תמונות בעמוד

evidence in the form of some of the words mentioned that they can not be of later origin than those from which they are supposed to be derived. I look again and sec, to my astonishment, that ceterus is a hybrid, — a Latin prefix, and a Greek stem. Insula, trucido, vestibulum, etc., are underived. Lustrum is made from luceo, and not from luo; vestigo is referred to vestigium instead of the reverse; minister comes from manus, though both the sense and the correlatire magister from mugis show its relation to minus; and Quirites is traced to Cures, an etymology which Mommsen has shown to be without historical foundation.

The important part that onomatopeia has played in orignating words is scarcely recognized. I am aware that this is a disputed question, that one of the ablest and most learned of living philologists treats it with ridicule and contempt; but whoever reads attentively Mr. Farrar's "Chapters on Language,” will see abundant evidence that its claims are too obvious and too powerful to be met with derision. “Through all the stages of growth of language,” says Mr. Whitney, “ absolutely new words are produced by the imitative principle more than by any other.” And again : “ There was doubtless a period in the progress of speech, when its whole structure was palpably onomatopoetic."

What then the value may be of works professedly etymological repositories and guides, which, to say nothing of numerous and palpable blunders, derive Latin from Greek, gravely and respectfully quote and accept the etymological whims and vagaries of the ancients, ignore the close relationship of kindred languages, and all but disregard the most effective force in word formation, I leave to be inferred. It would appear then that the neglect of this department of classical study may be due in some measure to the want of suitable helps. The most valuable works on etymology are in foreign languages, expensive, and not easily obtained, and they presume besides much preparatory study, and a knowledge of the principles of the science, which are precisely what one may most need to know. But this explanation only partially meets the case, and, in fact, leaves the phenomenon still largely unexplained. We cannot excuse ourselves for doing nothing, because our tools are not of the most approved pattern and the finest finish. But we, who are engaged in preparing students for college, may find some apology in the apparent indifference of those who direct the higher education.

No acquaintance with derivation is required for admission to our colleges, and as most teachers find quite enough to do to prepare pupils adequately in what is prescribed, it is no wonder that this subject receives but a small share of attention. Nor are we peculiar in this respect. I judge that little value is attached to etymology in the English classical schools, and no questions requiring a knowledge of its principles are put to candidates on their entrance examination at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. I cannot think that the subject is wholly passed by in the German gymnasien ; but in a report of the Frederick William Gymnasium for the past year, in which the school work is set down in detail, even to the designation of the parts of the Latin and Greek grammar which were studied each term by the several classes, no mention is made of this.

In seeking a further explanation I have sometimes thought it might be found in the fact that etymology as a science is in its infancy, and that its great interest and importance have accordingly not been fully understood and appreciated. It is true that the Greeks early speculated on the origin of many of their words, and not a few ingenious or amusing guesses at the genealogy of vocables meet us in the

pages of Greek and Latin authors. The middle ages witnessed some extraordinary and grotesque efforts in the same line, but it was not till after the discovery of Sanscrit, in the latter part of the last century, that a science of etymology could be said to have so much as a beginning; and not till the completion of Bopp's Comparative Grammar in 1849, that the reign of theory without facts was brought to an end. Since then many reapers have entered the field, and many golden sheaves have been gathered; but the chaff has not been all windowed away, and it may be that our higher institutions of learning do wise to wait.

No branch of human knowledge has a right to a place in schemes of general culture, until its principles have been investigated and established; until, in a word, it is entitled to be called a science; but on the other hand, when it is entitled to that name, it should not be utterly ignored. The ease with which a subject may be turned into ridicule is no proof of its worthlessness; but it is often a seri. ous hindrance to a recognition of its value. This, I think, has been eminently true of etymology. It has afforded a tempting field for the display of wit, and the blunders of those who have been ambitious to show their critical acumen have sometimes afforded more amusement than the most elaborate efforts of professed satirists. Voltaire, you remember, defined etymology as “a science in which no stress at all is placed upon the vowels, and very little upon the consonants.” Dean Swift aimed the shafts of his unrivalled wit against it in a number of whimsical derivations, tracing the Greek name Achilles to a-kill-ease, and Alexander the Great to “all eggs under the grate." Some wag finds in the blending of the words W and Báxxw from Báxxos, the god of wine, the origin of our word tobacco. But many etymologies gravely proposed by Sprenger, an active agent of the Inquisition, but a learned man, are hardly less absurd. He derived femina from fe and minus, because women have less faith than men ; and diabolus, though he offers us our choice of several instructive derivations, he himself inclines to make a compound of dia two, and bolus = morsellus, a part; “because, ” says he, “ the devil destroys both parts — body and soul.” I confess this seems to me less probable than the explanation of the word quoted in Southey's Common-place book, from which it is made evident that evil comes from apple, through the Hebrew, and that devil is a contraction of doer of evil. I will illustrate this topic by quoting only one more example which may indicate a not very advanced state of philological knowledge amongst our undergraduates. A student of a New England college was asked not long ago to give the etymology of the word ventriloquism, and though the answer was not immediately ready, after a moment's reflection he shrewdly suggested that it was probably from “ventro, I speak, and quism, the belly."

The form of our question plainly assumes the importance of etymological study, and it is not my intention to try to prove what perhaps every one present takes for granted; but I may be pardoned for recalling one or two reasons why it is important. In the words of another," etymology is the foundation and substructure of all investigation of language. Words are the single witnesses from whom etymology draws out the testimony which they have to give respecting themselves, the tongue to which they belong, and all human speech.” But the study of words is more than the study of human speech; it is the study of the mind, since every word is a product of human intelligence. The exceeding interest which belongs to such a pursuit has been admirably illustrated by Dean Trench, Max Müller and others; and it is because of its intrinsic interest especially that it should not be neglected in classical study. No complaint against Latin and Greek is so often repeated as this of their lack of interest. Now is not this fairly chargeable in some measure to the failure of teachers to bring out patiently and diligently its more attractive features ? Have we not too much handled the mere dry bones of language, or at least been content to leave them such ? Have we sought to clothe them with flesh and sinews, and breathe into them the breath of life? It is a striking saying of Richter's that language is a dictionary of faded metaphors. What can be a more delightful employment for the mind than to endeavor to bring out the original figures and restore the faded colors of the picture that often lies hidden in a word, by tracing that word to its primitive form and meaning ?

What a charm is often added to a word that seemed a dull, lifeless, arbitrary sigo of thought, when it is found that it expresses some abstraction of the mind under the figure of a physical object or relation. A boy may collect from examples, or from the explana. tions of his teacher, the general notion of the word climax; but when he reads in the Anabasis how the Ten Thousand in their retreat came to a people that lived under ground, and that the ascent to the surface was made by a xmaš, he sees that a climax is a rhetorical ladder, and he is conscious of having gained something more than a clearer apprehension of the meaning of an obscure word..

It is evident that the study of etymology may and should be made an efficient aid to the memory in the study of the ancient languages. The supreme difficulty that confronts the learner is not the syntax, or the difference of their idioms from his own; nor is it in the mag. tery of its iniections; but chiefly first and last the strangeness of its words. He meets with an entirely new set of signs for objects and ideas, all to him utterly arbitrary; and several repetitions of any given word are needed to fix in the mind a degree of association between the sign and the thing signified, so that either will recall the other. So long as the words are viewed as separate and independent, so long as their mutual relationships are undiscovered, so long must a distinct effort of the mind be made to connect each symbol with that which it shadows forth. It is therefore manifest that in proportion as words can be grouped together, the common root discovered, and the first intention seized by the mind, in the same proportion will memory be assisted, and time and labor saved.

But there is another object that should be kept steadily in view, to which the study of etymology should be made to contribute. It should be pursued in such a way as to impart the power and cultivate the habit of detecting analogies between things seemingly dissimilar and remote. The teacher should muster from different languages kindred words for review and inspection; he should unfold the laws according to which the root has been modified, and trace the common or related ideas through the whole series. Will you permit me to give a partial illustration of my meaning ?

Suppose we take for examination a few Greek words in which the root ax appears; as, åx-is, dx-n, åxun, öx-wv, dx-om, óx-pos, úx-ús, ob-us. In the first six lies the idea of pointedness or sharpness ; in the seventh that of swiftness; and in the last, both these notions, together with that of sourness. Look now at the Latin words springing directly from the same stem. We have ac-ies, ac-us, ac-uo, ac-ior, ac-eo, and uc-er. Here again the original sense of the first three coincides with that of the first six in Greek. Next ac-ior corresponds to úxus, and ac-eo to ob-us in the sense to be sour. Finally, in ac-er again all three ideas of sharp, swift, and sour unite. Against ac-er we can put the French aig-re; and beside the latter our eager, which again expresses the three notions of ac-er and 05-15; for though now commonly used to denote an ardor or swiftness feeling, it was once employed in the physical senses of sharp and sour; as in Shakespeare, “ It is a nipping and an eager air "; and

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