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« with attention, and say honestly, whether, if he “ had not known of it, he would have had any idea “ of these nice shades of signification here marked; " and whether he would not have been much embar
rassed, had he been writing a dictionary, to distin“guish with accuracy the words ægritudo, mæror, “ dolor, angor, luctus, ærumna, afflictatio. If Cicero, “the greatest philosopher as well as orator that ever “ Rome produced, had composed a book of Latin
synonymas, such as that which Abbe Girard did “ of French ; and if this work had but now for the “ first time been produced in a circle of modern La“tinists, I imagine it would have greatly confound. “ed them, in showing them how defective their “ knowledge is of a subject of which they thought " themselves masters.”
I have brought this quotation, not to support D'Alembert's opinion, who maintains that it is impossible for any modern to write Latin with purity; but only to shew how much nicer a matter it is than is commonly supposed, to enter critically into the peculiarities of a dead language. It might be easily shown, were it necessary, that distinctions like those now illustrated in the nouns, obtain also in the verbs of different languages. Under this class those words also may be comprehended which are not barely the names of certain things, or signs of particular ideas, but which express also the affection or disposition of the speaker, towards the thing signified. In every language, we shall find instances wherein the same thing has different names, which are not perfectly sy
nonymous; for though there be an identity of subject, there is a difference of manner, wherein the speaker appears affected towards it. One term will convey the idea with contempt, another with abhorrence, a third with some relish, a fourth with affection, and a Fifth with indifference. Of this kind are the diminutives and amplificatives which abound so much in the Greek, and Italian, languages.
It is this principally which justifies Girard's observation, that there are much fewer words in
any language which are, in all respects, synonymous than is commonly imagined. And it is this which makes the selection of apposite words so much, and so justly, the study of an orator : for when he would operate on the passions of his hearers, it is of the last con. sequence, that the terms he employs not only convey
, the idea of the thing signified, which may be called the primary use; but that, along with it, they insinuate into the minds of the hearers, the passion of the speaker, whatever it be, love,' or hatred, admiration or contempt, aversion or desire. This, though the secondary use of the word, is not the less essential to his design. It is chiefly from the associated affection that these different qualities of synonymous words taken notice of by Quintilian must be consi. dered as originating : “ Sed cum idem frequentissime
plura significent, quod ovvwvoua vocatur, jam sunt li alia aliis honestiora, sublimiora, nitidiora, jucundi.
ora, vocaliora.” The last is the only epithet which regards merely the sound. The following will serve for an example of such English synonymas, public
speaker, orator, declaimer, haranguer, holder-forth. The subject of them all is the same, being what the first expression, public speaker, simply denotes; the second expresses also admiration in the person who uses it; the third conveys disapprobation, by hinting that it is the speaker's object rather to excite the passions, than to convince the judgment; the fourth is disrespectful, and the fifth contemptuous.
But there is a difference in words called synonymous, arising from the customary application, even when they imply little or nothing of either sentiment or affection. The three words, death, decease, demise, all denote the same thing. The first is the simple and familiar term; the second is formal, being much employed in proceedings at law; the third is ceremonious, and scarcely used of any but princes and grandees. There are also some words peculiar to poetry, some to burlesque, which it is needless here to specify. From these observations we learn that, in writ. ings where words of this second class frequently occur, it is impossible, in a consistency with either perspicuity, or propriety, to translate them uniformly, by the same terms, like those of the first. For, as has been observed, they are such as do not perfectly correspond with the terms of a different tongue, You may find a word that answers exactly to the word in question in one acceptation, that will not suit it in another ; though for this purpose some other term may be found equally well adapted.
It was too servile an attempt in the first translators of the Old Testament (at least of the Pentateuch,
for the whole does not appear to have been translated at one time, or by the same persons), at this rigid uniformity in rendering the same Hebrew words by the same Greek words, which has given such a peculiarity of idiom to the style of the Septuagint, and which, issuing thence as from its fountain, has infected, more or less, all the writings of the New Testament. I might observe further, that there are some words, in the original, by no means synonymous, which have been, almost uniformly, rendered by the same term, partly, perhaps, through not adverting sufficiently to some of the nicer differences of signification, partly through a desire of avoiding, as much as possible, in the translation, whatever might look like comment or paraphrase. Of this I shall have occasion to take notice afterwards.
5. The third class above mentioned is of those words, in the language of every nation, which are not capable of being translated into that of any people, who have not a perfect conformity with them in those customs which have given rise to those words. Such are the names of weights, measures, and coins, which are, for the most part, different in different countries. There is no way that a translator can properly take in such cases, but to retain the original term, and give the explanation in the margin. This is the way which has actually been taken, perhaps in all the translations of the Old Testament. To sub. stitute for the original term a definition or circumlo. cution, if the word frequently occur, would encumber the style with an offensive multiplicity of words, and awkward repetitions, and thereby destroy at once its simplicity, vivacity, and even perspicuity. In this class we must also rank the names of the particular rites, garments, modes, exercises, or diversions, to which there is nothing similar among those into whose language the version is to be made. Of this class there are several words retained in the common English translation; some of which, by reason of their frequency have been long since naturalized amongst us; as synagogue, sabbath, jubilee, purim, ephod, homer, ephah, shekel, gerah, teraphim, urim and thummim, phylacteries, cherubim, seraphim, and a few others.
Beside these, often the names of offices, judicatories, sects, parties, and the like, scarcely admit of being transferred into a version in any other manner. It must be owned, however, that in regard to some of these, especially offices, it is a matter of greater nicety than is commonly imagined, to determine when the name ought to be rendered in the translation by a term imperfectly corresponding, and when it ought to be retained. What makes the chief difficulty here is, that there are offices, in every state, and in every constitution, which are analogous to those of other states and constitutions, in many material circumstances, though they differ in many others. It is not always easy to say, whether the resemblances or the peculiarities preponderate. If the former, the word ought to be translated, if the latter, it ought to be retained. The inconveniency of an