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The Comic English Grammar: A New And Facetious Introduction To The English Tongue

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The Comic English Grammar: A New And Facetious Introduction To The English Tongue
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PRELIMINARY DISCOURSE

Fashion requires, and like the rest of her sex, requires because she requires, that before a writer begins the business of his book, he should give an account to the world of his reasons for producing it; and therefore, to avoid singularity, we shall proceed with the statement of our own, excepting only a few private ones, which are neither here nor there.

To advance the interests of mankind by promoting the cause of Education; to ameliorate the conversation of the masses; to cultivate Taste, and diffuse Refinement; these are the objects we have in view in submitting a Comic English Grammar to the patronage of a discerning Public.

Few persons there are, whose ears are so extremely obtuse, as not to be frequently annoyed at the violations of Grammar by which they are so often assailed. It is really painful to be forced, in walking along the streets, to hear such phrases as, "That 'ere omnibus."

"Where've you bin?"

"Vot's the odds?" and the like. Very dreadful expressions are also used by cartmen and others in addressing their horses. What can possibly induce a human being to say "Gee woot!"

"'Mather way!" or "Woa not to mention the atrocious "Kim aup!" of the barbarous butcher's boy.

It is notorious that the above and greater enormities are perpetrated in spite of the number of Grammars already before the world. This fact sufficiently excuses the present addition to the stock; and as serious English Grammars have hitherto failed to effect the desired reformation, we are induced to attempt it by means of a Comic one.

With regard to the moral tendency of our labors, we may be here permitted to remark, that they will tend, if successful, to the suppression of evil speaking; and as the Spartans used to exhibit a tipsy slave to their children with a view to disgust them with drunkenness, so we, by giving a few examples here and there, of incorrect phraseology, shall expose, in their naked deformity, the vices of speech to the ingenious reader.

The comical mind, like the jaundiced eye, views everything through a colored medium. Such a mind is that of the generality of our countrymen. We distinguish even the nearest ties of relationship by facetious names. A father is called "dad," or "poppa;" an uncle, "nunkey and a wife, a "rib," or more pleasantly still, as in the advertisements for situations, "an encumbrance."

We will not allow a man to give an old woman a dose of rhubarb if he have not acquired at least half a dozen sciences; but we permit a quack to sell as much poison as he pleases. When one man runs away with another's wife, and, being on that account challenged to fight a duel, shoots the aggrieved party through the head, the latter is said to receive satisfaction.

We never take a glass of wine at dinner without getting somebody else to do the same, as if we wanted encouragement; and then, before we venture to drink, we bow to each other across the table, preserving all the while a most wonderful gravity. This, however, it may be said, is the natural result of endeavoring to keep one another in countenance.

The way in which we imitate foreign manners and customs is very amusing. Savages stick fish-bones through their noses; our fair countrywomen have hoops of metal poked through their ears. The Caribs flatten the forehead; the Chinese compress the foot; and we possess similar contrivances for reducing the figure of a young lady to a resemblance to an hour-glass or a devil-on-two-sticks.

There being no other assignable motive for these and the like proceedings, it is reasonable to suppose that they are adopted, as schoolboys say, "for fun."

We could go on, were it necessary, adducing facts to an almost unlimited extent; but we consider that enough has now been said in proof of the comic character of the national mind. And in conclusion, if any other than an English or American author can be produced, equal in point of wit, humor, and drollery, to Swift, Sterne, Dickens, or Paulding, we hereby engage to eat him; albeit we have no pretensions to the character of a "helluo librorum."

"English Grammar," according to Lindley Murray, "is the art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety."

The English language, written and spoken with propriety, is commonly called the King's English.

A monarch, who, three or four generations back, occupied the English throne, is reported to have said, "If beebles will be boets, they must sdarve." This was a rather curious specimen of "King's English." It is, however, a maxim of English law, that "the King can do no wrong." Whatever bad English, therefore, may proceed from the royal mouth, is not "King's English," but "Minister's English," for which they alone-are responsible.

King's English (or perhaps, under existing circumstances it should be called, Queen's English) is the current coin of conversation, to mutilate which, and unlawfully to utter the same, is called clipping the King's English; a high crime and misdemeanor. Clipped English, or bad English, is one variety of Comic English, of which we shall adduce instances hereafter.

Slipslop, or the erroneous substitution of one word for another, as "prodigy" for "protegee," "derangement" for "arrangement," "exasperate" for "aspirate," and the like, is another.

Slang, which consists in cant words and phrases, as "dodge" for "sly trick," "no go" for "failure," and "camey" "to flatter," may be considered a third.

Latinised English, or Fine English, sometimes assumes the character of Comic English, especially when applied to the purposes of common discourse; as "Extinguish the luminary," "Agitate the coramunicator," "Are your corporeal functions in a condition of salubrity?" "A sable visual orb," "A sanguinary nasal protuberance."

American English is Comic English in a "pretty particular considerable tarnation" degree.

English Grammar is divided into four parts-Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody; and as these are points that a good grammarian always stands upon, he, particularly when a pedant, and consequently somewhat flat, may very properly be compared to a table.

PART I. ORTHOGRAPHY

CHAPTER I. OF THE NATURE OF THE LETTERS, AND OF A COMIC ALPHABET

Orthography is like a schoolmaster, or instructor of youth. It teaches us the nature and powers of letters and the right method of spelling words.

Comic Orthography teaches us the oddity and absurdities of letters, and the wrong method of spelling words. The following is an example of Comic Orthography: —

islinton foteenth of my Deer jemes febuary 1844.

wen fust i sawed yu doun the middle and up agin att the bawl i maid Up my Mind to skure you for my oan for i Felt at once that my appiness was at Steak, and a sensashun in my Bussum

I coudent no ways accom For. And i said to mary at missis

Igginses said i theres the Mann for my money o ses Shee i nose a Sweeter Yung Man than that Air Do you sez i Agin then there we Agree To Differ, and we was sittin by the window and we wos wery Neer fallin Out. my deer gemes Sins that

Nite i Ha vent slept a Wink and Wot is moor to the Porpus i'Have quit Lost my Happy tight and am gettin wus and wus witch i Think yu ort to pitty Mee. i am Tolled every Day that ime Gettin Thinner and a Jipsy sed that nothin wood

Cure me But a Ring.

i wos a Long time makin my Mind Up to right to You for of

Coarse i Says jemes will think me too forrad but this bein

Leep yere i thout ide Make a Plunge, leastways to aUThem as dont Want to Bee old Mades all their blessed lives, so my

Deer Jemes if yow want a Pardoner for Better or for wus nows

Your Time dont think i Behave despicable for tis my Luv for yu as makes Me take this Stepp.

please to Burn this Letter when Red and excuse the scralls and Blotches witch is Caused by my Teers i remain till deth

Yure on Happy Vallentine jane you No who.

poscrip nex sunday Is my sunday out And i shall be Att the corner of Wite Street at a quawter pas Sevn.

Wen This U. C. remember Mee j. g.

Now, to proceed with Orthography, we may remark, that a letter is the least part of a word.

Of a comic letter an instance has already been given. Dr. Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield is a capital letter.

The letters of the Alphabet are the representatives of articulate sounds.

The Alphabet is a Republic of Letters.

There are many things in this world erroneously as well as vulgarly compared to "bricks." In the case of the letters of the Alphabet, however, the comparison is just; they constitute the fabric of a language, and grammar is the mortar. The wonder is that there should be so few of them. The English letters are twenty-six in number. There is nothing like beginning at the beginning; and we shall now therefore enumerate them, with the view also of rendering their insertion subsidiary to mythological instruction, in conformity with the plan on which some account of the Heathen Deities and ancient heroes is prefixed or subjoined to a Dictionary. We present the reader with a form of Alphabet composed in humble imitation of that famous one, which, while appreciable by the dullest taste, and level to the meanest capacity, is nevertheless that by which the greatest minds have been agreeably inducted into knowledge.

THE ALPHABET

A, was Apollo, the god of the carol,

B, stood for Bacchus, astride on his barrel;

C, for good Ceres, the goddess of grist,

D, was Diana, that wouldn't be kiss'd;

 

E, was nymph Echo, that pined to a sound,

F, was sweet Flora, with buttercups crown'd;

G, was Jove's pot-boy, young Ganymede hight,

H, was fair Hebe, his barmaid so tight;

I, little Io, turn'd into a cow,

J, jealous Juno, that spiteful old sow;

K, was Kitty, more lovely than goddess or muse;

L, Lacooon – I wouldn't have been in his shoes!

M, was blue-eyed Minerva, with stockings to match,

N, was Nestor, with grey beard and silvery thatch;

O, was lofty Olympus, King Jupiter's shop,

P, Parnassus, Apollo hung out on its top;

Q, stood for Quirites, the Romans, to wit;

R, for rantipole Roscius, that made such a hit;

S, for Sappho, so famous for felo-de-se,

T, for Thales the wise, F. R. S. and M. D:

U, was crafty Ulysses, so artful a dodger,

V, was hop-a-kick Vulcan, that limping old codger;

Wenus-Venus I mean-with a W begins,

(Veil, if I ham a Cockney, wot need of your grins?)

X, was Xantippe, the scratch-cat and shrew,

Y, I don't know what Y was, whack me if I do!

Z was Zeno the Stoic, Zenobia the clever,

And Zoilus the critic, whose fame lasts forever.

Letters are divided into Vowels and Consonants.

The vowels are capable of being perfectly uttered by themselves. They are, as it were, independent members of the Alphabet, and like independent members elsewhere, form a small minority. The vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y.

An I. O. U. is a more pleasant thing to have, than it is to give.

A blow in the stomach is very likely to W up.

W is a consonant when it begins a word, as "Wicked

Will Wiggins whacked his wife with a whip but in every other place it is a vowel, as crawling, drawling, sawney, screwing, Jew. Y follows the same rule.

A consonant is an articulate sound; but, like an old bachelor, if it exists alone, it exists to no purpose.

It cannot be perfectly uttered without the aid of a vowel; and even then the vowel has the greatest share in the production of the sound. Thus a vowel joined to a consonant becomes, so to speak, a "better half: " or at all events very strongly resembles one.

A dipthong is the union of two vowels in one sound, as ea in heavy, eu in Meux, ou in stout.

A tripthong is a similar union of three vowels, as eau in the word beau; a term applied to dandies, and addressed to geese: probably because they are birds of a feather.

A proper dipthong is that in which the sound is formed by both the vowels: as, aw in awkward, ou in lout.

An improper dipthong is that in which the sound is formed by one of the vowels only, as ea in heartless, oa in hoax.

According to our notions there are a great many improper dipthongs in common use. By improper dipthongs we mean vowels unwarrantably dilated into dipthongs, and dipthongs mispronounced, in defiance of good English.

For instance, the rustics and dandies say,

"Loor! whaut a foine gaal! Moy oy!"

"Whaut a precious soight of crows!"

"As I was a cornin' whoam through the corn fiddles (fields) I met Willum Jones."

"I sor (saw) him."

"Dror (draw) it out."

"Hold your jor (jaw)."

"I caun't. You shaun't. How's your Maw and Paw? Do you like taut (tart)?"

We have heard young ladies remark, —

"Oh, my! What a naice young man!"

"What a bee – eautiful day!"

"Im so fond of dayncing!"

Again, dandies frequently exclaim, —

"I'm postively tiawed (tired)."

"What a sweet tempaw! (temper)."

"How daughty (dirty) the streets au!"

And they also call, —

Literature, "literetchah."

Perfectly, "pawfacly."

Disgusted, "disgasted."

Sky, "ske – eye."

Blue, "ble – ew."

We might here insert a few remarks on the nature of the human voice, and of the mechanism by means of which articulation is performed; but besides our dislike to prolixity, we are afraid of getting down in the mouth, and thereby going the wrong way to please our readers. We may nevertheless venture to invite attention to a few comical peculiarities in connection with articulate sounds.

Ahem! at the commencement of a speech, is a sound agreeably droll.

The vocal comicalities of the infant in arms are exceedingly laughable, but we are unfortunately unable to spell them.

The articulation of the Jew is peculiarly ridiculous. The "peoplesh" are badly spoken of, and not well spoken.

Bawling, croaking, hissing, whistling, and grunting, are elegant vocal accomplishments.

Lisping, as, thweet, Dthooliur, thawming, kweechau, is by some considered interesting, by others absurd.

But of all the sounds which proceed from the human mouth, by far the funniest are Ha! ha! ha! – Ho! ho! ho! and He! he! he!

CHAPTER II. OF SYLLABLES

Syllable is a nice word, it sounds so much like syllabub!

A syllable, whether it constitute a word or part of a word, is a sound, either simple or compound, produced by one effort of the voice, as, "O! what, a lark! – Here, we, are!"

Spelling is the art of putting together the letters which compose a syllable, or the syllables which compose a word.

Comic spelling is usually the work of imagination.

The chief rule to be observed in this kind of spelling, is, to spell every word as it is pronounced; though the rule is not universally observed by comic spellers. The following example, for the genuineness of which we can vouch, is one so singularly apposite, that although we have already submitted a similar specimen of orthography to the reader, we are irresistibly tempted to make a second experiment on his indulgence. The epistolary curiosity, then, which we shall now proceed to transcribe, was addressed by a patient to his medical adviser.

"Sir,

"My Granmother wos very much trubeld With the Gout and dide with it my father wos also and dide with it when i wos 14

years of age i wos in the habbet of Gettin whet feet Every

Night by pumping water out of a Celler Wich Cas me to have the tipes fever wich Cas my Defness when i was 23 of age i fell in the Water betwen the ice and i have Bin in the habbet of Gettin wet when traviling i have Bin trubbeld with

Gout for seven years

"Your most humbel

"Servent

Among the various kinds of spelling may be enumerated spelling for a favor; or giving what is called a broad hint.

Certain rules for the division of words into syllables are laid down in some grammars, and we should be very glad to follow the established usage, but limited as we are by considerations of comicality and space, we cannot afford to give more than two very general directions. If you do not know how to spell a word, look it out in the dictionary, and if you have no dictionary by you, write the word in such a way, that, while it may be guessed at, it shall not be legible.

CHAPTER III. OF WORDS IN GENERAL

There is no one question that we are aware of more puzzling than this, "What is your opinion of things in general?" Words in general are, fortunately for us, a subject on which the formation of an opinion is somewhat more easy. Words stand for things: they are a sort of counters, checks, bank-notes, and sometimes, indeed, they are notes for which people get a great deal of money. Such words, however, are, alas! not generally English words, but Italian. Strange! that so much should be given for a mere song. It is quite clear that the givers, whatever may be their pretensions to a refined or literary taste, must be entirely unacquainted with Wordsworth.

Fine words are oily enough, and he who uses them is vulgarly said to "cut it fat;" but for all that it is well known that they will not butter parsnips.

Some say that words are but wind: for this reason, when people are having words, it is often said, that "the wind's up."

Different words please different people. Philosophers are fond of hard words; pedants of tough words, long words, and crackjaw words; bullies, of rough words; boasters, of big words; the rising generation, of slang words; fashionable people, of French words; wits, of sharp words and smart words; and ladies, of nice words, sweet words, soft words, and soothing words; and, indeed, of words in general.

Words (when spoken) are articulate sounds used by common consent as signs of our ideas.

A word of one syllable is called a Monosyllable: as, you, are, a, great, oaf.

A word of two syllables is named a Dissyllable; as, cat-gut, mu-sic.

A word of three syllables is termed a Trisyllable; as, Mag-net-ism, Mum-mer-y.

A word of four or more syllables is entitled a Polysyllable; as, in-ter-mi-na-ble cir-cum-lo-cu-ti-on, ex-as-pe-ra-ted, func-ti-o-na-ry, met-ro-po-li-tan, ro-tun-di-ty.

Words of more syllables than one are sometimes comically contracted into one syllable; as, in s'pose for suppose, b'lieve for believe, and 'scuse for excuse: here, perhaps, 'buss, abbreviated from omnibus, deserves to be mentioned.

In like manner, many long words are elegantly trimmed and shortened; as, ornary for ordinary, 'strornary for extraordinary, and curosity for curiosity; to which mysterus for mysterious may also be added.

Polysyllables are an essential element in the sublime, both in poetry and in prose; but especially in that species of the sublime which borders very closely on the ridiculous; as,

"Aldiborontiphoscophormio,

Where left's thou Chrononhotonthologos?

All words are either primitive or derivative. A primitive word is that which cannot be reduced to any simpler word in the language; as, brass, York, knave. A derivative word, under the head of which compound words are also included, is that which may be reduced to another and a more simple word in the English language; as, brazen, Yorkshire, knavery, mud-lark, lighterman. Broadbrim is a derivative word; but it is one often applied to a very primitive kind of person.

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