Growing A Vocabulary. Continued
A prefix or a suffix may essentially change the force of the stem, as in master-ful and master-ly, contempt-ible and contempt-uous, envi-ous and envi-able. Thus to study words in groups, according to their stems, prefixes, and suffixes, is to gain a mastery over their shades of meaning, and introduce us to other related words.
1A book of synonyms and antonyms is in preparation for this series, "The Writer's Library."
Do Not Favor One Set Or Kind Of Words More Than Another
"Sixty years and more ago, Lord Brougham, addressing the students of the University of Glasgow, laid down the rule that the native (Anglo-Saxon) part of our vocabulary was to be favored at the expense of that other part which has come from the Latin and Greek. The rule was an impossible one, and Lord Brougham himself never tried seriously to observe it; nor, in truth, has any great writer made the attempt. Not only is our language highly composite, but the component words have, in De Quincey's phrase, 'happily coalesced.' It is easy to jest at words in -osity and -ation, as 'dictionary' words, and the like. But even Lord Brougham would have found it difficult to dispense with pomposity and imagination"1
The short, vigorous Anglo-Saxon will always be preferred for passages of special thrust and force, just as the Latin will continue to furnish us with flowing and smooth expressions; to mingle all sorts, however, will give variety - and that is most to be desired.
Discuss Words With Those Who Know Them
Since the language of the platform follows closely the diction of everyday speech, many "useful words may be acquired in conversation with cultivated men, and when such discussion takes the form of disputation as to the meanings and usages of words, it will prove doubly valuable. The development of word-power marches with the growth of individuality.
1 Composition and Rhetoric, J. M. Hart.
Search Faithfully For The Right Word
Books of reference are tripled in value when their owner has a passion for getting the kernels out of their shells. Ten minutes a day will do wonders for the nut-cracker. "I am growing so peevish about my writing," says Flaubert. "I am like a man whose ear is true, but who plays falsely on the violin: his fingers refuse to reproduce precisely those sounds of which he has the inward sense. Then the tears come rolling down from the poor scraper's eyes and the bow falls from his hand."
The same brilliant Frenchman sent this sound advice to his pupil, Guy de Maupassant: "Whatever may be the thing which one wishes to say, there is but one word for expressing it, only one verb to animate it, only one adjective to qualify it. It is essential to search for this word, for this verb, for this adjective, until they are discovered, and to be satisfied with nothing else."
Walter Savage Landor once wrote: "I hate false words, and seek with care, difficulty, and moroseness those that fit the thing." So did Sentimental Tommy, as related by James M. Barrie in his novel bearing his hero's name as a title. No wonder T. Sandys became an author and a lion!
Tommy, with another lad, is writing an essay on "A
Day in Church," in competition for a university scholarship. He gets on finely until he pauses for lack of a word. For nearly an hour he searches for this elusive thing, until suddenly he is told that the allotted time is up, and he has lost! Barrie may tell the rest:
Essay! It was no more an essay than a twig is a tree, for the gowk had stuck in the middle of his second page. Yes, stuck is the right expression, as his chagrined teacher had to admit when the boy was cross-examined. He had not been "up to some of his tricks;" he had stuck, and his explanations, as you will admit, merely emphasized his incapacity.
He had brought himself to public scorn for lack of a word. What word? they asked testily; but even now he could not tell. He had wanted a Scotch word that would signify how many people were in church, and it was on the tip of his tongue, but would come no farther. Puckle was nearly the word, but it did not mean so many people as he meant. The hour had gone by just like winking; he had forgotten all about time while searching his mind for the word.
The other five [examiners] were furious. . . . "You little tattie doolie," Cathro roared, "were there not a dozen words to wile from if you had an ill-will to puckle? What ailed you at manzy, or - "
"I thought of manzy," replied Tommy, woefully, for he was ashamed of himself, "but - but a manzy's a swarm. It would mean that the folk in the kirk were buzzing thegither like bees, instead of sitting still."
"Even if it does mean that," said Mr. Duthie, with impatience, "what was the need of being so particular? Surely the art of essay-writing consists in using the first word that comes and hurrying on."
"That's how I did," said the proud McLauchlan [Tommy's successful competitor]. . . .
"I see," interposed Mr. Gloag, "that McLauchlan speaks of there being a mask of people in the church. Mask is a fine Scotch word."
"I thought of mask," whimpered Tommy, "but that would mean the kirk was crammed, and I just meant it to be middling full."
"Plow would have done," suggested Mr. Lorrimer.
"Plow's but a handful," said Tommy.
"Curran, then, you jackanapes!"
"Cumin's no enough."
Mr. Lorrimer flung up his hands in despair.
"I wanted something between curran and mask," said Tommy, doggedly, yet almost at the crying.
Mr. Ogilvy, who had been hiding his admiration with difficulty, spread a net for him. "You said you wanted a word that meant middling full. Well, why did you not say middling full - or fell mask?"
"Yes, why not?" demanded the ministers, unconsciously caught in the net.
"I wanted one word," replied Tommy, unconsciously avoiding it.
"You jewel!" muttered Mr. Ogilvy under his breath, but Mr. Cathro would have banged the boy's head had not the ministers interfered.
" It is so easy, too, to find the right word," said Mr. Gloag.
"It's no; it's difficult as to hit a squirrel," cried Tommy, and again Mr. Ogilvy nodded approval.
And then an odd thing happened. As they were preparing to leave the school [Cathro having previously run Tommy out by the neck], the door opened a little and there appeared in the aperture the face of Tommy, tear-stained but excited. "I ken the word now," he cried, "it came to me a* at once; it is hantle!"
Mr. Ogilvy .... said in an ecstasy to himself, "He had to think of it till he got it - and he got it. The laddie is a genius!"
Questions And Exercises
1. What is the derivation of the word vocabulary? 2. Briefly discuss any complete speech given in this volume, with reference to (a) exactness, (b) variety, and (c) charm, in the use of words.
3. Give original examples of the kinds of word-studies referred to on pages 337 and 338.
4. Deliver a short talk on any subject, using at least five words which have not been previously in your "dynamic" vocabulary.
5. Make a list of the unfamiliar words found in any address you may select.
6. Deliver a short extemporaneous speech giving your opinions on the merits and demerits of the use of unusual words in public speaking.
7. Try to find an example of the over-use of unusual words in a speech.
8. Have you used reference books in word studies? If so, state with what result.
9. Find as many synonyms and antonyms as possible for each of the following words: Excess, Rare, Severe, Beautiful, Clear, Happy, Difference, Care, Skillful, Involve, Enmity, Profit, Absurd, Evident, Faint, Friendly, Harmony, Hatred, Honest, Inherent.