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This carefully crafted ebook: "The Complete Works of William Walker Atkinson (Unabridged)" is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents. The Art of Logical Thinking The Crucible of Modern Thought Dynamic Thought How to Read Human Nature The Inner Consciousness The Law of the New Thought The Mastery of Being Memory Culture Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It The Art of Expression and The Principles of Discourse Mental Fascination Mind and Body; or Mental States and Physical Conditions Mind Power: The Secret of Mental Magic The New Psychology Its Message, Principles and Practice New Thought Nuggets of the New Thought Practical Mental Influence Practical Mind-Reading Practical Psychomancy and Crystal Gazing The Psychology of Salesmanship Reincarnation and the Law of Karma The Secret of Mental Magic The Secret of Success Self-Healing by Thought Force The Subconscious and the Superconscious Planes of Mind Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion Telepathy: Its Theory, Facts, and Proof Thought-Culture - Practical Mental Training Thought-Force in Business and Everyday Life Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World Your Mind and How to Use It The Hindu-Yogi Science Of Breath Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism Hatha Yoga The Science of Psychic Healing Raja Yoga or Mental Development Gnani Yoga The Inner Teachings of the Philosophies and Religions of India Mystic Christianity The Life Beyond Death The Practical Water Cure The Spirit of the Upanishads or the Aphorisms of the Wise Bhagavad Gita The Art and Science of Personal Magnetism Master Mind Mental Therapeutics The Power of Concentration Genuine Mediumship Clairvoyance and Occult Powers The Human Aura The Secret Doctrines of the Rosicrucians Personal Power The Arcane Teachings The Arcane Formulas, or Mental Alchemy Vril, or Vital Magnetism The Solar Plexus Or Abdominal Brain The inner secret
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IN THE volume of this series entitled “The Art of Logical Thinking,” we have endeavored to point out to you the rules of logical mentation, and the methods best calculated to develop the faculty of logical thought. In another volume of the same series entitled “ThoughtCulture,” we have endeavored to instruct you in the principles and methods of developing the several faculties of the mind, so that you may use these faculties as efficient instruments of thought. The purpose of the present volume is that of pointing out to you the approved methods and principles of expression—the art of expressing the thoughts, ideas, desires and feelings within you.
The term “expression” is derived from the Latin word expressus, meaning “to squeeze out.” And even in the present usage the idea of “squeezing out,” or pressing out as the wine is pressed out from the grape, is present. “Expression” as used in this connection is defined as: “The act of expressing, uttering, declaring, declaration, utterance, representation; representation by words; style of language; the words or language in which a thought is expressed; phraseology, phrase, mode of speech; elocution, diction, or the particular manner or style of utterance appropriate to the subject and sentiment.”
The Art of Expression is concerned chiefly with oral expression or speaking, but its rules and principles are equally applicable to expression by writing, or composition. As an authority says of one aspect of rhetoric: “It was originally the art of speaking effectively in public, but afterward the meaning was so extended as to comprehend the theory of eloquence, whether spoken or written. * * * Campbell considers the art the same as eloquence, and defines it as ‘That art or talent by which the discourse is adapted to the end,’ and states that the ends of speaking, or writing are reducible to four: to enlighten the understanding, to please the imagination, to move the passions, or to influence the will. Broadly speaking, its aim is to expound the rules governing speech or written composition, designed to influence the judgment or feelings. It includes, therefore, within its province, accuracy of expression, the structure of periods, and figures of speech.”
For our purpose we may consider the Art of Expression as the art of efficient and effective communication between individuals by language. It is not a science, observing, uncovering, discovering, disclosing and classifying, but an art applying the results of prior scientific investigation and classification. As Hill well says: “Logic simply teaches the right use of the reason, and may be practiced by the solitary inhabitant of a desert island; but rhetoric (one aspect of the Art of Expression), being the art of communication by language, implies the presence, in fact or in imagination, of at least two persons—the speaker or the writer, and the person spoken to or written to. Aristotle makes the very essence of rhetoric to lie in the distinct recognition of a hearer. Hence its rules are not absolute, like those of logic, but relative to the character and circumstances of those addressed; for though truth is one, and correct reasoning must always be correct, the ways of communicating truth are many. Being the art of communication by language, rhetoric applies to any subject matter that can be treated in words, but has no subject matter peculiar to itself. It does not undertake to furnish a person with something to say; but it does undertake to tell him how best to say that with which he has provided himself.”
Before one can successfully apply the Art of Expression, he must first have something to express. In order to express thoughts and ideas, one must first have evolved these thoughts and ideas. As Coleridge well says: “Style is the art of conveying the meaning appropriately and with perspicuity, whatever that meaning may be. But some meaning there must be, for in order to form a good style, the primary rule and condition is—not to attempt to express ourselves in language before we thoroughly know our own meaning.”
It is not our purpose to attempt to make orators or elocutionists of the readers of this book. The phase of expression which is manifested in public speaking is better taught by the many text books on oratory or elocution, although we shall have something to say regarding the arrangement and general expression of one’s ideas that may be useful to the public speaker. Our purpose, however, is rather to impress upon the ordinary individual the methods and principles of correct, clear and forcible expression of his ideas in the ordinary walks of life. Whoever has communication with his fellowmen should learn to express his ideas and thoughts to them in a clear, correct and forcible manner. Not only the man selling goods to others, but also every one who has social or business dealings of any kind with others, should acquire the art whereby he may impress his ideas upon the others forcibly and clearly.
Correct expression results in clear impression; forcible expression results in distinct and deep impression. There is a corresponding impression resulting from every expression. Campbell’s classification of the four ends of speaking or writing, viz. (1) To enlighten the understanding; (2) to please the imagination; (3) to move the passions; (4) to influence the will; describes the four classes of expression. The results arising from these expressions are always found to be impressions— the understanding, imagination, passions or will, respectively are impressed by the respective forms of expression appropriate to each.
Every person expresses himself in some way; often in a very poor way. To some the process of expression is easy and pleasant while for others the words will not flow, and the sentences fail to include the spirit and meaning of the thought or idea behind it. This does not always arise from the fact that the person has no clear ideas or thoughts; for, on the contrary, many very clear thinkers find themselves unable to transmute their ideas into words, and fail to express themselves with the clearness, force and effect to which their mental creations entitle them. There are but few people who do not feel hampered in the expression of their ideas and thoughts by the lack of understanding of the fundamental principles of the Art of Expression. These fundamental principles are simple, and the methods of applying them may be easily acquired.
But it is not our desire or purpose to consider Expression as an art separate and apart from the practical necessities of everyday life and business—as an art concerning itself with grace and beauty rather than with utility. This is a utilitarian age—the test of truth and merit is “what is it good for;” “how will it work;” “what can we do with it;” “what is its practical use?” And so, in our consideration of the Art of Expression we shall endeavor to remember, first, last and always the demand of the age—the whatcanwedowithit requisite. It is not enough that one should be able to clothe his thoughts in beautiful verbal garb. It is demanded that the clothing of words shall be adapted to well withstand the rough requirements of everyday wear, and of practical usage. Remembering always that expression precedes impression, and that impression is essential to the practical process of communication with others, we shall endeavor to show the forms and methods of expression best adapted to producing the strongest, clearest and most lasting impressions upon the minds of others.
The salesman who indulges in beautiful speech, but who fails to impress the prospective purchaser with the merits and desirability of his wares is not a successful salesman. The business correspondent, who is able to compose a letter which is a gem of literary style, but which, nevertheless, fails to convince the person addressed of the merit of the proposition discussed, is not a successful correspondent. The salesman is expected to “land the order;” the correspondent is expected to win over the persons to whom his letters are addressed; the advertising man is expected to attract the attention and awaken desire in the minds of those who see and read his advertisements; in fact, each and every person who has anything of importance to communicate hopes to convey his meaning to those with whom he communicates by word of speech or written lines. And so, while “style,” in the sense of beauty and literary merit, has its place, still it is not the important requisite in the practical communication of the world of men and women of affairs of to-day.
In order to apply the Art of Expression to meet the requirements of practical modern life, not only must the form and construction of sentences be considered, but much attention must be paid to the psychology of words and phrases. Psychology has invaded the realm of rhetoric, and is rapidly asserting its right to an important place in the practical management of affairs. Rhetoric asks: “Is this beautiful; is it technically faultless?” Psychology asks: “Will this awaken the requisite understanding and thought in the minds of those for whom it is intended; will it attract the attention, hold the interest, arouse the desire, convince the understanding, and arouse the will of those to whom it is addressed?” Therefore, the Art of Expression is closely connected with The New Psychology, and appropriately is included in the series of books upon the general subject of the latter. This is the keynote of our conception of the subject which we shall consider in this book. We strive not to teach expression for the sake of expression, but rather expression as a method of impression. We consider the subject from the viewpoint of psychology, rather than from that of rhetoric. And we make this statement as an explanation— not as an apology.
THE SOCIAL instincts of animals and men have given rise to the necessity for methods and means of communication between individuals. The lower animals undoubtedly employ rudimentary forms of language by which they manage to communicate their feelings to others of their kind. They have their cries of alarm and danger; the food sounds; the love notes; the scream of jealousy. Those who have made a study of bird-life inform us that each species has a number of combinations of notes, each of which expresses some definite emotion or feeling. In some cases these sounds have been recorded so plainly that their reproduction on an appropriate musical instrument tends to inspire in birds hearing them the feelings which originally were expressed by them. Several naturalists have so cleverly recorded the various sounds of the monkey language that men have been able to reproduce them to the bewilderment of the monkey tribe. Those who have raised poultry are fully aware of the nature and meaning of the various sounds and notes of the common barnyard fowls. Lovers of dogs are able to distinguish the various whines, cries and barks of the dog, and to understand the wants or feelings of the animal when he sounds them.
Primitive tribes of men give utterance to crude sounds which serve them as a language. As the race advances in the scale of intelligence, its language evolves and develops accordingly; becomes more complex and complete as the thought of the race demands words by means of which it may be expressed. As the child grows in intelligence its vocabulary increases, and its use of words becomes more exact and comprehensive. The vocabulary of the ignorant man is confined to a comparatively few words, while that of the educated man necessarily is more extensive by reason of the requirements of his thought and his desire for clearer expression.
Perhaps the most elemental form of expression on the part of living creatures is that of gestures. Movements of the body, or of parts or members of the body, as unconscious expression of the emotions and feelings, are quite common. And even among men, one skilled in interpreting the bodily movements and facial changes may readily read the feelings or thoughts of the individual manifesting them. As the suggestionists say: “Thought takes form in action,” and every mental process is reproduced to some extent in outward physical motion. Among the animals these physical movements are of course most marked. The tossing of the mane, the lashing of the tail, the showing of the teeth, the unsheathing of the claws, the love-strut of the bird, the billing of the dove, the bushy tail and distended fur, are evidences of the existence of certain feelings on the part of the animal manifesting the physical signs which may be interpreted by those familiar with the animals, and by other animals.
We do not intend to intimate that these physical manifestations were, or are, intended as means of communication, for they are usually wholly unconscious and instinctive. But as other individuals of the species, and of other species, find a correspondence within themselves when they perceive these manifestations, it is readily seen that these gestures and movements, being capable of interpretation, serve as a form of language. Not only does man, or the animal, recognize these gestures by reason of having perceived them previously, and usually accompanied or followed by the appropriate and corresponding action, but they awaken in him an instinctive and involuntary imitative action or reaction which tends to produce in him an intimation of the mental feeling behind the physical movement or gesture. For not only does “thought take form in action,” but “action induces feeling” in return, and an instinctive imitation of the outward physical movement arising from a feeling or thought tends to reproduce in the mind feelings or emotions corresponding to those which originally gave rise to the movement or gesture.
Bain says: “Most of our emotions are so closely connected with their expression that they hardly exist if the body remains passive.” Maudsley says: “The specific muscular action is not merely an exponent of passion, but truly an essential part of it. If we try, while the features are fixed in the expression of one passion, to call up in the mind a different one, we shall find it impossible to do so.” Halleck says: “By restraining the expression of an emotion we can frequently throttle it; by inducing the expression of an emotion we can often cause its allied emotion.” James says: “Refuse to express an emotion and it dies. Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous. Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh and reply to everything in a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers.”
Dr. Woods Hutchinson says: “To what extent muscular contractions condition emotions, as Prof. James has suggested, may be easily tested by a quaint and simple little experiment upon a group of the smallest voluntary muscles in the body, those that move the eye-ball. Choose some time when you are sitting quietly in your room, free from all disturbing thoughts and influences. Then stand up, and assuming an easy position, cast the eyes upward and hold them in that position for thirty seconds. Instantly and involuntarily you will be conscious of a tendency toward reverential, devotional, contemplative ideas and thoughts. Then turn the eyes sideways, glancing directly to the right or left, through half-closed lids. Within thirty seconds images of suspicion, of uneasiness, or of dislike, will rise unbidden in the mind. Turn the eyes on one side and slightly downward, and suggestions of jealousy or coquetry will be apt to spring unbidden. Direct your gaze downward toward the floor, and you are likely to go off into a fit of reverie or abstraction.”
In view of the above facts of psychology, and considering that there is always present a tendency to instinctively imitate, at least faintly, the outward movement and gestures of others, we may see how there may be created or induced in the mind of the observer a sympathetic reproduction of the feelings or emotions experienced by the person giving the outward expression. We know how we are able to interpret in feeling the outward expression of an actor, or of a person in real life who is experiencing great joy or deep pain. There is a sympathetic state induced in us, by means of which we are able to interpret the feelings or emotions of others whose outward physical expression we may witness. In this way animals and savages are able to instinctively become aware of the feelings and thoughts of those with whom they come in contact. Their perceptive faculties being well trained and developed by use, and their emotional nature being usually unhampered, they have a “direct wire” of instinctive understanding open to them. We may thus understand the important part played by gesture in the early days of language.
It is astonishing how much may be conveyed by gesture, when the parties to a conversation fail to understand each other’s language. There is a universal “sign language” which is understood by all races of men. The rubbing of the stomach and the pointing to the open mouth are the universal signs of hunger and demand for food. Resting the head on the hand and closing the eyes indicate the desire to sleep. Shivering indicates cold. The clenched fist shaken at another indicates defiance and the desire to fight. The uplifted open hands indicate nonresistance. The soft glance of the eye, and the encircling motion of the extended arms indicate love. And so on—these universal signs are understood by all peoples and races. A good pantomimist will be able to go through an entire play, without uttering a word, and yet clearly indicating each thought and feeling so that it becomes intelligible to the audience.
Quackenbos says of the use of pantomime among the ancient Greeks and Romans, with whom it was developed to a high degree, as indicating the power and force residing in this form of emotional expression and impression: “This fact was known and appreciated by the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose action was much more vehement than we are accustomed to see at the present day. On the stage, this was carried so far that two actors were at times brought on to play the same part; the office of one being to pronounce the words, and that of the other to accompany them with appropriate gestures, a single performer being unable to attend to both. Cicero informs us that it was a matter of dispute between the actor Roscius and himself whether the former could express a sentiment in a greater variety of ways by significant gestures, or the latter by the use of different phrases. He also tells us that this same Roscius had gained great love from every one by the mere movements of his person. During the reign of Augustus both tragedies and comedies were acted by pantomime alone. It was perfectly understood by the people, who wept and laughed, and were excited in every way as much as if words had been employed. It seems, indeed, to have worked upon their sympathies more powerfully than words; for it became necessary, at a subsequent period, to enact a law restraining members of the senate from studying the art of pantomime, a practice to which it seems they had resorted in order to give more effect to their speeches before that body.”
The same authority continues: “When, however, the Roman Empire yielded to the arms of the Northern barbarians, and as a consequence, great numbers of the latter spread over it in every direction, their cold and phlegmatic manners wrought a material change as regards the gestures, no less than the tones and accents, of the people. The mode of expression gradually grew more subdued, and the accompanying action less violent, in proportion as the new influences prevailed. Conversation became more languid; and public speaking was no longer indebted for its effect to the art of the pantomimist. So great was the change in these respects that the allusions of classical authors to the oratory of their day were hardly intelligible. Notwithstanding these modifications, however, the people of Southern Europe, being warmer and more passionate by nature, are, at the present day, much more animated in their tones and more addicted to gesticulation than the inhabitants of the North. This is particularly true of the French and Italians.”
FROM GESTURES and motions man evolved articulate speech, in its lower and higher degrees, and the basis of language was formed. But there must have been a period in which inarticulate sounds or cries formed the connecting link between gestures and speech. In fact, in all primitive languages we find these inarticulate cries and sounds reproduced in crude word-sounds. The sigh, the groan, the laugh, and the scream have their correspondences in the words of the lower races.
There have been many theories and hypotheses advanced to account for the origin of language, all of which are more or less plausible, but none of which seem to fully answer all the requirements. Until the nineteenth century it was the custom of writers to consider language as a direct revelation and gift from the divine being, but the trend of thought along the line of evolution has caused later writers to regard language as subject to the general evolutionary law, and to have gradually developed from the gestures and rude inarticulate cries of the higher animals and lower races of men.
Philologists seek to trace all languages from a few elemental root-words or sounds, but it must be remembered that even these sounds constituted an elementary language, and the beginning must be traced still further back. Monboddo, in his “Origin and Progress of Language,” holds that man being but a higher species of ape began with an apelike language consisting of a few monosyllables, by which they expressed their feelings, desires and emotions. He holds that the sounds: ha, he, hi, ho andhu, variously grouped and accented formed the elementary language of the race. Murray, on the contrary, holds that all human language originated in nine monosyllables, namely: ag, bag, dwag, gwag, lag, mag, nag, rag, swag, each of which he says indicated a species of action. Of these monosyllables he says: “Power, motion, force, ideas united in every untutored mind, are implied in them all. They were uttered at first, and probably for several generations, in an insulated manner. The circumstances of the action were communicated by gestures and the variable tones of the voice; but the actions themselves were expressed in their suitable monosyllables.”
Another authority says: “It is now generally conceived that the origin of language was contemporary with the origin or accentuation of gregarious instinct. There is supposed to have been a stage when the human species, living singly or in isolated families, began under the influence of natural exigencies to draw together in tribal companies. Among all gregarious animals we find more or less developed forms of signalling, as among herbivora. Possibly among some there is even complex communication, as the ‘antennal language’ of ants. The human species, subjected to the stress of social organization, similarly developed its first crude community of signs, which, in part because of man’s superior powers of articulation, but mainly because of his intellectual supremacy, gave rise to organized speech.”
While there is a general agreement among the authorities as to the necessities which gave rise to the birth and evolution of language, there is a wide range of opinion among them regarding the nature of the mental impulse which gave rise to the manifestation. One school holds to the idea that language arose from the “desire to communicate” felt by early man—the wish to communicate his thoughts and feelings to his fellows— which caused a spontaneous manifestation of elementary speech. Another school holds that the “desire to communicate” was a secondary and later development, and that speech originated in the natural expression of emotions, joys, feelings, pain, etc., uttered as a natural means of relief through expression which is still familiar to the race, but which was manifested without any desire or thought of communication. An authority says of this view: “It gained the character of language by reason of community of emotion. Thus, a certain cry became a word, either as instinctively interpreted by like-feeling and like-expressing fellows, or as the characteristic expression of a congregation of savages, brought together under social excitement; as, for example, a cry of dance or battle.”
The later authorities hold that the last-mentioned view is the more scientific, and the trend of the latest thought on the subject seems to be in this direction. According to this view the interjection, as ah! oh! hist! ouch! etc., was the most primitive form of words used by man, and which arose naturally from emotional expression. As Quackenbos says: “The first words were, no doubt, interjections; for it would be natural for men, however savage or ignorant of the use of words, to employ exclamations for the purpose of expressing their sudden emotions. It is thought probable that these primitive interjections were given various and diversified shades of meaning by (1) syllabic variation; (2) by syllabic repetition; and (3) by a change or variation in pitch. Some have held that this third form of variation gave rise to a “sing-song” or chanting—a form of rhythmic speech, from which the later forms of language were evolved. It is pointed out that even to-day the barbaric races indulge in war-chants, corn-chants, marriage-chants, etc., which consist merely of a rhythmic repetition of a few elemental interjections indicating feelings or emotions.”
The authorities hold that many of the elementary words which succeeded this “sing-song” language were derived from the sounds arising from the natural objects expressed by the words, the impulse arising from imitation. In this way the natural cry, growl or other vocal sound of the animal would become its name. Instances of this may be observed among small children who apply to things the sounds emanating from them, as “choo-choo” for a locomotive; “bow-wow” for dog; “ moo” for cow; “bah” for sheep, etc. It is a long stride, however, from these simple imitative words to general concepts. As an authority well says: “The stupendous step was the creation of conventionalized or symbolic expressions. An onomatopoetic utterance, as the bird’s call meaning the bird uttering it, is directly incorporated in immediate experience; it is instinctive, as we observe with children. But when such utterances become universalized, meaning all birds or birds in general, whether gifted with like call or not, then we have the abstraction which lies at the base of all reasoning and makes intellectual evolution possible. Only the possession of a brain much superior to that of any other animal can have enabled man to develop a language adapted to reason from the primitive and instinctive signal language.”
It is held that after the interjection, the noun was employed— for names were given to things, as above indicated. Then must have arisen the adjective, in order to distinguish between different things of the same kind by reason of their qualities; for instance, “large tree;” “little bush;” “black rock;” etc. From a similar need must have arisen the adjective pronouns this and that, and later the article the. Verbs must have sprung into use early in the history of language, as it is almost impossible to express a thought without the use of words indicating action. Following naturally upon the heels of the verbs must have come the adverbs.
Personal pronouns are held to have been among the later developments of language, as the need of them did not become evident until the intellectual processes of the race became more complex. Even to-day the savage races do not use the personal pronoun, but instead indicate the thing by its own name. Young children invariably repeat the noun instead of substituting the pronoun. The child says, “Give Jack Jack’s top,” instead of “Give me my top.” “He, she and it” are foreign to its vocabulary. Quackenbos says of this: “So great, indeed, seems to be the disinclination of youthful minds to multiply terms that it is often found quite difficult to teach them the use of the pronoun. Such was the case, in all probability, with man in the infancy of his being; and it is not likely that he added this new species of words to his primitive and necessary stock until sufficient advance had been made in the formative process to show to their great advantage as regards brevity of expression and pleasantness of sound.”
The last-mentioned authority also says: “Among the earlier races of men, it seems probable that there was much less said than at the present day. Their sentences were at once fewer, shorter, and simpler, than ours. As successive advances, however, were made, and it was found that mutual intercourse was a source of pleasure, men did not confine themselves simply to what it was necessary to communicate, but imparted freely to each other even such thoughts as had no practical bearing. The original brief mode of expression was gradually laid aside; longer sentences were used; and a new class of words was required to connect clauses so closely related in construction and sense as not to admit of separation into distinct periods. This was the origin of conjunctions; and the same cause, when man’s taste was still further improved and he began to think of beautifying language while he extended his power of expression, led to the invention of the relative pronoun. * * * Man had now the means of expressing fully and intelligibly all that came into his mind; and his future efforts were to be directed, not to the creation of new elements, but to improving and modifying those already devised, to harmonizing the whole and uniting them in a consistent system. Up to this point necessity had operated; the improvements subsequently made must be attributed to the desire of pleasing.”
Scaliger says: “Three things have contributed to enable man to perfect language,—necessity, practice, and the desire to please. Necessity produced a collection of words very imperfectly connected; practice, in multiplying them, gave them more expression; while it is to the desire of pleasing that we owe those agreeable turns, those happy collocations of words, which impart to phrases both elegance and grace.”
A WORD IS: “A single articulate sound, or a combination of articulate sounds or syllables uttered by the human voice, and by custom expressing an idea or ideas; a single component part of a language or of human speech.”
Locke says: “Upon a nearer approach, I find that there is so close a connection between ideas and words; and our abstract ideas and general words have so constant a relation one to another, that it is impossible to speak clearly and distinctly of our knowledge, which all consists in propositions, without considering, first the nature, use, and signification of language.”
Jevons says: “In endeavoring to reason correctly, there is nothing more necessary than to use words with care. The meaning of a word is that thing which we think about when we use the word, and what we intend other people to think about when they hear it pronounced, or see it written. We can hardly think at all without the proper words coming into the mind, and we can certainly not make known to other people our thoughts and arguments unless we use words.”
Another authority says: “The speculation is sometimes advanced that if man were isolated he would lose the faculty of language. This is inferred from the premises that language is solely a means of communication of mind with mind. It is fair to affirm that psychology of recent years has established the fact that a large amount of our reasoning is mediated by language alone, and is made possible only through the abstractions which words enable. Since this is the case, man could not wholly lose the faculty of language so long as his mind remained rationally active. Need for the so-called ‘internal speech,’ the mental use of words, would persist, forming as it does one of the great utilities of language. * * * Thought is formulated in language, that is, is symbolized in words. These words, when uttered, are understood, as we say; that is, they are taken to be symbols of thought in another’s mind. The thought of the person who utters the words, and the thought of the person who understands them, are supposed to be similar, although the thought of neither is to be identified with the symbolic conveyance—that is, with the language.”
In a previous chapter we have seen that the involuntary gesture or instinctive sound expressing a feeling or emotion acts as the medium of communication between the person expressing it and other persons, by reason of the fact that there is an unconscious process of imitation of the sound or gesture in the mind of the other persons, and the consequent translation of this reproduced expression into real sympathetic feeling. Then again we see that the gesture or sound gradually becoming familiar is accepted as a symbol of the feeling or emotion—it becomes practically a word. Later on, names are applied to things and actions, and thereafter are accepted as symbols of the things they are intended to represent.
It will be found that the majority of the words understood by us are accepted merely as abstract symbols, without exciting any particular feeling or emotion. Others, which when first heard arouse feeling, gradually pass into the category of mere symbols on account of familiarity and repetition. Other words have a positive suggestive value, and induce a greater or lesser degree of sympathetic feeling by reason of their association, as for instance “mother,” “home,” “child,” etc. An interjection expressing joy or pain tends to cause a sympathetic feeling in those hearing them. Other words, symbols of feeling or emotion, as for instance “love,” “hate,” “fright,” etc., often tend to at least faintly awaken a sympathetic understanding in the minds of others. And words expressing sensations of taste, smell, touch, sight, or hearing, often have more or less actual suggestive force, and indicate a power to awaken a sympathetic response, as for instance: “sweet,” “sour,” “nauseating,” “soft,” “harsh,” “stench,” “shrill,” “bright,” “glaring,” “red,” “smooth,” etc. The use of these suggestive and “sympathetic” words by speakers in descriptive speeches often proves very effective. This being realized, we may begin to understand the important part played by the right words in expressing one’s ideas for the purpose of impressing others, and the necessity of the intelligent choice of words and the correct use thereof.
Jevons says: “There is no more common source of mistakes and bad reasoning than the confusion which arises between the different meanings of the same word. * * * In many cases the meanings of a word are so distinct that they cannot really lead us into more than a momentary misapprehension, or give rise to a pun. A ‘rake’ may be either a garden implement, or a fast young man; a ‘sole’ may be either a fish, or the sole of the foot; a ‘bore’ is either a tedious person, a hole in a cannon, or the sudden high wave which runs up some rivers when the tide begins to rise; diet is the name of what we eat daily, or of the Parliament which formerly met in Germany and Poland; ball is a round object, or a dance. In some cases a word is really a different word in each of two or three meanings, and comes from quite different words in other languages. * * * From such confusion of words, puns and humorous mistakes may arise, but hardly any important errors. * * * Any word which has two or more meanings, and is used in such a way that we are likely to confuse one meaning with another, is said to be ambiguous, or to have the quality of ambiguity. By far the greater number of words are ambiguous, and it is not easy to find many words which are quite free from ambiguity. Whether we are writing, or reading, or speaking, or merely thinking, we should always be trying to avoid confusion in the use of words but no one can hope to avoid making blunders and falling Into occasional fallacies.”
In considering words in their relation to The Art of Expression we shall regard them from three viewpoints, viz., (1) The Supply of Words; (2) The Choice of Words; and (3) The Arrangement of Words.
It will be seen that before one is able to make a choice of words, or to arrange his chosen words in an effective manner, he must first have a number of words at his disposal. It follows that all else being equal, a person speaking or writing who has the largest vocabulary, or stock of words from which to choose, will be enabled to make a much better choice and a much more effective arrangement. One’s vocabulary is his stock of the raw material of speech, from which he may weave or mould sentences which will serve to properly clothe the creations of his mind. And so, we shall first consider the Supply of Words, or the Building of a Vocabulary, from which we may select, choose and arrange our words with which we may desire to express our thoughts and ideas so as to impress them upon the understanding of others.
A “VOCABULARY” is: “The sum or stock of words used in a language; the range of words employed by an individual, or in a particular profession, trade or branch of science.” Hill says: “Other things being equal, a speaker or writer who has the largest stock of words to choose from will choose the best words for his purpose. Hence the desirableness of an ample vocabulary.”
There is a great range of difference in the vocabularies of different individuals. There is estimated to be one hundred thousand words in the English language. Marsh says: “There occur in Shakespeare’s works not more than fifteen thousand words; in the poems of Milton not over eight thousand. The whole number of the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols does not exceed eight hundred, and the entire Italian operatic vocabulary is said to be scarcely more extensive. Hill says: “The vocabulary of business has not been estimated, but it is certainly a small one. So is that which suffices for the ordinary necessities of a traveler. Poverty of language is the source of much slang, a favorite word, as nice, nasty, beastly, jolly, awful, stunning, splendid, lovely, handsome, immense, being employed for so many purposes as to serve no one purpose effectively. A copious vocabulary, on the other hand, supplies a fresh word for every fresh thought or fancy.”
Herrick and Damon say: “For purposes of mere existence, a few hundred overworked words will answer well enough. It is safe to say, however, that such a small vocabulary implies a narrow range of thought. Words represent objects and ideas; generally speaking, a few ideas call for few words, and conversely, the use of few words indicates the possession of few ideas. As a rule, a man who has at the most a thousand terms for expressing his wants, his feelings, his reflections, has fewer wants, feelings, and reflections than the man who has two thousand words at his command. * * * To sum up, the chief reasons for cultivating a wide vocabulary are: first, because words, like pieces of money, represent wealth—the more symbols, the more ideas; second, because if we have three words or more that represent very nearly the same thought, we can distinguish just what we do mean more clearly (e. g., woman, lady, mother; house, residence, home; contrive, make, experiment, etc.); third, because variety rests the reader’s mind and gives him enjoyment; fourth, because the possession of many words aids our exact understanding of writers who use many words to differentiate their ideas. Much valuable thought is misunderstood, or but half understood, when the reader has only a vague idea of the words used. In short, add to your store of words in order that you may have a richer mental life and that you may never be at a loss for the right word to use when you want it.”
In order to build up a vocabulary it is necessary to become acquainted with the meaning of words; and in order to do the latter it is necessary to study words. Words may be studied in two ways: (1) by means of dictionaries and similar works; and (2) by means of the writings of the masters of literature, where the words may be studied in their context. Many great writers and speakers have deliberately studied the dictionary, learning to take a keen interest in words and their meanings. Rudyard Kipling is said to find the keenest pleasure in the perusal of his favorite dictionary, and in detecting the subtle shades of difference between words of the same class. Lecky says that “Chatham told a friend that he had read over Bailey’s English Dictionary twice from beginning to end.” In studying words in the dictionary it is well not only to familiarize oneself with the looks and sound of the word and its exact meaning, but also to run down the word to its roots in order to obtain its real “essence.” Many words have strange and unsuspected origins, and it is a fascinating task to dig into this mine and to uncover rich nuggets of this kind. Many, on the other hand, find that they obtain a clearer idea of the value, meaning and relation of words by carefully considering them in reading selections from good writers, and incidentally turning to the dictionary whenever an unusual or unfamiliar word is met with.
In connection with the study of words by means of reading the works of writers, Hill says: “Care should, however, be taken to educate the taste; for one who is familiar with the best authors will naturally use good language, as a child who hears in the family circle none but the best English talks well without knowing it. As, moreover, every person, however well brought up, comes in contact with those who have not had this advantage, hears from his companions or meets in the newspapers phrases such as he does not hear at home or meet in good authors, it behooves him to fix in his mind, as early as possible, the principles of choice in language.”
The student of words—one who has learned to take an interest in words and their meanings—will find it advantageous to acquire the “note-book habit.” By this is meant the habit of jotting down any unusual or unfamiliar word which one may hear in conversation, or meet with in reading; or some word which one hears used in an unfamiliar sense or form. Then, later in the day, when time permits, one may look up the words in the dictionary and add them to his vocabulary. If one thus notes only one new word a day, he will have added three hundred and sixty-five words in a year—no inconsiderable number, either, in view of the size of the average individual’s vocabulary. If one will make a point of really mastering one word a day, he will find himself making rapid improvement in a few weeks. And the habit once acquired, new interest is created and “second-nature” results. In mastering the word not only should one familiarize himself with the looks of the word in print and in writing, but also with the actual sound of it when spoken by himself. He must not only read the word, but also write it and speak it. And, not only should he acquaint himself with the word itself, but he should also learn its synonyms, or words closely resembling it in meaning.
Synonyms may be learned from the dictionary, if the latter be good, but the student will find it useful to have at hand some good work on synonyms, of which there are a number, some of which may be obtained at quite a reasonable price. It is a good practice to search one’s own memory for all the known synonyms which are related to the word being studied This being done, reference may then be made to the work on synonyms for further words to add to one’s list. Another good practice is to write a sentence describing some thought in the mind of the student, and then to underline every word which one has repeated several times. Then endeavor to supply a proper synonym, so that, if possible, no verb or adjective shall be repeated in a paragraph or long sentence.
Fernald says: “Scarcely any two of such words, commonly known as synonyms, are identical at once in signification and in use. They have certain common ground within which they are interchangeable, but outside of that each has its own special province, within which any other word comes as an intruder. From these two qualities arises the great value of synonyms as contributing to the beauty and effectiveness of expression. As interchangeable, they make possible that freedom and variety by which the diction of an accomplished writer or speaker differs from the wooden uniformity of a legal document. As distinct and specific, they enable a master of style to choose in every instance the one term that is the most perfect mirror of his thought. To write or speak to the best purpose, one should know in the first place all the words from which he may choose, and then the exact reason why in any case any particular word should be chosen. To give knowledge in these two directions is the office of a book of synonyms.”
To illustrate the above the following example from Fernald’s “English Synonyms, Antonyms and Prepositions” will serve. Fernald gives the following synonyms for “Conquer:”
A work like Roget’s “Thesaurus” is useful in finding the word or words to fit an idea already formed in the mind. In a dictionary, one has a word and wishes to find its meaning; in the Thesaurus one has the meaning and wishes to find the word or words to fit it. Many persons who are well acquainted with the dictionary do not know that such a work as Roget’s “Thesaurus” exists. It is a most valuable work for the student of words, and is sold at a reasonable price. We advise you to become acquainted with it.
Herrick says: “A wide vocabulary means freedom. We must become free of our language (as was said anciently of a town or state), if we are to express ourselves effectively and completely. Words are curiously human things; they carry with them romantic stories. Each one, no matter how unobtrusive it may seem, differs from its fellow, and is useful in its own way.”
Palmer, in his “Self-Cultivation in English” says: “It is important, therefore, for anybody who would cultivate himself in English to make strenuous and systematic efforts to enlarge his vocabulary. * * * Let anyone who wants to see himself grow, resolve to adopt two new words each week. It will not be long before the endless and en· chanting variety of the world will begin to reflect itself in his speech, and in his mind as well. I know that when we use a word for the first time we are startled, as if a firecracker went off in our neighborhood. We look about hastily to see if anyone has noticed. But, finding that no one bas, we may be emboldened. A word used three times slips off the tongue with entire naturalness. Then it is ours forever, and with it some phase of life which had been lacking hitherto. For each word presents its own point of view, discloses a special aspect of things, reports some little importance not otherwise conveyed, and so contributes its small emancipation to our tied-up minds and tongues.”
IN ORDER to speak or write clearly and forcibly it is necessary that we exercise an intelligent choice of the words in our vocabulary. As Hill says: “A writer or speaker should, in the first place, choose that word or phrase which will clearly convey his meaning to the reader or listener. It is not enough to use language that may be understood; he should use language that must be understood. He should remember that, so far as the attention is called to the medium of communication, so far is it withdrawn from the ideas communicated, and this even when the medium is free from flaws. How much more serious the evil when the medium obscures or distorts an object.” And as Herrick says: “Even the newest of thoughts may be made to seem flat if tritely phrased; the most precise thinking looks vague if it is couched in generalities; the most dignified matter becomes trivial if it is overadorned. The demands upon our taste in the choice of words are manifold; every sentence is a new problem in diction.”
The first essential in the choice of words is clearness. The faults opposed to Clearness are:
I. Obscurity, or the use and arrangement of words in such a manner that it is difficult to understand the real meaning thereof;
II. Equivocation, or the use and arrangement of words so as to render them capable of more than one interpretation;
III. Ambiguity, or the use and arrangement of words so as to leave the hearer in doubt between two opposing meanings or interpretations.
Macaulay was one of the clearest of writers. Morley says of him: “He never wrote an obscure sentence in his life.” , Trevelyan says of him and his methods of work: “The main secret of Macaulay’s success lay in this, that to extraordinary fluency and facility he united patient, minute, and persistent diligence. * * * If his method of composition ever comes into fashion, books probably will be better, and undoubtedly will be shorter. As soon as he had got into his head all the information relating to any particular episode in his ‘History’ (such, for instance, as Argyll’s expedition to Scotland, or the attainder of Sir John Fenwick, or the calling in of the clipped coinage), he would sit down and write off the whole story at a headlong pace, sketching in the outlines under the genial and audacious impulse of a first conception, and securing in black and white each idea and epithet and turn of phrase, as it flowed straight from his busy brain to his rapid fingers. * * * As soon as Macaulay ·had finished his rough draft, he began to fill it in at the rate of six sides of foolscap every morning, written in so large a hand and with such a multitude of erasures, that the whole six pages were, on the average, compressed into two pages of print. This portion he called his ‘task,’ and he was never quite easy until he had completed it daily. More he seldom sought to accomplish; for he had learned by long experience that this was as much as he could do at his best; and except when at his best, he never would work at all. * * * Macaulay never allowed a sentence to pass muster until it was as good as he could make it. He thought little of recasting a chapter in order to obtain a more lucid arrangement, and nothing whatever of reconstructing a paragraph for the sake of one happy stroke of apt illustration. Whatever the worth of his labor, at any rate it was a labor of love.”
The following paragraph from “Essay on Milton” will furnish a brief example of Macaulay’s style:
“Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mysterious law of her nature, was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of a foul and poisonous snake. Those who Injured her during the period of her disguise were forever excluded from participation in the blessings which she bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their steps, granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made them happy In love and victorious in war. Such a spirit is Liberty. At times she takes the form of a hateful reptile. She grovels, she hisses, she stings. But woe to those who in disgust shall venture to crush her! And happy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of her beauty and her glory!”
And yet as Hill says: “Clearness is a relative term. The same treatment cannot be given to every subject, nor to the same subject under different conditions. Words that are perfectly clear in a metaphysical treatise may be obscure in a didactic poem; those that are admirably adapted to a political pamphlet may be ambiguous in a sermon; a discourse written for an association of men of science will not answer for a lyceum lecture; a speaker must be clearer than a writer, since a speaker’s meaning must be caught at once if at all.”
Emerson says: “ Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into a language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak. He who would convince the worthy Mr. Dunderhead of any truth which Dunderhead does not see, must be a master of his art. Declamation is common; but such possession of thought as is here required, such practical chemistry as the conversion of a truth in Dunderhead’s language, is one of the most beautiful and coherent weapons that is forged in the shop of the Divine Artificer.”
Newman speaking upon the subject of the necessity of clearness in the use and arrangement of words says: “Reflect how many disputes you must have listened to which were interminable because neither party understood either his opponent or himself. Consider the fortunes of an argument in a debating society, and the need there so frequently is, not simply of some clear thinker to disentangle the perplexities of thought, but of capacity in the combatants to do justice to the clearest explanations which are set before them,—so much so, that the luminous arbitration only gives rise, perhaps, to more hopeless altercation. ‘Is a constitutional government better for a population than an absolute rule!’ What a number of points have to be clearly apprehended before we are in a position to say one word on such a question. What is meant by ‘constitution!’ by ‘constitutional government!’ by ‘better!’ by ‘a population!’ and by ‘absolutism!’ The ideas represented by these various words ought, I do not say, to be as perfectly defined and located in the minds of the speakers as objects of sight in a landscape, but to be sufficiently, even though incompletely, apprehended before they have a right to speak.”
The best authorities give the following as a general rule for clearness in the use and arrangement of words: Use particular terms in speaking or writing of particular objects; use general terms in speaking or writing of general objects. Also, to secure clearness: In the choice of words favor those which more nearly define themselves; and discard, those which are most capable of obscure, equivocal, or ambiguous interpretation.
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