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PART 1.

B

INTRODUCTION.

"Interdum vereor, ne quibusdam bonis viris etymologiæ nomen sit invisum."

THE low estimation in which etymology has long been held, may, I think, be ascribed to the following causes :

1. As usage is allowed to be the proper criterion of language, many deem it useless labour to trace the origin and history of words, a knowledge of their present import being sufficient for every necessary purpose.

2. The unbounded license of conjecture indulged in etymology, and the many futile things that have been advanced in it, may well be supposed to have had some share in bringing the science into contempt; especially, when we reflect how common it is to find a false or strained explanation of a word given by etymologists, in order to support a fanciful conceit about its origin.

3. The too great importance which some attach to the origin of words, considering how often it is uncertain, and that the etymological sense must, in every case where they differ, yield to that of

usage, is a circumstance that has tended to make others think too lightly of it.

In regard to the first ground of prejudice, it may be true, that a knowledge of the origin and history of every word in our language (if it were attainable) would not enable us to write it with more elegance; yet it does not follow that the origin and structure of language, and of our own in particular, is not an object of liberal curiosity, and perhaps this is all that can be said for some other branches of knowledge. A complete knowledge of the theory of music will not make a good musician excellence in that art, as in the use of language, being acquired by attending to and imitating the compositions and performance of such as excel in it. Yet the theory of music is thought a liberal study, especially in those who have a practical knowledge of the art.

Etymology, as discovering the origin or derivation of words, is a necessary branch of PHILOLOGY, and in this view it cannot be deemed altogether useless, while the history and structure of language are regarded as subjects worthy of the attention of philosophers.

As to the second cause of prejudice against etymology, the unbounded license of conjecture indulged in it, the fact cannot be denied. The origin of many words must for ever be a subject of conjecture, and by too hastily advancing any conceits that occur to us, we are apt to bring contempt on the whole science. Quintilian has

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recorded some fooleries of ancient etymologists: 'Ingeniosè sibi visus est Cajus Granius cœlibes dicere quasi colites, quod onere gravissimo vacent, idque Græco argumento, esc enim eâdem "de causâ dici affirmat. Nec ei cedit Modestius "inventione, nam quia Cœlo Saturnus genitalia absciderit, hoc nomine appellatos qui uxore careant. At L. Ælius pituitam quia petat vitam. Sed cui non post Varonem sit venia, qui agrum, "quod in eo agatur aliquid: et graculos, qui gregatim "volent, dictos, Ciceroni persuadere " voluit," &c. Lib. I. c.6.

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There are many specimens of ingenuity not much inferior to these, in a late excellent work on English Synonymes; for example, we are told, that "HAVE, in German haben, Latin habeo, is not, improbably from the Hebrew aba, to desire,

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because those who have most, desire most." FETCH, A. Saxon fecc-ian, is traced to the Hebrew zangnack, to send for or go after. LAND is from lean and line. And "HIND, in all probability signifies one who is in the back ground!"

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The identity of words in languages so remote as the Hebrew and the Anglosaxon, when sufficiently clear, is certainly worthy of remark, were it only as a proof of the original brotherhood or relationship of mankind. But this identity must be clear indeed to be believed: and it will scarcely be thought that the identity or connexion of have and aba, fetch and zangnack, arise and Hebrew

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