onsdag 18 oktober 2017

Grattis Logan!

What things there are to write, if one could only write them! My mind is full of gleaming thoughts; gay moods and mysterious, moth-like meditations hover in my imagination, fanning their painted wings. They would make my fortune if I could catch them; but always the rarest, those freaked with azure and the deepest crimson, flutter away beyond my reach.

Logan Pearsall Smith - ibland kallad Lloyd
18 oktober 1865 - 2 mars 1946
målning av Ethel Sands, 1932

Logan som föddes i U.S.A. men tillbringade en stor del av sitt liv i England, kom från en aktad kväkarfamilj.  Mest känd är han kanske som essäist, och för sina aforismer, men han var också en baddare på korrekt engelska, och det var via hans bok "Society for Pure English, Tract 3 (1920),  A Few Practical Suggestions" som jag hittade honom.

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. 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.

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.

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