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Propriety consists in using words in the sense they bear in the usage of the best writers and speakers. Importance of Propriety. - If a writer or speaker does not
a word as it is understood by the reader or listener, he cannot convey the meaning he intends, or, if he does, it will be because his reader or listener has, from the context, seen the intended meaning and mentally substituted the correct word. Hence it is of the utmost importance that words should be used in their general, well-understood, and established sense. To be able to do this requires time and patient toil, and he who is unwilling to accept the task on these terms may never hope to succeed either in writing correctly or in understanding his own language.
Impropriety. - The application of a word in a sense not authorized by good usage, is called Impropriety.
Examples. - A few examples are given to illustrate more fully what is to be avoided and what is to be attained.
Predicate (Latin predicare, to publish or state) means simply to affirm in regard to something that already is, but it is frequently found in the sense of “foretell” or “predict"; as, “It is impossible to predicate what he will or will not do."
Expect is very widely used in the sense of suppose, think, guess; as, “ I expect you had much trouble on that occasion.” Expect refers only to that which is to come, and which, therefore, is looked for (ex, out, and spectare, to look). We cannot expect backwards.
Adopt is often used for “ decide upon,” and for “ to take"; as, “The measures adopted, as the result of his inquiry, will be productive of good.”
Caption is derived from Latin capere, to take, not from caput, the head. Hence it means seizure, or the act of taking, not heading
Appreciate (from ap, to, and pretium, price), means to estimate justly. Hence we cannot say, “I appreciate your kindness highly.”
Demean is not from mean, low, but from the French démener, to conduct one's self.
Restive. This word, which means inclined to rest, obstinate, unwilling to go, is frequently employed in a sense directly the reverse of this ; that is, for uneasy, restless.
Avocation is often used for vocation, or calling. A man's avocations are those pursuits or amusements which engage his attention when he is called away from his regular business or profession, as music, fishing, or boating. Rendition is sometimes used for rendering ; as,
" Mr. Booth's rendition of Hamlet.” Rendition means surrender, giving up; as, when we speak of the rendition of a beleagured town to the besieger.
Condign is from con, and dignus, worthy, and signifies deserved or merited. Many who use it seem to think it means severe; as, “ The villain received condign punishment."
Quite means entirely, completely, a fact that is lost sight of when it is placed before a noun; as, “They collected quite a sum."
Witness (A.S. witnesse, knowledge) is to bear testimony of what one knows by personal observation. We should not say, “I never witnessed such a lovely day.”
Pell-mell implies a number in confusion; so it is absurd to say of one person,
“He rushed out pell-mell.” Get means to obtain by a voluntary effort. We should not say, “I have got a cold,” or “ I have got a house to sell.”
Alternative. An alternative is one choice out of two (Latin, alter, one of two).
Female should not be used for woman or lady.
Allow is to give by measure or in due proportion. A father allows his son a reasonable amount of spending money. Such
uses of the word as, “He allows he can defeat his opponent,” are mere vulgarisms.
Balance (Latin, bilancem, scales) denotes equilibrium. It should, therefore, not be used for remainder.
Citizen. It is proper to call a person a citizen when he is spoken of in relation to the state, but improper when in relation to his fellow-men; as, “Some citizens behaved badly on show day.” Aggravate (Latin, aggravare, to make worse) means to make
It is often improperly used for vex or annoy. Transpire should not be used for happen.
Eliminate means literally to throw out of doors. Hence it should not be used for elicit or draw forth.
Extend is to increase in one or all directions, to stretch out. So we should not say, “ Extend an invitation.”
Replace. Literally, we can replace only that which was previously in its place; but such expressions as, “ He can never hope to replace so eminent a man seem to have obtained a strong foothold in the language.
Dock should be distinguished from wharf. A dock is usually an excavation, while a wharf is an elevation.
Plenty is often wrongly construed as an adjective; as, “ Money is plenty this year.”
Mistaken. To mistake is to take wrongly, so to be mistaken should mean to be taken by error for some one else. Say, “ You are in error,'' not, “ You are mistaken.”
To a degree is sometimes used where exceedingly would be the proper
word. At length should not be used for at last. At length means fully; at last, finally.
Nice is now one of those “social” adjectives that are used for almost any quality that pleases the speaker. Its correct meaning is delicate and exact.
Description should not be used for kind or sort.
“contemptuous" for “contemptible"; "exceptionable" for “exceptional”; “respectfully” for “respectively" ; "observation” for “observance"; "purpose" for "propose."
PROPRIETY. Direction. — Point out the word that is not properly used, supply the correct word, and give the ordinary meaning of the rejected word.
1. His conduct aggravates me continually. 2. Her sister has got a very severe attack of fever. 3. Directly he heard the alarm he rushed out pell-mell. 4. Johnson died from blows administered by a policeman. 5. The measures adopted by the House will do good. 6. He allows that he has the finest horse in the country. 7. This road will serve to convene the public. 8. A great amount of perfection has been attained in that art. 9. He was unwilling to demean himself by a public apology.
10. The alternatives set before him were, to abjure the faith, to submit to the torture, or to go into perpetual exile.
II. He had exceptionable opportunities for learning the language.
12. The troops, though fighting bravely, were terribly decimated, nearly half of them having fallen.
13. I have sat and heard him tell any amount of anecdotes. 14. I have always considered him an honest man.
15. “Sir,” said he to Dr. Parr, “I have a contemptible opinion of you.” “That does not surprise me,” replied the Doctor; “ all your opinions are contemptible."
16. We have travelled quite a piece to-day.
18. We had a nice time yesterday ; the weather was nice, the company was nice, and everything went off nice.
19. Peaches are very plenty this season.
24. He aims at eliminating truth from spirit, fact and duty from truth.
25. The elevation of 100 feet eliminated a hearty cheer.
26. It also looks to the final elimination of the soul from the body.
27. When the boat came ashore, it contained only one female. 28. Can we suppose that good blood replaces teaching ? 29. I declare this is the most splendid bay I ever witnessed. 30. They followed the ancient avocation of picking pockets.
31. He is fond of reading such fictitious writers as Hawthorne. 32. A young man abortively seized two pieces of alpaca. 33. A lady having two boys, would like to adopt one.
34. A society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, has lately been inaugurated.
35. A great part of the congregation went home at ten o'clock, but the balance remained till twelve.
36. She has several other little poems of a much higher calibre.
37. There is an article in the last issue of our contemporary under the above caption.
38. Several citizens carried the sufferer to a drug store on the next block.
39. The marriage was happily consummated at Paris last April.
40. The Mosque in Eastern lands must go, and the Christian Church will replace it.
41. The President convened Congress early in January. 42. This application of reason predicates a great national future. 43. An invitation was extended to him to dine with his friends. 44. He was at length induced to desist.