Popular Science Monthly/Volume 73/November 1908/The Inadequacy of Speech

1578652Popular Science Monthly Volume 73 November 1908 — The Inadequacy of Speech1908Charles William Super




ALMOST all the sounds that the human voice is capable of producing are used to express thought, feeling, or will. Many of these sounds are incorporated in articulate speech; but not all. It is to be remarked further that the term "articulate speech" includes many sounds that are not vocal, in fact the large majority are only modifications of vocal utterance. The most peculiar of those occurs in the language of the Hottentots: they employ sounds produced by inspiration or by means of the air in the mouth. These sounds are four in number and have been described as the "interjection of annoyance on the part of the owner when the china falls, the drawing of a cork, the giving of a kiss, and the sound of encouragement to a tired horse." They can be learned only from the natives by direct communication, since it is as impossible to represent them graphically as it is the croaking of a frog or the wail of a hyena. At least one writer maintains that they are the bridge over the gulf between the speech of man and the cries of animals, and are the primeval utterance out of which language was developed. No one tongue employs all the sounds which the human voice is able to produce, or even a majority. The instruction books for English place the number at about forty; but this is far from being all that are in use. Some languages, like the classical Italian and especially the Finnish, in both of which the vowels are numerous compared with the consonants, have few sounds and such as are easy of utterance. Conversely, the Russian employs combinations of consonants that it is almost impossible for adult foreigners to produce.

It must be remembered that a literary language is an artificial creation. Even the best instructed people do not speak as they write. The national adjective by which a language is designated is a much misunderstood word. England is a comparatively small country, yet to the ear there is much diversity in English speech. Tins diversity grows slowly less and less with the advance of national education, since by this means each rising generation is gradually led to conform to a common type. Appleton Morgan, the president of the New York Shakespeare Society, affirms that the members of Queen Elizabeth's parliament could not understand one another. This statement does not mean that the dialects of the different counties were as diverse as if they had been foreign tongues, but only that the diversities were of such a nature as to make complete reciprocal comprehension impossible. At this day the speech of the outlying districts differs to a greater or less extent from that of the capital. We may see, or rather we may hear, the same thing in France and Spain. Although Italy, until recently, had no political capital, Florence has for more than six centuries been the fountain-head of pure Italian, for the reason that the coryphæi of Italian literature were natives of the Florentine district. Much of the so-called Italian used by the uneducated bears hardly more resemblance to the literary type than another language. The same is true of Germany. What is regarded as the best German is spoken near the middle of the present empire, and to it foreigners usually try to conform. The Germans themselves are rather careless about the matter and are content to speak a tongue more or less marked by local words and by a distinctive pronunciation. The speech of Holstein, on the one hand, and that of South Germany and Switzerland, on the other, differs so widely that the natives of these regions who know only their mother dialect are unable to understand one another. I read somewhere that when Schiller first declaimed his early dramas before a middle German audience he was only half understood and that their merit was not appreciated until they were read aloud in a pronunciation unmarred by Swabian, the only kind of German he knew. Even so small a country as Denmark is not without its local peculiarities of speech. In the United States the diversities of speech are so slight as to occasion no inconvenience to a person passing from one end of the country to the other. The reason is that the Atlantic seaboard, roughly speaking, provided the norm for all the region extending westward to the Pacific. The Mississippi valley and the Far West are simply a linguistic extension of the East. The origin of dialects within a given language can only be accounted for hypothetically. They seem to be due to phonetic laws that operated on a larger scale in producing the wider divergencies of speech which are called languages. Limiting the statement to the Aryan stock, it is assumed by philologists that its eight branches are all descendants from one primitive tongue which was at first spoken by a comparatively small tribe. In the course of time the initial group scattered or was dispersed and each fragment became the nucleus of a new language. It needs but a superficial study of all the languages of Europe to make it evident that except the Finnish, the Magyar and the Turkish, together with a few smaller groups, they have many points of resemblance. When, however, we examine the structure of the three just named, we soon find a fundamental difference which is, however, common to the trio. The farther back we trace these eight languages, the closer becomes the resemblance. That the Irish branch of the Keltic differs more widely from the Russian than does the German is owing to the fact that the early settlers of Erin split off from the parent stock at a period prior to those of central and northern Europe. This is the usual assumption, but it must always remain a hypothesis like so many other explanations of prehistoric phenomena. That English resembles the Scandinavian languages more than it does the German will not surprise any one who takes account of the early history of Great Britain. But who will tell us what brought about the transformation of the prepositive article, as we find it in English and German into a suffix which is its normal position in the Danish-Norwegian and Swedish, a transposition that seems to have taken place less than a millennium ago?

It is probable then that the same psychic cause led to the formation of dialects that in remoter ages produced separate languages. We know that the primitive Germans were a migratory people. At one time and another they are heard from in almost every part of Europe except Russia, because their movements were always southward or westward. When they were constrained to adopt a more fixed mode of life, there was but little intercourse between the different tribes; the divergences of speech, therefore, that had doubtless already begun to manifest themselves, became more and more marked until the introduction of letters among them virtually put an end to the disintegration. We find a similar phenomenon in South Africa. That continent from the equator to the Cape is occupied by the Bantus, except a few enclaves, whose dialects have a clearly marked relationship. No philologist ventures to affirm where the starting-point is to be found, although the general movement seems to have been from north to south. It is remarkable with what tenacity the natives of any particular district cling to the vernacular which they have received by inheritance. The student of the oldest German is constantly surprised by many words, and especially by a pronunciation still in use in southwest Germany, a region in which the language was first reduced to writing, that have undergone but little change in six or seven centuries. We find the same thing in other countries and in England. The unlettered still use words that are only found in the dialect dictionaries; and, as these are a modern innovation, they must have been transmitted orally through many generations. It is more than probable that of the words in common use to-day not a few are pronounced as they were in Shakespeare's time, or even in Chaucer's. There is a considerable number in the former writer with which he evidently makes puns and rhymes, but which lose their point if we give to them the pronunciation now assigned to them by our dictionaries. Evidently beat and bait were pronounced alike; so were louse and luce, Moor and more, wode and wood, and so on. I remember hearing in my youth in Pennsylvania some of my father's neighbors say "yarbs" for herbs, "coo" for cow, but by a singular perversity "cowcumber" for cucumber, "af eard," "pore" (poor), "sturk," together with several other archaisms. As the people who talked in this way were very illiterate and did not know whence their ancestors came, they can only have inherited, by oral tradition, the words brought generations before by immigrants from the mother country. It is strange with what tenacity the best-instructed persons are wont to cling to the past in matters of speech. When they can not do so in pronunciation, they show their fidelity to the same instinct in orthography.[1] They would greet with a guffaw the suggestion that they should travel, or live, or dress as did their grandfathers, or even their fathers; but they adhere to the spelling of the tenth preceding generation with a tenacity worthy of a nobler cause. In France no less than in England the spelling reformers have an almost insurmountable task before them. It is worthy of remark, however, that many words are pronounced by Americans more nearly as printed than by Englishmen. One seldom knows how to pronounce an English proper name from the printed page.

The primitive races exhibit a lack of capacity for abstract thought that is well nigh incredible. It seems almost impossible for them to generalize. Every perceived object has a separate name because it is a separate entity. Among the Innuits an older brother, a younger brother, a youngest brother, is each designated by a different term. The same is true of sisters; and when a brother, a sister or a father is deceased, still another word is employed when speaking of them. The Lapps have a word to designate the relationship of the husband of a man's sister, and another to designate that of men who have married sisters, but their language lacks one for brother-in-law. In this respect these and other languages are more definite than the English or the German. The Greek and Latin are still more careless in the designation of relationship by marriage. Herein all the primitive races have a well-supplied vocabulary. The range of their observations being limited, the natural tendency to loquacity manifests itself by multiplying words for the same or nearly the same object. It is not an uncommon thing to find persons even in civilized countries whose words are numerous in an inverse ratio to their thoughts. It is very much easier to talk than to think. The language-making faculty produces such a luxuriant crop of words that where the range of percepts is circumscribed it invents a new word for every possible relation in which they may be perceived. If the conditions of the primitive races were changed they would probably find their vocabulary sadly deficient. Under such circumstances it is likely that they would invent a new stock of words, using the material on hand as a basis as far as it would reach. Such we may suppose to be the case of the Eskimo and the Kafirs, if they were to exchange habitats. On the other hand, it needs to be said that this proceeding is not carried very far, but new objects are named by words used to designate them by the people that serve as intermediaries. We accordingly find among the Eskimo of the northwest a number of terms borrowed from the Russians, and, among the native tribes of Africa, words appropriated from the Arabic, the Portuguese and the English, always trimmed to fit the native vocal organs; for it must be remembered that they are learned by adults and not by children, whose vocal organs are sufficiently plastic to reproduce any sound accurately. The process may be seen among the Vai, a dialect of the Mande spoken to some extent in the republic of Liberia: lamp becomes "dampo," bowl "bowli" or "bowri," fork "furokia," hundred "hondoro," coat "coti," pillow "puro" or "puro," trunk "torungu."

When a language has reached a stereotyped stage and the people speaking it continue to advance in thought, there is nothing left for them to do except to discard it for another. This happened with the Hebrew. The library of the British Museum is said to contain ten thousand modern books in this language, among them most of Shakespeare's plays and even Goethe's Faust. It is hard to see how these versions can be more than a mere adumbration of the originals. It is simply impossible to express the subtle thoughts of these works in the rigid ancient tongue. The Jews themselves recognized this. When they undertook to discuss philosophical and metaphysical themes they had recourse to the Greek even when they wrote for their own countrymen. This language of unlimited resources and perfect adaptability to the expression of the minutest shades of thought had been so fully developed and had a vocabulary ready-made for abstract discussion that all who aspired to wide culture betook themselves to it. The New Testament furnishes evidence within the reach of every one. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius, although a Roman of the Romans, felt that Greek was better adapted to give utterance to the inmost thought of his soul than his native Latin. It is doubtful whether an adequate English translation of his "Meditations" exists as yet. The late Carl Schurz, who was "master" of two languages in a widely different sense from that usually given to this much-abused word, was wont to say that for certain subjects he preferred the English and for others the German. In his mind each possessed excellencies which the other lacked.

Until recently almost all students of human speech accepted the theory that abstract ideas or concepts are its ultimate elements. It was held that the mind itself supplies an inherent basis of knowledge in all our cognitions. A name is a mere empty sign, a meaningless symbol, unless there be a preceding mental image of the object which it represents, or an abstract conception in the mind of which it is the sign. The mental image must precede the name, the abstract conception must be anterior to the sign, if it is to be understood. Ideas must precede the visible or audible or tactile signs. A child knows a great many things before it can speak the name. This being the case, the moon is the "measurer," the sun the "light-giver," from roots meaning to measure and to shine. Fifty years ago, Professor Max Müller worked out this theory with much detail and popularized it with a profusion of poetic imagery. At the present day, however, it is no longer taken seriously by the most competent judges. Most persons conversant with the facts admit that in nearly all languages there are roots that seem to express purely abstract ideas; but whether these are the oldest elements is another question. Dogs and other brutes know the names of objects as well as their uses although they never learn to speak the former. A careful study of the radical elements of many languages has led some philologists to maintain that the earliest words were a sort of cross between a name in action and an appended demonstrative. To walk or to eat would thus mean "walker-that-one," or "walker-he"; "eater-this-one," or "eater-he." In some of the languages spoken by tribes at the foot of the economic ladder words are used in a sense utterly foreign to our modes of thought. In the Innuit, for example, "he is my son" really means he sons me; "thou art my son" is I son thee; "he sons me" is equivalent to I am his son. We find a trace of this mode of thought in English owing to the lack of characteristic suffixes, as when Shakespeare says: "Cowards father cowards." Familiar examples of this dual nature of words are boycott, out-Herod, water, table, "move on," "get a move on you"; and many more.

The endeavor to give utterance to internal speech, as we may call it, has called into existence an astonishing number of word-forms to express number, person, gender and case. These various relations are indicated by prefixes, suffixes and infixes, or by separate words. In English the plural is, for the most part, formed by the addition of an s to the singular. This method is so simple that it could not be made more so. The exceptions are such plurals as oxen, mice, men, and a few others. On the other hand, the Hausa, a dialect of the Maude spoken in central Africa, employs at least seven different ways of forming the plural regularly either by the addition of another syllable or by reduplicating the final syllable with a euphonic change. The Latin has five forms for the plural. In the language of the Bullum and Temme the plural is made by means of various prefixes, kil "a house" becoming tikil, pokan, "a man" becoming apokan, and so on. On the other hand, in the Japanese the plural, in a majority of substantives, does not differ from the singular. Sometimes, however, it is formed by repetition of the singular, or by the addition of another word; but the latter process usually means something more than a mere plural. In the French a large number of plurals do not differ from the singular except to the eye. In the Italian the modification of the terminal syllable often adds a qualification to the root: it may indicate mere bigness, or bigness and ugliness, or bigness and fatness, or bigness and vigor. Conversely, it possesses likewise several modifying syllables to indicate the opposite qualities, as little and neat, little and lovely, or little and unimportant, or little and contemptible. The Finnish is provided with fifteen cases with which to express the various relations in which a noun may be used. Doubling this number for the plural, a Finnish substantive may appear in thirty different forms. Comparing this method with such languages as the French and the Spanish, in which case-relations are expressed by means of propositions, it looks like the extreme of complexity, or like an effort on the part of the Finnish people to resort to an intricate method for doing that which might be done just as well by a much simpler process. Again, if we compare an English verb with the same part of speech in Sanscrit or Greek we find a similar remarkable diversity. A Greek verb with its participles may take more than five hundred different forms to express person, number, tense and case. It must be evident that with such an astonishing variety of resources at command it can express shades of meaning in a single word quite impossible with a Germanic verb. The Semitic languages are, for the most part, very simple in the structure of the verb, having, like the English, only two tense-forms. On the other hand, they complicate matters by giving to the second person, both singular and plural, a form to agree with the sex of the person addressed. Although they lack a passive voice they indicate the passive state by the use of prefixes and vowels placed before or within the radical consonants. The inadequacy of even the most highly developed language to express abstract ideas with accuracy is strikingly shown by a study of the writings of a thinker like Plato. He had virtually no predecessors in the realm of thought in which his mind often moved. He had, therefore, to coin new words, out of preexisting materials, or to give to current words a new meaning. He usually chose the latter, thus laying himself liable to be misunderstood at every turn. His followers were, therefore, in the position of the shorter animals that try to feed on branches as far from the ground as the giraffe does. The result is that although his works have been studied and commented upon for more than twenty centuries, we are still told by some of his enthusiastic devotees, that the master is not fully understood. There is probably a good deal of truth in the assertion, for the reason that our psychic experiences are not only conditioned by our environment, but also by our mental structure. As the former can not be reproduced and as minds of like caliber are a prodigy we probably do not fully comprehend what the ancient thinker meant in not a few passages. The truth of this statement may be made evident by a simple illustration. We hear a certain individual say: "I am happy." Upon inquiry we find that his state of mind is the result of his having plenty of food and drink of a kind exactly suited to his tastes and that he cares for nothing else. Another person uses the same expression whose highest ambition is to possess the means to shine in society, but who is relatively indifferent to food and drink. A third person is a North American Indian, who has after long watching and waiting got into his power a mortal enemy whom he can now torture to his heart's content. With these let us now compare the ecstatic feelings of a Copernicus when after long years of study and reflection he had at last become fully convinced of the truth of the heliocentric system. Although all four have employed exactly the same sentence their meaning was wide, very wide apart. But even in less profound matters we can not fully understand a language unless we are thoroughly familiar with the conditions where it has been developed. In some of its aspects German is German the world over. But what different feelings come into our minds when we take up Schiller's "Tell" in north Germany, or in a foreign land, or among the scenes where the drama is laid! The Platt-Deutsch of the northern plains seems strangely out of place in the mountain region of the south. The converse is equally true. And what a feeble imitation of the real thing is the colloquial German of the United States or the French of Canada! The ancients were aware of this. Herodotus tells us that when the messenger of Cambyses came to Psammeticus, the dethroned king of Egypt, to ask him why he did not shed a tear nor utter a cry when he saw his daughter brought to shame and his son on his way to death, but gave those marks of honor to a beggar, replied: "son of Cyrus, my own misfortunes were too great for tears," and by inference, too great for words. Similarly Malcolm says "Give sorrow words: the grief that doth not speak, Whispers to the o'erfraught heart and bids it break." And again: "Grief that is expressed in words Is slight indeed." Byron also speaks of the "suffocating sense of woe." When we read an author like Voltaire we feel that in his hundred volumes he said about all he had to say. He puts his thoughts before us lucidly and vigorously, but not profoundly. In the case of Goethe, on the other hand, who could think both scientifically and poetically, we often realize that in spite of the enormous extent of his works his language is not infrequently an indication of his thoughts rather than the expression of the thoughts themselves. The existence of Dante Societies, and Shakespeare Societies, and Goethe Societies has its justification in the conviction that the thoughts of these master minds can be fully understood only by the cooperation of many of inferior caliber. By thus combining and comparing the individual and partial views of a number of separate intellects, they may gain at least an approximately adequate grasp of the psyche of these prodigies.

Perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon exhibited by all the languages of the world is a process we can hardly call by any other name than deterioration. Take, for example, the Greek. Many of its oldest words are both longer and more sonorous than the later ones. But often even the earliest form shows evidence of weakening, abrasion and contraction. At least one consonant was lost in the period lying between the prehistoric and the historic. In many words two syllables are drawn together into one, or a shorter takes the place of a longer word. Sometimes the longer form existed for a time alongside the shorter, eventually to displace it entirely. Often the attenuated vowel e takes the place of the more sonorous a. It would almost seem as if when a word of two or more syllables having a traditional signification had for a time been in use it dawned upon the primitive mind that it could be shortened without losing its meaning. In Greek and Latin this process is not carried very far, but in French all the words derived from the latter language consist only of that portion that precedes and includes the accented syllable. We know that when an uneducated person tries to reproduce the pronunciation of a long foreign word or one that is foreign to him, he usually gets only a part of it and that part often incorrectly: education becomes "edication," sitting" sit'n," somewhat "sumet," the other "t'other," and so on with innumerable examples. This is the every-day process. But where and when shall we place the era of upbuilding? When were the fuller forms in use? The procedure that falls within our ken furnishes us with no answer to the question, not so much as an approximation thereto. Even those languages of which the study began only a generation or two ago exhibit the same phenomenon. The Bantu, the most widely disseminated speech of South Africa, presents many instances where two or more syllables are contracted into one, and where former syllables have left but a single letter as evidence of their one-time existence. As soon as a language is reduced to writing, or becomes a matter of study, and the rising generation is taught to pattern after its predecessors, the process of deterioration virtually comes to an end, unless only a small portion of those who use it fall under the influence of culture. In such a case the breach between the educated and the uneducated becomes wider and wider. This gradual divergence can be traced both in the Greek and in the Latin. A few persons continued to write the classic tongues as nearly as they could; but they eventually became unintelligible to the great mass of the people. Although Dante had a ready use of the Latin and wrote much in that language, he nevertheless composed a treatise to prove the superiority of the mother-tongue; and he felt that in this alone could he give utterance to the inmost thoughts of his soul.

It is remarkable that the course of what we are wont to call civilization is in a great measure parallel with that of language. During the Mycenæan age in Greece the arts flourished to a degree that seemed almost godlike to Homer's contemporaries. The historic era in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the beginning of which is placed about three thousand years b.c., is one of decline. The same is true of Mexico and Central America. Here not only the age of growth, but also that of decay, has been swept into the bottomless pit of oblivion. We see much and know nothing.

That thought embraces more than speech may often be inferred from a study of public speakers. When persons who are in the habit of thinking rather than talking endeavor to express themselves in public they are frequently at a loss. They hesitate, repeat, often use the wrong word, and are ill at ease for the reason that the vocabulary which they have at immediate command does not offer the exact terms they need. This is particularly true of mathematicians, who are proverbially poor speakers. Take another example similar in kind. I am translating from a foreign tongue into my own. I come across a word for which an equivalent does not at once occur to me. My memory brings into consciousness several synonyms, but all are rejected by my judgment as inadequate. My memory may be compared to a plane surface on which my judgment moves about like a flash-light until it discovers what I am looking for. Or I may come across a foreign word that has no English equivalent. I must therefore transfer it bodily or use an approximation. In such cases the dictionary rarely affords any aid. It furnishes me, perhaps, with a number of more or less equivalents, but it does not help me to select the particular word I am in search of. Again, assuming that Leibniz discovered the Differential Calculus, did he do so with the German, the French or the Latin language? Although we are not justified in assuming that the discovery could have been made by a dumb person, it lies within a sphere of thought where words count for little. There is abundant evidence to prove that many of the subanimals carry on elementary trains of reasoning which lead them to conform their actions to new conditions. They depart from their usual routine. In the child, thought and speech are developed, pari passu, but after a while the latter is no longer indispensable. They need a support just as they do in learning to walk. That thought and reason are not identical may thus be judged in its lowest forms by the conduct of certain animals and from the lowest races such as the Euegians and Bushmen, since the reasoning powers of the latter always remain at the puerile stage, but also from those persons who have risen into an intellectual region where words are inadequate to express their ideas.

The generally accepted explanation of this tendency to abbreviate words spoken of before is that it is due to laziness, or a well-nigh irresistible impulse to follow the law of least effort. It is, however, more probably owing to the incapacity of adults to apprehend sounds correctly. Even with the utmost care on the part of the teacher and the learner, persons who have reached the age of maturity seldom succeed in acquiring the correct pronunciation of a foreign language. One may continue to add a reading knowledge of languages to one's repertoire as long as his mental faculties are unimpaired, but the capacity to imitate a correct pronunciation seldom continues beyond the age of about twenty. What is done by the child without thought and without effort is impossible to the "grown-ups."[2]

That the psychic life of man can not be fully expressed by language is further evinced by the predisposition manifested everywhere and at all times by mankind to come to its aid with the hands. Hence we have the plastic and pictorial arts together with music. The artistic instinct is nowhere wholly lacking; prehistoric man made rude carvings. A mere daub or a coarse wood-cut gives the beholder a clearer conception of an object than pages of description. The same may be said of a piece of statuary. Words set to music and rhythm in a simple air are more impressive than a mere recitation. When then it is supported by a musical instrument, or better still by an orchestra, the effect is greatly heightened. Even without words emotion can be forcibly expressed by instruments alone or by gestures alone. The orator Cicero is reputed to have said that the actor Eoscius could portray the feelings more accurately in pantomime than he was himself able to describe them with words. The instinct or impulse that leads men to endeavor to give utterance to their feeling by rhythm and tones, often very unmusical to a cultivated taste, is almost as old as the race. Before the dawn of history there seems to have been in vogue the war-song, the dance-tune, the epic recitative, the religious chant, all accompanied by appropriate gesture and frequently by such instruments as the age could produce. The Orphic legends bear witness to the real or imagined power of the musical art. When in its infancy, it was usually accompanied by gesture and pantomime. We all can bear witness to the tendency of emotional individuals to fall instinctively into gesticulaton in order to emphasize their words. Popular audiences are so much more influenced by their feelings than by their judgment that they are often "carried away" by the commonplaces of a skillful elocutionist, but remain unmoved by the most profound wisdom of the statuesque orator. How contagious emotionalism is likely to be is strikingly shown by the anecdote Franklin tells about the effect of Whitefield's oratory upon his purse.

How jejune must be the psychic life of those peoples that are without any of these arts becomes evident after a moment's reflection. Even if their languages were far better adapted to the expression of thought than most of them are, their soul life would nevertheless be lacking in some of the most effective modes of utterance. It was doubtless this thought that Tennyson had in mind when he wrote:

Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

We need to remember, however, that the word better is used in this connection in the European sense. Yet John Stuart Mill is probably right when he says: "Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of beastly pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they with theirs." He puts the case still more effectively in the words: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool or the pig is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both." It is evident, then, that speech, when most carefully and conscientiously used, is but a feeble reflection of man's inner self. When, on the other hand, we consider man's liability to error, his passive indifference to truth and his proneness to deliberate falsehood, we must admit that language and fact do not often correspond with each other. While it is not true, according to the well-known saying of Talleyrand, that speech was given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts, that is so employed in numberless instances who shall gainsay?

  1. The following bits of verse, which I found somewhere, facetiously but truthfully represent some of the vagaries of our English pronunciation and orthography:

    My wife had a dog yelept Caesar,
    As a gift he was given to please her.
    One day he attempted to seize her,
    Angry, perhaps, or to tease her.
    She said: "I'd be glad if some bees or
    Wasps would do him to death, or a freeze, for
    I've no more int'rest in him."

    Wife, make me some dumplings of dough,
    They're better than meat for my cough;
    Pray, let them be boiled till hot through,
    But not till they're heavy or tough.
    Now I must be off to the plough,
    And the boys, when they've all had enough
    Must keep the flies off with a bough
    While the black mare drinks at the trough.

  2. A curious and amusing instance once occurred in my own experience. I was talking with an Englishman who dealt with the h-sound after the somewhat usual manner of his countrymen. Upon my alluding to his weakness in a jocular way, he became very angry, declaring that I had taken up a false charge. Yet in the very words of his defense he committed the peccadilloes against which he was defending his countrymen. On the other hand, I have known several Englishmen who admitted the bad habit and strove assiduously to avoid it.