Friday, January 8, 2010

Annals of peevology: the double negative

 "Some optimists may be disposed to ask, what is the good of this hair-splitting, and to say that English may safely be left to itself. But, if we examine the history of the language, we perceive, that, since the date of the authorized translation of the Bible, -- the finest example of English, -- the alterations that have taken place have been, generally, for the worse. The double negative has been abandoned, to the great injury of strength of expression ...

 "The nineteenth century has witnessed the introduction of abundant Gallicisms, Germanisms, Americanisms, colonialisms, and provincialisms; nearly all needless, or easily to be supplied by more correct words or phrases. There is no nation, except our own easy-going one, that would tolerate such words as a propos or naive, the one a foreign phrase, the other the feminine of an adjective, applied indiscriminately to nouns of both genders; the Carlyleian before-unheard-of, phrase-binding-together, Aristophanes-wise; such vile compounds as starvation, a Saxon root with a Latin termination, in a misapplied sense; and the many provincial slang words, as to run down and put up with, both provincialisms."

-- From The London Review, 1864, quoted by Fitzedward Hall in "Modern English," 1873

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