The Comic English Grammar
A NEW AND FACETIOUS
INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH TONGUE.
EMBELLISHED WITH UPWARDS OF FORTY-FIVE CHARACTERISTIC
ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. LEECH.
DICK & FITZGERALD, PUBLISHERS
18 ANN STREET.
Fashion requires, and like the rest of her sex, requires because she requires, that before a writer begins the business of his book, he should give an account to the world of his reasons for producing it; and therefore, to avoid singularity, we shall proceed with the statement of our own, excepting only a few private ones, which are neither here nor there.
To advance the interests of mankind by promoting the cause of Education; to ameliorate the conversation of the masses; to cultivate Taste, and diffuse Refinement; these are the objects we have in view in submitting a Comic English Grammar to the patronage of a discerning Public.
Few persons there are, whose ears are so extremely obtuse, as not to be frequently annoyed at the violations of Grammar by which they are so often assailed. It is really painful to be forced, in walking along the streets, to hear such phrases as, "That 'ere omnibus." "Where've you bin?" "Vot's the odds?" and the like. Very dreadful expressions are also used by cartmen and others in addressing their horses. What can possibly induce a human being to say "Gee woot!" "'Mather way!" or "Woa?" not to mention the atrocious "Kim aup!" of the barbarous butcher's boy.
It is notorious that the above and greater enormities are perpetrated in spite of the number of Grammars already before the world. This fact sufficiently excuses the present addition to the stock; and as serious English Grammars have hitherto failed to effect the desired reformation, we are induced to attempt it by means of a Comic one.
With regard to the moral tendency of our labors, we may be here permitted lo remark, that they will tend, if successful, to the suppression of evil speaking; and as the Spartans used to exhibit a tipsy slave to their children with a view to disgust them with drunkenness, so we, by giving a few examples here and there, of incorrect phraseology, shall expose, in their naked deformity, the vices of speech to the ingenious reader.
The comical mind, like the jaundiced eye, views everything through a colored medium. Such a mind is that of the generality of our countrymen. We distinguish even the nearest ties of relationship by facetious names. A father is called "dad," or "poppa;" an uncle, "nunkey;" and a wife, a "rib," or more pleasantly still, as in the advertisements for situations, "an encumbrance."
We will not allow a man to give an old woman a dose of rhubarb if he have not acquired at least half a dozen sciences; but we permit a quack to sell as much poison as he pleases. When one man runs away with another's wife, and, being on that account challenged to fight a duel, shoots the aggrieved party through the head, the latter is said to receive satisfaction.
We never take a glass of wine at dinner without getting somebody else to do the same, as if we wanted encouragement; and then, before we venture to drink, we bow to each other across the table, preserving all the while a most wonderful gravity. This, however, it may be said, is the natural result of endeavoring to keep one another in countenance.
The way in which we imitate foreign manners and customs is very amusing. Savages stick fish-bones through their noses; our fair countrywomen have hoops of metal poked through their ears. The Caribs flatten the forehead; the Chinese compress the foot; and we possess similar contrivances for reducing the figure of a young lady to a resemblance to an hour-glass or a devil-on-two-sticks.
There being no other assignable motive for these and the like proceedings, it is reasonable to suppose that they are adopted, as schoolboys say, "for fun."
We could go on, were it necessary, adducing facts to an almost unlimited extent; but we consider that enough has now been said in proof of the comic character of the national mind. And in conclusion, if any other than an English or American author can be produced, equal in point of wit, humor, and drollery, to Swift, Sterne, Dickens, or Paulding, we hereby engage to eat him; albeit we have no pretensions to the character of a "helluo librorum."
COMIC ENGLISH GRAMMAR.
"English Grammar," according to Lindley Murray, "is the art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety."
The English language, written and spoken with propriety, is commonly called the King's English.
A monarch, who, three or four generations back, occupied the English throne, is reported to have said, "If beebles will be boets, they must sdarve." This was a rather curious specimen of "King's English." It is, however, a maxim of English law, that "the King can do no wrong." Whatever bad English, therefore, may proceed from the royal mouth, is not "King's English," but "Minister's English," for which they alone are responsible.
King's English (or perhaps, under existing circumstances it should be called, Queen's English) is the current coin of conversation, to mutilate which, and unlawfully to utter the same, is called clipping the King's English; a high crime and misdemeanor.
Clipped English, or bad English, is one variety of Comic English, of which we shall adduce instances hereafter.
Slipslop, or the erroneous substitution of one word for another, as "prodigy" for "protegee," "derangement" for "arrangement," "exasperate" for "aspirate," and the like, is another.
Slang, which consists in cant words and phrases, as "dodge" for "sly trick," "no go" for "failure," and "carney" "to flatter," may be considered a third.
Latinised English, or Fine English, sometimes assumes the character of Comic English, especially when applied to the purposes of common discourse; as "Extinguish the luminary," "Agitate the communicator," "Are your corporeal functions in a condition of salubrity?" "A sable visual orb," "A sanguinary nasal protuberance."
American English is Comic English in a "pretty particular considerable tarnation" degree.
English Grammar is divided into four parts—Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody; and as these are points that a good grammarian always stands upon, he, particularly when a pedant, and consequently somewhat flat, may very properly be compared to a table.