WHAT AND WHY
This little work is neither a treatise on comparative philology nor a dictionary. It is for the use of the pupil from the very beginning of his course in French or Spanish. The purpose is a very simple one, namely, to make the learning of French or Spanish words more effective and more satisfying for the learner by presenting more points of contact with what he already knows. This is done by arranging in the simplest, most striking way the outstanding facts of cognate origin and showing how a word in one of the older languages has been developed along various lines by different peoples. The natural impulse to seek the familiar in new realms and in new relations and to proceed along connecting paths from the known to the unknown should be encouraged in our young people for that is the safest, surest and pleasantest road to all knowledge.
In a class room experience of over eighteen years as teacher of foreign languages, the compiler has constantly found that his pupils took pleasure in the discovery that many words of the foreign language are more or less thinly disguised relatives of words in their own mother tongue. And it is not merely a matter of pleasure, for words learned in this way become a real and correlated part of the pupil's mental equipment instead of a deadening load for his memory.
Some of these related words wear little or no disguise, but there are enough impostors to make it impermissible for the inexperienced pupil to admit a new word into an already known group simply because of an apparent family resemblance. While popular etymology may be better than none if it serves a useful purpose, it is usually better not to know too much "that ain't so," as Josh Billings would say. For instance, the learner with nothing but a quick eye and aroused interest to guide him may feel quite safe in placing the words apparent, compare, parallel, prepare, etc., in one group and in admitting many French and Spanish words into the same group. The same alert pupil may not suspect that the words story and histoire are only modifications of the same material. But when even a dull pupil has once had it brought to his attention that story, history and histoire are one and the same word and that the last has, for a Frenchman, the meanings of the other two, then the new word is strangely familiar and at once assumes its rightful place in the family group. The brightest pupil is not apt to notice any connection between such meanings as these: to depend, to exaggerate, to excuse, to to spend, to think, to weigh, boarding house, earring, pansy, recompense, pension, Spanish dollar, slope, etc. Experience shows that any pupil finds it easier and much more interesting to learn the French or Spanish for these varied meanings by grouping them under one common meaning and enjoying the real poetry that is brought to light in the process of tracing the metaphorical development of one simple meaning. See under Latin 27. Learning these words individually is wasteful in every way.
For our purpose it is not necessary to go into details. The book is careful to make clear the line, or lines, of growth that a word has had. In cases where this is not sufficient a note is added.
For the sake of brevity and in keeping with the design of making the book helpful and suggestive rather than exhaustive and cumbersome many derivatives are omitted, especially those that obviously belong to a certain group. For similar reasons almost no reference is made to the intermediate steps a word may have taken before reaching its present place and form. For instance, if a word came into French through the Italian from the Latin, the fact that it came from the Latin in a roundabout way is not mentioned. Words have usually been taken in their most general meaning only and no direct account has been taken of any compounds or derivatives a word may have had in the language of origin itself. Some words in one or more of the three modern languages are omitted because they are antiquated or because they have only a technical use.