Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
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S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
 
English Language
 
  It is perhaps this humour of speaking no more than we needs must, which has so miserably curtailed some of our words, that in familiar writings and conversations they often lose all but their first syllables, as in “mob., rep., pos., incog.,” and the like; and, as all ridiculous words make their first entry into a language by familiar phrases, I dare not answer for these, that they will not in time be looked upon as part of our tongue.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 135.    
  1
 
  I have often wished, that as in our constitution there are several persons whose business it is to watch over our laws, our liberties, and commerce, certain men might be set apart as superintendents of our language, to hinder any words of a foreign coin from passing amongst us; and in particular to prohibit any French phrases from becoming current in this kingdom, when those of our own stamp are altogether as valuable. The present war has so adulterated our tongue with strange words, that it would be impossible for one of our great-grandfathers to know what his posterity have been doing, were he to read their exploits in a modern newspaper. Our warriors are very industrious in propagating the French language, at the same time that they are so gloriously successful in beating down their power.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 165.    
  2
 
  If any one would judge of the beauties of poetry that are to be met with in the divine writings, and examine how kindly the Hebrew manners of speech mix and incorporate with the English language, after having perused the Book of Psalms let him read a literal translation of Horace or Pindar. He will find in these two last such an absurdity and confusion of style, with such a comparative poverty of imagination, as will make him very sensible of what I have been here advancing.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 405.    
  3
 
  Our language has received innumerable elegancies and improvements from that infusion of Hebraisms which are derived to it out of the poetical passages in Holy Writ.
Joseph Addison.    
  4
 
  Hebraisms warm and animate our language, and convey our thoughts in more ardent and intense phrases.
Joseph Addison.    
  5
 
  But this kind of writing, which seems to be reformed, which is, that writing should be consonant to speaking, is a branch of unprofitable subtleties; for pronunciation itself every day increases, and alters the fashion; and the derivation of words, especially from foreign languages, is utterly defaced and extinguished.
Francis Bacon.    
  6
 
  The two idioms [English and Norman] have mutually borrowed from each other.
Sir William Blackstone.    
  7
 
  Every Englishman who glories in the vigour of his fatherland ought to study the Anglo-Saxon as the immediate and copious source of the English language.
Joseph Bosworth.    
  8
 
  Our English tongue is, I will not say as sacred as the Hebrew, or as learned as the Greek, but as fluent as the Latin, as courteous as the Spanish, as courtlike as the French, and as amorous as the Italian.
William Camden: Remains.    
  9
 
  Such patching maketh Littleton’s hotchpot of our tongue, and, in effect, brings the same rather to a Babellish confusion than any one entire language.
William Camden.    
  10
 
  Hitherto will our sparkful youth laugh at their great-grandfathers’ English, who had more care to do well than to speak minion-like.
William Camden.    
  11
 
  A fastidious taste will find offence in the occasional vulgarisms, or what we now call “slang,” which not a few of our writers seem to have affected.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge.    
  12
 
  Lyrical emotion of every kind, which must be in the state of flux and reflux, or, generally, of agitation, requires the Saxon element of our language.
Thomas De Quincey.    
  13
 
  Difficult it is to understand the purity of English, and critically to discern good writers from bad, and a proper style from a corrupt one.
John Dryden.    
  14
 
  The proprieties and delicacies of the English are known to few: ’tis impossible even for a good wit to understand and practise them without the help of a liberal education and long reading; in short, without wearing off the rust which he contracted while he was laying in a stock of learning.
John Dryden.    
  15
 
 
 
  From the time of Boccace and of Petrarch the Italian has varied very little. The English of Chaucer, their contemporary, is not to be understood without the help of an old dictionary.
John Dryden.    
  16
 
  He did Romanize our tongue, leaving the words translated as much Latin as he found them: wherein he followed their language, but did not comply with the idiom of ours.
John Dryden.    
  17
 
  In English I would have all Gallicisms avoided, that our tongue may be sincere, and that we may keep to our own language.
Henry Felton.    
  18
 
  There is a vast treasure in the old English, from whence authors may draw constant supplies; as our officers make their surest remits from the coal-works and the mines.
Henry Felton.    
  19
 
  The English language has a veritable power of expression such as, perhaps, never stood at the command of any other language of men. Its highly spiritual genius and wonderfully happy development and condition have been the result of a surprisingly intimate union of the two noblest languages in modern Europe, the Teutonic and the Romaic. It is well known in what relation these two stand to one another in the English tongue; the former supplying, in far larger proportion, the material groundwork; the latter, the spiritual conceptions. In truth, the English language, which by no mere accident has produced and upborne the greatest and most predominant poet of modern times, as distinguished from the ancient classical poetry (I can, of course, only mean Shakspeare), may, with all right, be called a world-language, and, like the English people, appears destined hereafter to prevail, with a sway more extensive even than its present, over all the portions of the globe. For in wealth, good sense, and closeness of structure no other of the languages at this day spoken deserves to be compared with it,—not even our German, which is torn, even as we are torn, and must first rid itself of many defects before it can enter boldly into the lists as a competitor with the English.
Jacob Grimm.    
  20
 
  The various dialects of the English in the north and west render their expressions many times unintelligible to the other, and both scarce intelligible to the midland.
Sir Matthew Hale.    
  21
 
  The best and most agreeable way of learning the state of the English language as it existed during the latter part of the fourteenth century is to read John Wycliffe’s version of the New Testament, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In these works the two streams combine, though perhaps not in equal proportions; for the writings of Wycliffe, being designed for the people, contain a larger proportion of Saxon words; and those of Chaucer, composed for readers who were not unacquainted with the French metrical romances, include a number of terms used in romance and chivalry; and, as we have seen, most of these terms were Norman. It is to be regretted that more attention is not paid by English readers to Wycliffe and Chaucer.
Household Words.    
  22
 
  From the authors which arose in the time of Elizabeth, a speech might be formed adequate to all the purposes of use and elegance. If the language of theology were extracted from Hooker and the translation of the Bible; the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon; the phrases of policy, war, and navigation from Raleigh; the dialect of poetry and fiction from Spenser and Sidney; and the diction of common life from Shakspeare, few ideas would be lost to mankind for want of English words in which they might be expressed.
Dr. Samuel Johnson: Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language.    
  23
 
  Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many causes, been gradually departing from its original Teutonic character, and deviating towards a Gallic structure and phraseology.
Dr. Samuel Johnson.    
  24
 
  If Addison’s language had been less idiomatical, it would have lost something of its genuine Anglicism.
Dr. Samuel Johnson.    
  25
 
  Few languages are richer than English in approximate synonyms and conjugates.
George P. Marsh.    
  26
 
  The ill habit which they get of wretched barbarizing against the Latin and Greek idiom, with their untutored Anglicisms.
John Milton.    
  27
 
  The Anglo-Saxon, one of the most vigorous shoots of the great Germanic or Teutonic family, forms the main stem, which supports the branches and supplies them with strength and nourishment. But it has itself been ennobled and fertilized in the eleventh century by a Norman graft from sunny France. Hence the English language has received contributions from the noblest ancient and modern tongues, and is, for this very reason, better calculated than any other to become more and more the language of the world.
Philip Schaff, D.D.: Address on American Nationality, June 11, 1856, Chambersburg, 1856, p. 17.    
  28
 
  Another will say it [the English tongue] wanteth grammar. Nay, truly, it hath that praise, that it wants not grammar; for grammar it might have, but needs it not.
Sir Philip Sidney.    
  29
 
  A work containing a complete chronological account of English lexicography and lexicographers would be a most acceptable addition to linguistics and literary history.
Samuel W. Singer.    
  30
 
  Our mother-tongue, which truly of itself is both full enough for prose and stately enough for verse, hath long time been counted most bare and barren of both; which default when as some endeavoured to salve and cure, they patched up the holes with rags from other languages.
Jonathan Swift.    
  31
 
  The same defect of heat which gives a fierceness; to our natures may contribute to that roughness of our language which bears some analogy to the harsh fruit of colder countries.
Jonathan Swift.    
  32
 
  The Swedes, Danes, Germans, and Dutch attain to the pronunciation of our words with ease, because our syllables resemble theirs in roughness and frequency of consonants.
Jonathan Swift.    
  33
 
  The fame of our writers is confined to these two islands, and it is hard if it should be limited in time as well as place by the perpetual variations of our speech.
Jonathan Swift.    
  34
 
  Nothing would be of greater use towards the improvement of knowledge and politeness than some effectual method for correcting, enlarging, and ascertaining our language.
Jonathan Swift.    
  35
 
  Our language is extremely imperfect, and in many instances it offends against every part of grammar.
Jonathan Swift.    
  36
 
  Another cause which hath maimed our language is a foolish opinion that we ought to spell exactly as we speak.
Jonathan Swift.    
  37
 
  From the civil war to this time I doubt whether the corruptions in our language have not equalled its refinements.
Jonathan Swift.    
  38
 
  The English tongue if refined to a certain standard might perhaps be fixed forever.
Jonathan Swift.    
  39
 
  What I have most at heart is, that some method should be thought on for ascertaining and fixing our language.
Jonathan Swift.    
  40
 
  If you will not care to settle our language and put it into a state of continuance, your memory shall not be preserved above an hundred years, further than by imperfect tradition.
Jonathan Swift.    
  41
 
  In English, instead of adjectiving our own nouns, we have borrowed, in immense numbers, adjectived signs from other languages, without borrowing the unadjectived signs of these ideas; because our authors found they had occasion for the former, but not for the latter.
John Horne Tooke.    
  42
 
  One sufficient reason why we should occupy ourselves with the past of our language is because the present is only intelligible in the light of the past,—often a very remote past indeed.
Richard C. Trench.    
  43
 
  What has been said in respect of much of our provincial English—namely, that it is old English, rather than bad English—may be affirmed, no doubt, with equal right in respect of many so-called Americanisms.
Richard C. Trench.    
  44
 
  The manifest tendency of the language is, as it has long been, to rid itself of these [brazen, oaten, oaken, birchen, &c.], and to satisfy itself with an adjectival use of the substantive in their stead.
Richard C. Trench.    
  45
 
  I am persuaded, as far as intelligibility is concerned, Chaucer is not merely as near, but much nearer, to us than he was felt by Dryden and his contemporaries to be to them.
Richard C. Trench.    
  46
 
  “Paradise Lost” is a noble possession for a people to have inherited, but the English tongue is a nobler heritage.
Richard C. Trench.    
  47
 
  As simple ideas are opposed to complex, and single ideas to compound, so propositions are distinguished: the English tongue has some advantage above the learned languages, which have no usual word to distinguish single from simple.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  48
 
  While the children of the higher classes always call their parents “papa” and “mamma,” the children of the peasantry usually call them “father” and “mother.”
Richard Whately.    
  49
 
 
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