Ly. Are you the man whose scent is so keen for a blunder, and who is himself blunder-proof?
Pur. I think I may say so.
Ly. I suppose one must be blunder-proof, to detect the man who is not so?
Ly. Do I understand that you are proof?
Pur. How could I call myself educated, if I made blunders at my age?
Ly. Well, shall you be able to detect a culprit, and convict him if he denies it?
Pur. Of course I shall.
Ly. Catch me out, then; I will make one just now.
Pur. Say on.
Ly. Why, the deed is done, and you have missed it.
Pur. You are joking, of course?
Ly. No, upon my honour. The blunder is made, and you none the wiser. Well, try again; but you are not infallible on these sort of things.
Ly. Again, the blunder made, and you unconscious.
Pur. How can that be, before you have opened your lips?
Ly. Oh yes, I opened them, and to a blunder; but you never see them. I quite doubt you seeing this one even.
Pur. Well, there is something very queer about it if I do not know a solecism when I hear it.
Ly. One begins to doubt, when a man has missed three.
Pur. Three? What do you mean?
Ly. A complete triolet of them.
Pur. You are certainly joking.
Ly. And you are as certainly a poor detective.
Pur. If you were to say something, one might have a chance.
Ly. Four chances you have had, and no result. It would have been a fine feather in your hat to have got them all.
Pur. Nothing fine about it; it is no more than I undertook.
Ly. Why, there you are again!
Ly. ‘Feather in your hat’!
Pur. I don’t know what you mean.
Ly. Precisely; you do not know. And now suppose you go first; you do not like following, that is what it is; you understand, if you chose.
Pur. Oh, I am willing enough; only you have not made any solecisms in the usual sense.
Ly. How about that last? Now watch me well, as you did not get me that time.
Pur. I cannot say I did.
Ly. Now for a rabbit, then; there, that ’s him! Has he got by? There he is, that ’s him, I tell you. Hims enough to fill a warren, if you don’t wake up.
Pur. Oh, I am wide awake.
Ly. Well, they are gone.
Ly. The fact is, your too much learning renders you unconscious to solecisms; whatever case I take, it is always the same.
Pur. What you mean by that I am sure I don’t know; but I have often caught people out in blunders.
Ly. Well, you will catch me about the time that you are a sucking child again. By the way, a babe laying in his cradle would hardly jar on your notions of grammar, if you have not yet got me.
Pur. Well, I am convinced.
Ly. Now, if we cannot detect blunders like these, we are not likely to know much about our own; you see, you have just missed another. Very well now, never again call yourself competent either to detect blunders or to avoid them.
This is my blunt way, you see. Socrates of Mopsus, with whom I was acquainted in Egypt, used to put his corrections more delicately, so as not to humiliate the offender. Here are some specimens:
What time do you set out on your travels? — What time? Oh, I see, you thought I started to-day.
The patrimonial income supplies me well enough. — Patrimonial? But your father is not dead?
So-and-so is a tribes-man of mine. — Oh, you are a savage, are you?
The fellow is a boozy. — Oh, Boozy was his mother’s name, was it?
Worser luck I never knew. — Well, you need not make it worserer.
I always said he had a good ’eart. — Yes, quite an artist.
So glad to see you, old cock! — Come, allow me humanity.
Contemptuous fellow! I would not go near him. — If he were contemptible, it would not matter, I suppose.
He is the most unique of friends. — Good; one likes degrees in uniqueness.
How aggravating! — Indeed? what does it aggravate?
So I ascended up. — Ingenious man, doubling your speed like that.
I had to do it; I was in an engagement. — Like Xenophon’s hoplites.
I got round him. — Comprehensive person.
They went to law, but were compounded. — You don’t say they didn’t get apart again?
He would apply the same delicate treatment to people unsound in their Attic.
‘That’s the truth of it,’ said some one, ‘between you and I.’ Ah no, you will have to admit that you and me are wrong there.’
Another person giving a circumstantial account of a local legend said: ‘So when she mingled with Heracles —’ ‘Without Heracles’s mingling with her? ’
He asked a man who told him that he must have a close crop, what his particular felony had been.
‘There I quarrel,’ said his opponent in an argument. ‘it takes two to make a quarrel.’
When some one described his sick servant as undergoing torture, he asked, ‘What for? what do they suppose they are going to get out of him?’
Some one was said to be going ahead in his studies. ‘Let me see,’ he said; ‘it is Plato, I think, who calls that making progress.’
‘Will we have a fine day?’ ‘If God shall.’
‘Archaist, curse not thy friend’ he retorted, to a man who called him curst instead of crusty.
A man once used the phrase, ‘I was trying to save his face.’ But is he in any danger of losing it?’ asked Socrates.
‘Chided,’ said one man, ‘chode,’ another. He disclaimed all acquaintance with either form.
A person who volunteered ‘but and if’ was commended for his generosity.
Some one tried him with ‘y-pleased’; ‘no, no,’ said he; ‘that is too much of a good thing.’
‘I expect him momently,’ some one announced. ‘A good phrase,’ he said; ‘so is “minutely”; we have excellent authority for “daily."’
‘Look you!’ said a man, meaning ‘look’ ‘Yes, what am I to look you at?’
He took up a man who said, ‘Yes, I can grapple with that,’ meaning that he understood, with ‘Oh, you are going to throw me, are you? how?’
‘How shrill those fives are!’ said some one. ‘Oh, come now,’ said Socrates; ‘seditions and strives, but not drums and fives.’
‘That man is heavily weighed,’ one man observed. ‘You are quite right; there is no such word as weighted.’
‘He has thrived on it,’ some one assured him. ‘The people among whom he has thrived cannot be very particular.’
People were very fond of calling it at-one-ment. ‘Yes, all right,’ he would say; ‘I know what it means.’
Mention being made of a black-hen, he supposed that would be the female of the grey-cock.
Some one said he had been eating sparrowgrass. ‘You’ll be trying groundsel next,’ was his comment.
But enough of Socrates. Shall we have another match on the old lines? I will give you nothing but first-rate ones. Have your eyes open. You will surely be able to do it now, after hearing such a list of them.
Pur. I am by no means so sure of that. Proceed, however.
Ly. Not sure? well, but here you have the door broad open.
Pur. Say on.
Ly. I have said.
Pur. Nothing that I observed.
Ly. What, not observed ‘broad open’?
Ly. Well, what is to happen, if you cannot follow now? Every man can crow on his own hay-cock, and I thought this was yours. Did you get that hay-cock? You don’t seem to attend; look at the mutual help Socrates and I have just given you.
Pur. I am attending; but you are so sly with them.
Ly. Monstrous sly, is it not, to say ‘mutual’ instead of ‘joint’? Well, that is settled up; but for your general ignorance, I defy any God short of Apollo to cure it. He gives council to all who ask it; but on you that council is thrown away.
Pur. Yes, I declare, so it was!
Ly. Perhaps one at a time are too few?
Pur. I think that must be it.
Ly. How did ‘one are’ get past you?
Pur Ah, I didn’t see it, again.
Ly. By the way, do you know of any one who is on the look in for a wife?
Pur. What are you talking about?
Ly. Show me the man who is on the look in, and I will show you a solecist.
Pur. But what have I to do with solecists on the look in for wives?
Ly. Ah, if you knew that, you would be the man you pretend to be. So much for that. Now, if a man came to you and said that he had left his wife’s home, would you stand that?
Pur. Of course I should, if he had provocation.
Ly. And if you caught him committing a solecism; would you stand it?
Pur. Certainly not.
Ly. Quite right too. We should never permit solecisms in a friend, but teach him better. Now, what are your feelings when you hear a man deprecating his own merits, and depreciating his friend’s excessive gratitude?
Pur. Feelings? only that he shows a very proper feeling.
Ly. Then, as you cannot feel the difference between ‘deprecate’ and ‘depreciate,’ shall we conclude that you are an ignoramus?
Pur. Outrageous insolence!
Ly. Outrageous? I shall be, ere much, if I go on talking to you. — Now I should have said that ’ere much’ was a blunder, but it does not strike you so.
Pur. Oh, stop, for goodness’ sake! Look here, try this way; I want to get my profit out of it too.
Pur. Suppose you were to go through all the blunders you say I have missed, and tell me what is the right thing for each.
Ly. Good gracious, no; it would take us till midnight. No; you can look those out for yourself. Meanwhile, we had better take fresh ones, as we have only a quarter of an hour (by the way, never pronounce the ‘h’ in hour; that sounds dreadful). Then as to that outrage which you say I have committed upon you; if I were to speak of an outrage committed against you, that would be another thing.
Pur. Would it?
Ly. Yes; an outrage upon you must be committed upon you personally, in the shape of blows, interference with your liberty, or the like. An outrage against you is upon something that belongs to you; he who does an outrage upon your wife, child, friend, or slave, does it against you. This distinction, however, does not apply to inanimate things. An ‘outrage against’ is a legitimate phrase with them, as when Plato talks in the Symposium of an outrage against a proverb.
Pur. Ah, I see now.
Ly. Do you also see that the exchange of one for the other is a solecism?
Pur. Yes, I shall know that for the future.
Ly. And if a person were to use ‘interchange’ there instead of ‘exchange,’ what would you take him to mean?
Pur. Just the same.
Ly. Why, how can they be equivalent? Exchange is merely the substitution of one expression for another, the improper for the proper; whereas interchange involves a false statement 1.
Pur. I see now; exchange is the use of a loose instead of a precise expression, while interchange is the use of both expressions, each in the other’s place.
Ly. These subtleties are not unpleasing. Similarly, when we are concerned with a person, it is in our own interest; but when we are concerned for him, it is in his It is true the phrases are sometimes confused, but there are those who observe the distinction; and it is as well to be on the safe side.
Pur. Quite true.
Ly. Now, can you tell me the difference between ‘setting’ and ‘sitting,’ or between ‘be seated ‘ and ‘sit’?
Pur. No; but I have heard you say that ‘sit yourself ‘ is a barbarism.
Ly. Yes, quite so; but now I tell you that ‘be seated ‘ is not the same as ‘sit.’
Pur. Why, what may the difference be?
Ly. When a man is on his legs, you can only tell him to be seated; but if he is seated already, you can tell him to sit still
Sit where thou art; we find us seats elsewhere.
It means ‘remain sitting,’ you see. Here again we have to say that it is a mistake to reverse the expressions. And as to ‘set’ and ‘sit,’ surely it is the whole difference between transitive and intransitive?
Pur. That is clear enough; go on; this is the way to teach.
Ly. Or the only way you can learn? Well, do you know what a historian is?
(The explanation of this point appears to have dropped out of the MSS. — Translators.)
Pur. Oh, yes, I quite see, after your lucid explanation.
Ly. Now I daresay you think servility and servitude are the same; but I am aware of a considerable difference between them.
Pur. Namely —?
Ly. The first depends on yourself, the other on some one else.
Pur. Quite right.
Ly. Oh, you will pick up all sorts of information, if you give up thinking you know more than you do.
Pur. I give it up from this moment.
Ly. Then we will break off for the present, and take the rest another time.
H. & F.
188:1 The words here represented by ‘exchange’ and ‘interchange’ are the Greek verbs from which are derived the grammarian’s names for the (not very clearly distinguished) figures of speech, Hypallage and Enallage. We take it, however, that ‘exchange’ and ‘interchange’ give the distinction fairly in the present context, the former indicating a single, the latter a mutual substitution between two terms. For if one of the two differs from the other in being more comprehensive, as ‘outrage against’ is more comprehensive than ‘outrage upon,’ it is then true that the substitution of the more for the less comprehensive has no worse effect than making the statement lack precision, while the double substitution produces a false statement.
Let it be supposed that A kicks B’s dog. Four descriptions are conceivable:—
(1) It is an outrage upon the dog.
(2) It is an outrage against B.
(3) It is an outrage against the dog.
(4) It is an outrage upon B.
The first two can both be stated; each is true, and each is precise. (3) can also be stated; ‘exchange’ has taken place; the more comprehensive terns has been substituted; the statement is true, but not precise. But if (3) and (4) are both stated, ‘interchange’ has taken place; the less comprehensive has been substituted for the more, as well as vice versa; and (4) is not only not precise, it is false.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11