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difficulty is increased by the necessity of explaining the words in the same language; for there is often only one word for one idea; and though it be easy to translate the words bright, sweet, salt, bitter, into another language, it is not easy to explain them.
With regard to the interpretation, many other questions have required consideration. It was some time doubted whether it be necessary to explain the things implied by particular words; as under the term baronet, whether, instead of this explanation, a title of honour next in degree to that of baron, it would be better to mention more particularly the creation, privileges, and rank of baronets; and whether, under the word barometer, instead of being fatisfied with observing that it is an instrument to difcover the weight of the air, it would be fit to spend a few lines upon its invention, construction, and principles. It is not to be expected, that with the explanation of the one the herald should be satisfied, or the philosopher with that of the other; but since it will be required by cominon readers, that the explications should be sufficient for common use; and since, without some attention to such demands, the Dictionary cannot becoine generally valuable,. I have determined to consult the best writers for explanations real as well as verbal ; and perhaps I may at last have reason to say, after one of the augmenters of Furetier, that my book is more learned than its author.
In explaining the general and popular language, it seems neceffary to sort the several senses of each word, and to exhibit first its natural and primitive signification; as,
TO To arrive, to reach the shore in a voyage : he arrived at a safe harbour.
Then to give its consequential meaning, to arrive, to reach any place, whether by land or sea ; as, he arrived at his country feat.
Then its metaphorical sense, to obtain any thing desired; as, he arrived at a peerage.
Then to mention any observation that arises from the comparison of one meaning with another; as, it may be remarked of the word arrive, that, in confequence of its original and etymological sense, it cannot be properly applied but to words signifying something desirable : thus we say, a inan arrived at happiness; but cannot say, without a mixture of irony, he arrived at misery.
Ground, the earth, generally as opposed to the air or water. He swam till he reached ground. The bird feil to the ground.
Then follows the accidental or consequential fignification in which ground implies any thing that lies under another; as, he laid colours upon a sough ground. The silk had blue flowers on a red ground.
Then the remoter or metaphorical signification; as the ground of his opinion was a false computation. The ground of his work was his father's manuscript.
After having gone through the natural and figurative senses, it will be proper to subjoin the poetical sense of each word, where it differs from that which is in common use; as wanton, applied to any thing of which the motion is irregular without terror; as, In wanton ringlets curl'd her hair.
To the poetical sense may succeed the familiar; as of toast, used to imply the person whose health is drank; as,
The wise man's passion, and the vain man's toaft. Pope. The familiar may be, followed by the burlesque ; as os mellow, applied to good fellowship:
In all thy humours, whether grave or mellow. ADDISON. Or of bite, used for cheat :
- More a dupe than wit, Sappho can tell you how this man was bit. POPE.
And lastly, may be produced the peculiar fense, in which a word is found in any great author: as faculties, in Shakespeare, signifies the powers of authority :
- This Duncan
The signification of adjectives may be often ascera tained by uniting them to fubftantives ; as, simple Ficain, simple lieep. Sometimes the sense of a subftan. tive may be elucidated by the epithets annexed to it in good authors; as, the youndiefs ocean, the open lawns: and where such advantage can be gained by a short quotation, it is not to be omitted.
The difference of signification in words generally accounted fynonimous, onght to be carefully obferved ; as in pride, heughtiness, arrogance : and tlie strict and critical meaning ought to be distinguished from that which is loose and popular; as in the word perfektion, which, though in its pliilosophical and
exact sense it can be of little use among human beings, is often so much degraded from its original fignification, that the acadernicians have inserted in their work, the perfection of a language, and, with a little more licentiousness, right have prevailed on themselves to have added the perfection of a dictionary.
There are many other characters of words which it will be of use to mention. Some have both an active and paflive signification ; as fearful, that which gives or which feels terror ; a fearful prodigy, a fearful hare. Some have a personal, fome a real meaning ; as in opposition to old, we use the adjective young, of animated beings, and new of other things. Some are restrained to the sense of praise, and others to thaç of disapprobation; so commonly, though not always, we exhort to good actions we instigate to ill; we animate, incite, and encourage indifferently to good or bad. So we usually ascribe good but inpute evil; yet neither the use of these words, nor, perhaps, of any other in our licentious language, is so established as not to be often reversed by the correctest writers. Į Dall therefore, since the rules of stile, like those of law, arise from precedents often repeated, collect the testimonies on both sides, and endeavour to discover and promulgate the decrees of custom, who has so long pofleffed, whether by right or by usurpation, the sovereignty of words.
It is necessary likewise to explain many words by their opposition to others; for contraries are best seen when they stand together. Thus the verb stand has one sense, as opposed to fall, and another as opposed to fly; for want of attending to which distinc
tion, obvious as it is, the learned Dr. Bentley has squandered his criticisın to no purpose, on these lines of Paradise Lost :
“Here,' says the critic, as the sentence is now
read, we find that what food, fied :' and therefore he proposes an alteration, which he might have spared if he had consulted a dictionary, and found that nothing more was affirmed than that those fled who did not fall. ; In explaining such meanings as seem accidental and adventitious, I thall endeavour to give an account of the means by which they were introduced. Thus, to eke out any thing, signifies to lengthen it beyond its just dimensions, by fome low artifice; because the word eke was the usual refuge of our old writers, when they wanted a fyllable. And buxom, which means only obedient, is now made, in familiar phrases, to stand for wanton; because in an ancient forin of marriage, before the Reformation, the bride proinised complaisance and obedience, in these terms : ‘I will be bonair and • buxom in bed and at board.'
I know well, my Lord, how trifling inany of these remarks will appear separately considered, and how easily they may give occafion to the contemptuous merriment of sportive idleness, and the gloomy censures of arrogant stupidity ; but dulness it is easy to despise, and laughter it is easy to repay. I shall not