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Here the interjection seems to retain somewhat of its old ceremonial significance: but when, in the ensuing scene, Mistress Quickly says, “This is all indeede-la : but ile nere put my finger in the fire, and neede not,' there is nothing in it but the merest expletive.
200. Wa has a history much like that of la. It has changed its form in modern English to wo. • Wo,' in the New Testament, as Rev. viii. 13, stands for the Greek interjection oval and the Latin vae. In the same way it is used in many passages in which the interjectional character is distinct. This word must be distinguished from woe, which is a substantive. For instance, in the phrase 'weal and woe.' And in such scriptures as Prov. xxiii. 29: "Who hath woe? who hath sorrow?'
The fact is, that there were two distinct old words, namely, the interjection wa and the substantive woh, genitive woges, which meant depravity, wickedness, misery. Often as these have been blended, it would be convenient to observe the distinction, which is still practically valid, by a several orthography, writing the interjection wo, and the substantive woe.
This interjection was compounded with the previous one into the forms wala and walawa—a frequent exclamation in Chaucer, and one which, before it disappeared, was modified into the feebler form of wellaway. A still more degenerate variety of this form was well-a-day. Pathetic cries have a certain disposition to implicate the present time, as in woe worth the day!
The Norman cry Harow coupled with the Saxon walawa is often met with in our early literature, as 'Harrow and well away!' Faery Queene, ii. 8. 46.
201. There was yet another compound interjection made with la by prefixing the interjection ea. This was the Saxon eala;- Eala þu wif mycel ys pin geleafa,' Oh woman, great is thy faith, Matthew xv. 28; 'Eala fæder Abraham, gemiltsa me,' Oh father Abraham, pity me, Luke xvi. 24.
This eala may have made it easier to adopt the French hélas, in the form alas, which appears in English of the thirteenth century, as in Robert of Gloucester, 4198, “Alas ! alas! pou wrecche mon, wuch mysaventure haþ þe ybrogt in to þys stede,' Alas ! alas ! thou wretched man, what misadventure hath brought thee into this place? And in Chaucer it is a frequent interjection.
Allas the wo, allas the peynes stronge,
Knight's Tale. Alack seems to be the more genuine representation of eala, which, escaping the influence of hélas, drew after it (or preserved rather ?) the final guttural so congenial to the interjection. Thus the modern alack suggests an old form ealah. This interjection has rather a trivial use in the south of England, and we do not find it used with a dignity equal to that of alas, until by Sir Walter Scott the language of Scotland was brought into one literature with our own. Jeanie Deans cries out before the tribunal at the most painful crisis of the trial: ‘Alack a-day! she never told me.' Still, the word is on the whole associated mainly with trivial occasions, and in this connection of ideas it has engendered the adjective lackadaysical, to characteríse a person who flies into ecstasies too readily.
202. Pooh seems connected with the French exclamation of physical disgust: Pouah, quelle infection! But our pooh expresses an analogous moral sentiment: "Pooh! pooh! it's all stuff and nonsense.'
Psha, Pshaw, expresses contempt.
Doubt is always crying psha and sneering.'—Thackeray, Humourists, p. 69.
Tush. Now little used, but frequent in writers of the sixteenth century, and familiar to us through the Psalter
Heigh ho. Some interjections have so vague, so filmy a meaning, that it would take a great many words to interpret what their meaning is. They seem as well fitted to be the echo of one thought or feeling as another; or even to be no more than a mere melodious continuance of the rhythm :
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
Arthur H. Clough. This will suffice to exhibit the nature of the first class of interjections ;—those which stand nearest to nature and farthest from art; those which owe least to conventionality and most to genuine emotion; those which are least capable of orthographic expression and most dependent upon oral modulation. It is to this class of interjections that the following quotation applies.
It has long and reasonably been considered that the place in history of these expressions is a very primitive one. Thus De Brosses describes them as necessary and natural words, common to all mankind, and produced by the combination of man's conformation with the interior affections of his mind.— Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, ch. v. vol. i. p. 166.
And this writer has produced a large collection of evidence tending to the probability that the affirmative answers aye, I (102, 205), yea, yes, are of this primitive class of words, although their forms may have been modified by admixture of grammatical material.
§ 2. Historical Interjections.
203. The interjections which we have been considering thus far, may be called the spontaneous or primitive interjections, and they are such as have no basis in grammatical forms. But we now pass on to the other group,
may called the historical or secondary interjections; a group which, though extra-grammatical no less than the former, in the sense that they do not enter into the grammatical construction, are yet founded upon grammatical words. Verbs, nouns, participles, adjectives, pronouns, have at times lost their grammatical character, and have lapsed into the state of interjections.
Our first example shall be borrowed from the manners and customs of the British parliament. That scene may fairly be regarded as presenting to our view the most mature and full-grown exhibition of the powers of human speech, and it is there that one of the most famous of interjections first originated, and is in constant employment. The cry of Hear, hear,' originally an imperative verb, is now nothing more nor less than a great historical interjection. The following is the history of the exclamation, as described by Lord Macaulay, History of England, ch. xi. (1689).
The King therefore, on the fifth day after he had been proclaimed, went with royal state to the House of Lords, and took his seat on the throne. The Commons were called in; and he, with many gracious expressions, reminded his hearers of the perilous situation of the country, and exhorted them to take such steps as might prevent unnecessary delay in the transaction of public business. His speech was received by the gentlemen who crowded the bar with the deep hum by which our ancestors were wont to indicate approbation, and which was often heard in places more sacred than the Chamber of the Peers. As soon as he had retired, a Bill, declaring the Convention a Parliament, was laid on the table of the Lords, and rapidly passed by them. In the Commons the debates were warm. The House resolved itself into a Committee; and so great was the excitement, that, when the authority of the Speaker was withdrawn, it was hardly possible to preserve order. Sharp personalities were exchanged. The phrase .hear him,' a phrase which had originally been used only to silence irregular noises, and to remind members of the duty of attending to the discussion, had, during some years, been gradually becoming what it now is; that is to say, a cry indicative, according to the tone, of admiration, acquiescence, indignation, or derision.
historian could not have nosen more suitable words had it been his intention to describe the transition of a grammatical part of speech into the condition of an interjectional symbol, whose signification depends on the tone in which it is uttered. The fact is, that when a large assembly is animated with a common sentiment which demands instantaneous utterance, it can find that utterance only through interjections. A crowd of grown men is here in the same condition as the infant, and must speak in those forms to which expression is imparted only by a variety of tone.
Nothing is too neutral or too colourless to make an interjection of, especially among a demonstrative people. In Italian altro is simply other, and yet it has acquired an interjectional power of variable signification.
• Have you ever thought of looking to me to do any kind of work?'
John Baptist answered with that peculiar back-handed shake of the right forefinger, which is the most expressive negative in the Italian language.
.No! You knew from the first moment when you saw me here, that I was a gentleman ?
• ALTRO !' returned John Baptist, closing his eyes and giving his head a most vehement toss. The word being, according to its Genoese emphasis, a confirmation, a contradiction, an assertion, a denial, a taunt, a compliment, a joke, and fifty other things, became in the present instance, with a significance beyond all power of written expression, our familiar English • I believe you !'-Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Bk. I. ch. i.
204. The Liturgy, when it was in Latin, was a prolific source for the minting of popular interjections. Where vernacular words are changed into interjections, some plain reason for their selection may generally be found in the grammatical sense of such words. But where a Latin word of religion came to be popular as an exclamation, it was as