If we are to use foreign words (and, if we
have no equivalents, we must use them) it is certainly much better that
they should be incorporated in our language, and made available for common
use. Words like 'garage' and 'nuance' and 'naivety' had much better be
pronounced and written as English words, and there are others, like
'bouleverse' and 'bouleversement', whose partial borrowing might well be
made complete; and a useful word like _malaise_ could with advantage
reassume the old form 'malease' which it once possessed.

II. _Alien Plurals_.

The useless and pedantic process of de-assimilation takes other forms, one
of the most common of which is the restoring their foreign plural forms to
words borrowed from Greek, Latin, and Italian. No common noun is genuinely
assimilated into our language and made available for the use of the whole
community until it has an English plural, and thousands of indispensable
words have been thus incorporated. We no longer write of _ideæ_, _chori_,
_asyla_, _musea_, _sphinges_, _specimina_ for _ideas_, _choruses_,
_asylums_, _museums_, _sphinxes_, _specimens_, and the notion of returning
to such plurals would seem barbarous and absurd. And yet this very process
is now going on, and threatens us with deplorable results. _Sanatoria_,
_memoranda_, _gymnasia_ are now replacing _sanatorium_, _memorandums_, and
_gymnasiums_; _automata_, _formulae_, and _lacunae_ are taking the place
of _automatons_, _formulas_, and _lacunas_; _indices_ and _apices_ of
_indexes_ and _apexes_, _miasmata_ of _miasmas_ or _miasms_; and even
forms like _lexica_, _rhododendra_, and _chimeræ_ have been recently noted
in the writings of authors of repute.

Some of these words are no doubt exceptions. _Memoranda_ is preferable
when used collectively, but the English plural is better in such a phrase
as 'two different memorandums'. _Automata_, too, is sometimes collective;
and _lacuna_ always carries the suggestion of its classical meaning, which
makes half the meaning of the word. So again, when the classical form is a
scientific term, it is convenient and well to preserve its differentiation,
e.g. _formulae_ in science, or _foci_ and _indices_ in mathematics; but
such uses create exceptions, and these should be recognized as exceptions,
to a general rule that wherever there is choice then the English form is
to be preferred: we should, for instance, say _bandits_ and not _banditti_.

III. _ae_ and _oe_.

The use of _ae_ and _oe_ in English words of classical origin was a
pedantic innovation of the sixteenth century: in most words of common use
_ae_ and _oe_ have been replaced by the simple _e_, and we no longer write
_prævious_, _æternal_, _æra_, _æmulate_, _c[oe]lestial_, _[oe]conomy_, &c.
Since, however, those forms have a learned appearance, they are being now
restored in many words which had been freed from them; _medieval_ is
commonly written _mediæval_; _primæval_ and _co-æval_ are beginning to
make their appearance; _peony_ is commonly written _pæony_, and the forms
_sæcular_, _chimæra_, _hyæna_[1] and _præternatural_ have recently been
noted. As this is more than a mere change in orthography, being in fact a
part of the process of de-assimilation, members of our Society would do
well to avoid the use of the archaic forms in all words which have become
thoroughly English, and which are used without thought of their etymology.
The matter is not so simple with regard to words of Latin or Greek
derivation which are only understood by most people through their
etymology; and for these it may be well to keep their etymologically
transparent spelling, as _ætiology_, _[oe]strus_, &c. Whether learned
words of this kind, and classical names such as _Cæsar_, _Æschylus_, &c.,
should be spelt with vowels ligatured or divided (_Caesar_, _Aeschylus_),
is a point about which present usage varies; and that usage does not
always represent the taste of the writers who employ it. Mr. Horace Hart,
in his _Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press,
Oxford_, ruled that the combinations _ae_ and _oe_ should each be printed
as two letters in Latin and Greek words and in English words of classical
derivation, but this last injunction is plainly deduced from the practice
of editors of Latin texts, and is an arbitrary rule in the interest of
uniformity: it has the sanction and influence of the Clarendon Press, but
is not universally accepted. Thus Dr. Henry Bradley writes, 'This question
does not seem to me to be settled by the mere fact that all recent
classical editors reject the ligatures, just as most of them reject other
aids to pronunciation which the ancients had not, such as j, v, for
consonantal _i_, _u_. Many printers have conformed the spelling of
_English_ words in this respect to the practice of editors of Latin texts.
I confess my own preference is for adhering to the English tradition of
the ligature, not only in English words, but even in Latin or Greek names
quoted in an English context. If we write ae, oe in Philae, Adelphoe, we
need the diæresis in Aglaë, Pholoë, and a name like Aeaea looks very funny
in an English context. The editors of Latin texts are perfectly right in
discarding the ligatures; but so they are also in writing Iuuenalis; Latin
is one thing and English is another.'

[Footnote 1: Shakespeare would have assisted the Hyena in her attempt to
naturalize herself in England:

'I will laugh like a Hyen, and that when thou art inclined to sleep.'
_A.Y.L._, IV. i. 156. [ED.]]

IV. _Dying Words_.

Our language is always suffering another kind of impoverishment which is
somewhat mysterious in its causes and perhaps impossible to prevent. This
is the kind of blight which attacks many of our most ancient, beautiful,
and expressive words, rendering them first of all unsuitable for
colloquial use, though they may be still used in prose. Next they are
driven out of the prose vocabulary into that of poetry, and at last
removed into that limbo of archaisms and affectations to which so many
beautiful but dead words of our language have been unhappily banished. It
is not that these words lose their lustre, as many words lose it, by
hackneyed use and common handling; the process is exactly opposite; by not
being used enough, the phosphorescence of decay seems to attack them, and
give them a kind of shimmer which makes them seem too fine for common
occasions. But once a word falls out of colloquial speech its life is
threatened; it may linger on in literature, but its radiance, at first
perhaps brighter, will gradually diminish, and it must sooner or later
fade away, or live only as a conscious archaism. The fate of many
beautiful old words like _teen_ and _dole_ and _meed_ has thus been
decided; they are now practically lost to the language, and can probably
never be restored to common use.[2] It is, however, an interesting
question, and one worthy of the consideration of our members, whether it
may be possible, at its beginning, to stop this process of decay; whether
a word at the moment when it begins to seem too poetical, might not
perhaps be reclaimed for common speech by timely and not inappropriate
usage, and thus saved, before it is too late, from the blight of
over-expressiveness which will otherwise kill it in the end.

[Footnote 2: But concerning the words _dole_ and _meed_ see Tract II _On
English Homophones_. Both these words have suffered through homophony.
_Dole_ is a terrible example. 1, a portion = deal; 2, grief = Fr. deuil,
Lat. _dolor_; 3, deceit, from the Latin _dolus_, Gk. [Greek: dolos]. All
three have been in wide use and have good authority; but neither 2 (which
is presumably that which the writer intends) nor 3 can be restored, nor is
it desirable that they should be, the sound having been specially isolated
to a substantive and verb in the sense of No. 1.

_Meed_ is likewise lost by homophony with 1 mead = meadow and 2 mead =
metheglin: and it is a very serious loss. No. 1 is almost extinct except
among farmers and hay merchants, but the absurd ambiguity of No. 2 is

_Teen_, the writer's third example, has shown recent signs of renewed
vitality in literature. [Ed.]]

The usage in regard to these tainted words varies a good deal, though
probably not so much as people generally think: some of them, like _delve_
and _dwell_, still linger on in metaphors; and people will still speak of
_delving_ into their minds, and _dwelling_ in thought, who would never
think of _delving_ in the garden, or _dwelling_ in England; and we will
call people _swine_* or _hounds_, although we cannot use these words for
the animals they more properly designate. We can speak of a _swift_*
punishment, but not a _swift_ bird, or airplane, or steamer, and we _shun_
a thought, but not a bore; and many similar instances could be given.
Perhaps words of this kind cannot be saved from the unhappy doom which
threatens them. It is not impossible, on the other hand, that, by a slight
conscious effort, some of these words might still be saved; and there may
be, among our members, persons of sufficient courage to suffer, in a pious
cause, the imputation of preciosity and affectation which such attempts
involve. To the consideration of such persons we could recommend words
like _maid_, _maiden_, _damsel_, _weep_, _bide_, _sojourn_, _seek_,
_heinous_, _swift_, _chide_*, and the many other excellent and expressive
old words which are now falling into colloquial disuse.

There is one curious means by which the life of these words may be
lengthened and by which, possibly, they may regain a current and
colloquial use. They can be still used humorously and as it were in
quotation marks; words like _pelf_, _maiden_, _lad_, _damsel_, and many
others are sometimes used in this way, which at any rate keeps them from
falling into the limbo of silence. Whether any of them have by this means
renewed their life would be an interesting subject of inquiry; it is said
that at Eton the good old word _usher_, used first only for humorous
effect, has now found its way back into the common and colloquial speech
of the school.

V. _Dialectal and Popular Words_.

Whether words may, by conscious effort, be preserved in colloquial usage
is an unsolved question, though perhaps our Society may help to solve it;
there is, however, another and more certain benefit which its members, or
at any rate such of them as are writers, may confer upon the language.
There are many excellent words spoken in uneducated speech and dialect all
about us, which would be valuable additions to our standard vocabulary if
they could be given currency in it. Many of these are dying words like
_bide_, _dight_, _blithe_, _malison_, _vengeance_, and since these are
still spoken in other classes, it might be less difficult to restore them
to educated speech. Others are old words like _thole_ and _nesh_ and _lew_
and _mense_ and _foison_ and _fash_ and _douce_, which have never been
accepted into the standard English, or have long since vanished from it,
in spite of their excellence and ancient history, and in spite of the fact
that they have long been in current use in various districts. Others are
new formations, coined in the ever-active mint of uneducated speech, and
many of these, coming as they do full of freshness and vigour out of the
vivid popular imagination--words like _harum-scarum_, _gallivant_,
_cantankerous_, and _pernickety_--or useful monosyllables and penny pieces
of popular speech like _blight_ and _nag_ and _fun_--have already found
their way into standard English. But there are many others which might
with advantage be given a larger currency. This process of dialectal
regeneration, as it is called, has been greatly aided in the past by men
of letters, who have given a literary standing to the useful and
picturesque vocabulary of their unlettered neighbours, and thus helped to
reinforce with vivid terms our somewhat abstract and faded standard
speech. We owe, for instance, words like _lilt_ and _outcome_ to Carlyle;
_croon_, _eerie_, _gloaming_ have become familiar to us from Burns's
poems, and Sir Walter Scott added a large number of vivid local terms both
to our written and our spoken language. In the great enrichment of the
vocabulary of the romantic movement by means of words like _murk_,
_gloaming_, _glamour_, _gruesome_, _eerie_, _eldritch_, _uncanny_,
_warlock_, _wraith_--all of which were dialect or local words, we find a
good example of the expressive power of dialect speech, and see how a
standard language can be enriched by the use of popular sources. All
members of our Society can help this process by collecting words from
popular speech which are in their opinion worthy of a larger currency;
they can use them themselves and call the attention of their friends to
them, and if they are writers, they may be able, like the writers of the
past, to give them a literary standing. If their suggestions are not
accepted, no harm is done; while, if they make a happy hit and bring to
public notice a popular term or idiom which the language needs and
accepts, they have performed a service to our speech of no small



_Rôle_. The italics and accent may be due to consciousness of _roll_. The
French word will never make itself comfortable in English if it is
homophonous with _roll_.

_Timbre_. This word is in a peculiar condition. In the French it has very
various significations, but has come to be adopted in music and acoustics
to connote the quality of a musical sound independent of its pitch and
loudness, a quality derived from the harmonics which the fundamental note
intensifies, and that depends on the special form of the instrument. The
article _Clang_ in the Oxford Dictionary quotes Professor Tyndall
regretting that we have no word for this meaning, and suggesting that we
should imitate the awkward German _klang-farbe_. We have no word unless we
forcibly deprive _clangour_ of its noisy associations. We generally use
_timbre_ in italics and pronounce it as French; and since the word is used
only by musicians this does not cause much inconvenience to them, but it
is because of its being an unenglish word that it is confined to
specialists: and truly if it were an English word the quality which it
denotes would be spoken of more frequently, and perhaps be even more
differentiated and recognized, though it is well known to every child. Now
how should this word be Englished? Is the spelling or the pronunciation to
stand? The English pronunciation of the letters of _timbre_ is forbidden
by its homophone--a French girl collecting postage-stamps in England
explained that she collected _timberposts_--, whereas our English form of
the French sound of the word would be approximately _tamber_; and this
would be not only a good English-sounding word like _amber_ and _clamber_,
but would be like our _tambour_, which is _tympanum_, which again IS
_timbre_. So that if our professors and doctors of music were brave, they
would speak and write _tamber_, which would be not only English but
perfectly correct etymologically.

But this is just where what is called 'the rub' comes in. It would, for a
month or two, look so peculiar a word that it might require something like
a _coup d'état_ to introduce it. And yet the schools of music in London
could work the miracle without difficulty or delay.

_Swine_. Americans still use the word _pig_ in its original sense of the
young of the hog and sow; though they will say _chickens_ for _poultry_.
In England we talk of pigs and chickens when we mean swine and poultry.
Chaucer has

    His swyn his hors his stoor and his pultreye.

The verb _to pig_ has kept to its meaning, though it has developed
another: the substantive probably got loose through its generic employment
in composite words, e.g. guinea-pig, sea-pig, &c.; and having acquired a
generic use cannot lose it again. But it might perhaps be worth while to
distinguish strictly between the generic and the special use of the word
_pig_, and not call a sow a pig, nor a hen a chicken. So _hog_ and _sow_
might still have their _pigs_ and be all of them _swine_.

_Swift_. Perhaps it is going too far to say that 'swift' is colloquial
only in metaphorical applications, we might speak of 'a swift bowler'
without exciting surprise; but it is expedient to restore this word to
general use, and avoid the use of _fast_ for denotation of speed. 'To
stand fast' is very well, but 'to run fast' is thoroughly objectionable.
Such a use destroys the sense of firmness which the word is needed and
well qualified to denote.

_Chide_. This word probably needs its past tense and participle to be
securely fixed before it will be used. It is perhaps wholly the
uncertainty of these that has made the word to be avoided. _Chid_ and
_chidden_ should be taught, and _chode_ and _chided_ condemned as


Diderot in his _Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets_ deplores the loss of good
old terms in the French of his day; he writes:

'Je blâme cette noblesse prétendue qui nous a fait exclure de notre langue
un grand nombre d'expressions énergiques. Les Grecs, les Latins qui ne
connoissoient gueres cette fausse délicatesse, disoient en leur langue ce
qu'ils vouloient, et comme ils le vouloient. Pour nous, à force de
rafiner, nous avons appauvri la nôtre, & n'ayant souvent qu'un terme
propre à rendre une idée, nous aimons mieux affoiblir l'idée que de ne pas
employer un terme noble.[3] Quelle perte pour ceux d'entre nos Écrivains
qui ont l'imagination forte, que celle de tant de mots que nous revoyons
avec plaisir dans Amyot & dans Montagne. Ils ont commencé par être
rejettés du beau style, parce qu'ils avoient passé dans le peuple; &
ensuite rebutés par le peuple même, qui à la longue est toujours le singe
des Grands, ils sont devenus tout-à-fait inusités.'... [ED.]

[Footnote 3: _Noble_. _Genteel_ would not be a fair translation, but it
gives the meaning. Littré quotes: 'Il ne nommera pas le boulanger de
Crésus, le palefrenier de Cyrus, le chaudronnier Macistos; il dit grand
panetier, écuyer, armurier, avertissant en note que cela est plus

*       *       *       *       *


The method by which this Society proposes to work is to collect expert
opinion on matters wherein our present use is indeterminate or
unsatisfactory, and thus to arrive at a general understanding and
consensus of opinion which might be relied on to influence practice.

This method implies the active co-operation of the members of the Society,
who, it is presumed, are all interested in our aims; and the purpose of
our secretary's paper (printed above) is to suggest topics on which
members might usefully contribute facts and opinions.

The committee, who have added a few notes to the paper, offer some remarks
on the topics suggested.

1. Whether it is advisable to Anglicize the spelling of certain French
words, like _timbre_, in order to promote their assimilation. A paper
dealing with this question, giving as full a list as possible of the
_words that are at present in a precarious condition_, and proposing in
each case the curative spelling, is invited; and any single practical
contribution to the subject will be welcome.

2. A full list of foreign nouns that are uncertain of their Englished
plurals is required. The unreadiness to come to a decided opinion in
doubtful cases is due to the absence of any overruling principle; and the
lack of a general principle is due to ignorance of all the particulars
which it would affect. Inconsistent practice is no doubt in many cases
established irrevocably, and yet if all the words about which there is at
present any uncomfortable feeling were collected and exhibited, it would
then probably appear that the majority of instances indicated a general
rule of propriety and convenience, and this would immediately decide all
doubtful cases, and these, when once recognized and established in
educated practice, would win over many other words that are refractory in
the absence of rule. What exceptions remained would be tabulated as
definitely recognized exceptions.

3. Besides the class of words indicated in Mr. Pearsall Smith's paper,
there is another set of plural forms needing attention, and that is the
Greek words that denote the various sciences and arts; there is in these
an uncertainty and inconsistency in the use of singular and plural forms.
We say Music and Physics, but should we say Ethic or Ethics, Esthetic or
Esthetics? Here again agreement on a general rule to govern doubtful cases
would be a boon. The experience of writers and teachers who are in daily
contact with such words should make their opinions of value, and we invite
them to deal with the subject. The corresponding use of Latin plurals
taking singular verbs, as _Morals_, should be brought under rule.

4. The question of the use of _ae_ (_æ_) and _oe_ (_[oe]_). Our Society
from the first abjured the whole controversy about reforms of spelling,
but questions of literary propriety and convenience must sometimes involve
the spellings; and this is an instance of it. On the main question of
phonetic spelling the Society would urge its members to distinguish the
use of phonetic script in _teaching_, from its introduction into English
_literature_. The first is absolutely desirable and inevitable: the second
is not only undesirable but impracticable, though this would not preclude
a good deal of reasonable reform in our literary spelling in a phonetic
direction. Those who fear that if phonetics is taught in the schools it
will then follow that our books will be commonly printed in phonetic
symbols, should read Dr. Henry Bradley's lecture to the British Academy
'On the relations between spoken and written language' (1913), and they
will see that the Society's Tract II, on 'English Homophones', illustrates
the unpractical nature of any scheme either of pure phonetics in the
printing of English books, or even of such a scheme as is offered by 'the
Simplified Spelling Society'; because the great number of homophones which
are now distinguished by their different spellings would make such a
phonetic writing as unutilitarian as our present system is: moreover, if
it were adopted it would inevitably lead to the elimination of far more of
these homophones than we can afford to lose; since it would enforce by its
spelling the law which now operates only by speech, that homophones are

5. Mr. Pearsall Smith has returned to the question of dialectal
regeneration mentioned in Tract I, in which we invited contributions on
the subject. In response we had a paper sent to us, which we do not print
because, though full of learning and interesting detail, it was a curious
and general disquisition calculated to divert attention from the practical
points. What the Society asks for is not a list of lost words that are
interesting in themselves: we need rather definite instances of good
dialect words which are not homophones and which would conveniently supply
wants. That is, any word proposed for rehabilitation in our practical
vocabulary should be not only a good word in itself, but should fall into
some definite place and relieve and enrich our speech by its usefulness.
It is evident that no one person can be expected to supply a full list of
such words, but on the other hand there must be very many of our members
who could contribute one or two; and such contributions are invited.

Exempli gratia. Here are two words with very different titles and claims,
_nesh_ and _hyppish_.

_Nesh_, which has two columns in the Oxford Dictionary, begins in A.D.
888, and is still heartily alive in Yorks. and North Derbyshire, where it
is used in the sense of being _oversensitive to pain and especially to
cold_. In this special signification, to which it has locally settled down
after a thousand years of experience, it has no rival; and its restoration
to our domestic vocabulary would probably have a wholesome moral and
physical effect on our children.

_Hyppish_ is the Englished form of hypochondriacal, its suffix carrying
its usual diminutive value, so that its meaning is 'somewhat
hypochondriacal'. Berkeley, Gray, and Swift used _hyps_ or _the hyp_ for
hypochondriasis, and the adjective was apparently common. It would seem
that _hypochondria_ was then spoken, as _hypocrisy_ still is, with the
correct and pleasant short vowels of the Greek prefix, not as now with a
long alien diphthong _haipo-_. It was presumably this short y that
accidentally killed _hyppish_; for the word _hipped_ was used of a horse
lamed in the hip, and alongside of this _hipped_, and maybe attracted by
it, an adjective _hypt_ arose. When once _hyp_ and _hypt_ were confounded
with _hip_ and _hipped_, _hyppish_ would suffer and lose definition. But
_hypt_ and _hipped_ combined forces, and were probably even from the first
in their present uncertain condition, for when nowadays a man says that he
is _hipped_, he has no definite notion of what he means except that he is
in some way, either in his loins or mind incapacitated and out of sorts.
Whether _hypt_ and _hipped_ have mortally wounded each other or are still
fighting in the dark may be open to discussion: _hyppish_ has now a fair
field, and if people would know what the word means, it might be restored,
like _nesh_, to useful domestic activity.

6. The example given of the word _fast_ on p. 12 suggests another matter
to which attention might be paid. If one looks up any word in the Oxford
Dictionary, one will be almost distressed to see how various the
significations are to which it is authoritatively susceptible. A word
seems to behave like an animal that goes skirting about discontentedly, in
search of a more congenial habitation. It is sometimes successful, and
meets with surprising welcome in some strange corner where it establishes
itself, forgetful of its old home: sometimes, like the bad spirit in the
gospel, it will return to the house whence it came forth. It is, of
course, natural and essential to a living language that such shades and
varieties of meaning should evolve themselves, although they are
incidentally a source of ambiguity and subtle traps for careless logic;
but when these varieties so diverge as to arrive ultimately at absurdities
and contradictions, then it is advisable to get rid of them. In such
extreme cases the surgeon's knife may sometimes save life; it is the only
cure; and _to use a word in a deforming or deformed sense should be
condemned as a solecism_. Contributions, stating examples of this with the
proposed taboo, are invited.

7. This last fault, of damaging a word by wrong use, might come under the
general head of 'Abuse of words'. This is a wide and popular topic, as may
be seen by the constant small rain of private protests in the
correspondence columns of the newspapers. The committee of the S.P.E.
would be glad to meet the public taste by expert treatment of offending
words if members would supply their pet abominations. There was a good
letter on the use of _morale_ in the _Times Literary Supplement_ on
February 19. The writer, a member of our Society, permits us to reprint it
here as a sample of sound treatment.


'Tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petard, and the
purizing (so to speak) of the purist has been a tempting game since Lucian
baited Lexiphanes; may I yield to the temptation? During the war our
amateur and other strategists have suppressed the English word _morale_
and combined to force upon us in its stead the French (or Franco-German?)
_moral_. We have submitted, as to Dora, but with the secret hope, as about
Dora, that when the war's tyranny was overpast we might be allowed our
liberty again. Here are two specimens, from your own columns, of the
disciplinary measures to which we have been subject: 'He persistently
spells _moral_ (state of mind of the troops, not their morality) with a
final _e_, a sign of ignorance of French which is unfortunately so often
the mark of the classical scholar'; and again, 'The purist in language
might quarrel with Mr. ----'s title for this book on the psychology of
war, for he means by _morale_ not "ethics" or "moral philosophy", but "the
temper of a people expressing itself in action". But no doubt there is
authority for the perversion of the French word.'

To such discipline we have all been laudably amenable, and _morale_ has
seldom been seen in the London papers since 1914; but it, and not _moral_,
is the English word; we once all wrote it without thinking twice about the
matter; even in war-time one met it in the local newspapers that had not
time to keep up with London's latest tricks, and in those parts of the
London Press itself that had to use a tongue understanded of the people.
It is very refreshing to see that _morale_ is now beginning to show itself
again, timidly and occasionally, even in select quarters. The fact is,
these literary drill-sergeants have made a mistake; the English _morale_
is not a 'perversion of _the_ French word'; it is a phonetic respelling,
and a most useful one, of _a_ French word. We have never had anything to
do with the French word _morale_ (ethics, morality, a moral, &c.); but we
found the French word _moral_ (state of discipline and spirit in armies,
&c.) suited to our needs, and put an _e_ on to it to keep its sound
distinct from that of our own word _moral_, just as we have done with the
French _local_ (English _locale_) and the German _Choral_ (English
_chorale_), and as, using contrary means for the same end of fixing a
sound, we have turned French _diplomate_ into English _diplomat_. Our
English _forte_ ('Geniality is not his _forte_,' &c.) is altered from the
French _fort_ without even the advantage of either keeping the French
sound or distinguishing the spoken word from our _fort_; but who proposes
to sacrifice the reader's convenience by correcting the 'ignorant'
spelling? In the light of these parallels is it not the patrons of _moral_
who deserve the imputation of ignorance rather than we common folk? We do
not indeed profess to know what _moral_ and _morale_ mean in French, but
then that knowledge is irrelevant. They do not know the true English
method of dealing with borrowings from French; and that knowledge is
highly relevant.

A fair summary of the matter is perhaps this. The case for the spelling
_moral_ is that (1) the French use the word _moral_ for what we used to
call _morale_, and therefore we ought to do the same; and (2) the French
use _morale_ to mean something different from what we mean by it. The case
against _moral_ is (1) that it is a new word, less comprehensible to
ordinary people, even now, after its war-time currency, than the old
_morale_; (2) that it badly needs to be dressed in italics owing to the
occasional danger of confusion with the English word _moral_, and that
such artificial precautions are never kept up; (3) that half of us do not
know whether to call it m[)o]´ral, mor[)a]´l, or morah´l, and that it is a
recognized English custom to resolve such doubts by the addition of _-e_
or other change of spelling. And the right choice is surely to make the
English word _morale_, use ordinary type, call it morah´l, and ignore or
abstain from the French word _morale_, of which we have no need.

The risk of confusion, merely mentioned above, perhaps deserves a
paragraph to itself. If we reinstate the once almost universal _morale_,
we need no italics, and there is no fear of confusion; if we adopt
_moral_, we need italics, and there is no hope of getting them; it is at
present printed oftener without than with them. The following five
extracts, in some of which the English adjective _moral_, and in some the
French noun _moral_, is meant, are printed here exactly as they originally
appeared, that is, with _moral_ in the same type as the rest, and they are
enough to suggest how easy it is for real doubts to arise about which word
is being used--'An astounding increase in the moral discipline and
patriotism of German soldiers.' Has, or has not, a comma dropped out after
_moral_? 'It is, indeed, a new proof of the failing moral and internal
troubles of the German people.' Moral and internal? or moral and troubles?
'A true arbitrator, a man really impartial between two contendants and
even indifferent to their opposing morals.' 'The Russian army will recover
its moral and fighting power.' 'The need of Poland, not only for moral,
but for the material support of the Allies.'


*       *       *       *       *


Many writers on English pronunciation are accustomed to pour
undiscriminating censure on the growing practice of substituting for the
traditional mode of pronouncing certain words an 'artificial'
pronunciation which is an interpretation of the written form of the words
in accordance with the general rules relating to the 'powers' of the
letters. This practice is especially common among imperfectly educated
people who are ambitious of speaking correctly, and have unfortunately no
better standard of 'correctness' than that of conformity with the
spelling. I remember hearing a highly-intelligent working-class orator
repeatedly pronounce the word _suggest_ as 'sug jest'. Such vagaries as
this are not likely ever to be generally adopted. But a good many
'spelling-pronunciations' have found their way into general educated use,
and others which are now condemned as vulgar or affected will probably at
some future time be universally adopted. I do not share the sentimental
regret with which some philologists regard this tendency of the language.
It seems to me that each case ought to be judged on its own merits, and by
a strictly utilitarian standard. When a 'spelling-pronunciation' is a mere
useless pedantry, it is well that we should resist it as long as we can;
if it gets itself accepted, we must acquiesce; and unless the change is
not only useless but harmful, we should do so without regret, because the
influence of the written on the spoken form of language is in itself no
more condemnable than any other of the natural processes that affect the
development of speech. There are, however, some 'spelling-pronunciations'
that are positively mischievous. Many people, though hardly among those
who are commonly reckoned good speakers, pronounce _forehead_ as it is
written. To do so is irrelevantly to call attention to the etymology of a
word that has no longer precisely its etymological sense. When the thing
to be denoted is familiar, we require an _identifying_, not a
_descriptive_ word for it; and we obey a sound instinct in disguising by a
contracted pronunciation the disturbing fact that _forehead_ is a

On the other hand, a 'spelling-pronunciation' may conduce to clearness,
and then it ought to be encouraged. I have elsewhere advocated the
sounding of the initial _p_ in learned (not in popular) words beginning
with _ps_; and many other similar reforms might with advantage be adopted.
There are also other reasons besides clearness which sometimes justify the
assimilation of sound to spelling. Thus the modern pronunciation of
_cucumber_ (instead of 'cowcumber') gets rid of the ridiculous association
with the word _cow_; and only a fanatical adherent of the principle
'Whatever was is right' would desire to revive the obsolete form.


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