Immagini della pagina

likely to be the sound as the sense that gave it currency. In the fourteenth century, BENEDICITE had this sort of career ; and it does not appear how it could have been other than a senseless exclamation from the first. It often occurs in Chaucer; and with that variety of misspelling which a degenerate word is naturally liable to, we find it written benedicitee, benediste.

The charm of this word, and its availability as an interjection, was no doubt largely due to its being in a dead language. So Mr. Mitford tells us that the Japanese have an interjection which was originally a conglomerate of certain sacred words which they no longer understand; and that this compound interjection serves by tonal variation for all manner of occasions -Nammiyo! nammiyô! self-depreciatory; or grateful and reverential ; or expressive of conviction; or mournful and with much head-shaking; or meekly and entreatingly; or with triumphant exultation !

Ejaculations which once were earnest, may sink into trite and trivial expletives. The cursory conversational way in which Mon Dieu is used in France by all classes of persons, without distinction of age, sex, education, or condition, astonishes English people; not because the like is unheard in England, but because among us it is restricted both as to the persons who use it, and also as to the times and occasions of its utterance. There is no person whatever in England who uses such an exclamation when he is upon his good behaviour. In past ages we have had this interjectional habit in certain graver uses, and have not quite discarded it. In Coverdale's Translation, 1535, we read · Wolde God that I had a cotage some where farre from folke,' which was corrected in the Bible of 1611 to this,'Oh that I had in the wilderness a

· Tales of Old Japan, by A, B. Mitford, vol, ii. p. 128. Macmillan, 1871.

lodging place of wayfaring men. Jer. ix. 2. But even the later version retained traces of this exclamatory habit which will probably be removed in our day.

205. Not only is it true that interjections are formed out of grammatical words, but also it is further true that certain grammatical words may stand as interjections in an occasional way, without permanently changing their nature. This chiefly applies to some of the more conventional colloquialisms. Perhaps there is not a purer or more condensed interjection in English literature than that INDEED in Othello, Act iii. Sc. 3. It contains in it the gist of the chief action of the play, and it implies all that the plot developes. It ought to be spoken with an intonation worthy of the diabolic scheme of Iago's conduct. There is no thought of the grammatical structure of the compound, consisting of the preposition 'in' and the substantive "deed,' which is equivalent to act, fact, or reality. All this vanishes and is lost in the mere iambic disyllable which is employed as a vehicle for the feigned tones of surprise.

Iago. I did not thinke he had bin acquainted with hir.
Oth. O yes, and went betweene vs very oft.

Oth. Indeed? I indeed. Discern’st thou ought in that ? not honest ?

Iago. Honest, my lord ?
Oth. Honest? I, honest !

Is he

Thus strong passion may so scorch up, as it were, the organism of a word, that it ceases to have any of that grammatical quality which the calm light of the mind appreciates; and it becomes, for the nonce, an interjection.

206. And not only passion, but ignorance may do the like. With uneducated persons, their customary words and phrases grow to be very like interjections, especially those phrases which are peculiar to and traditional in the vocation

they follow. When a porter at a railway-station cries by's LEAVE, he may understand the analysis of the words he uses ; and then he is speaking logically and grammatically, though elliptically. If he does not understand the construction of the phrase he uses, and if he is quite ignorant how much is implied and left unsaid, he merely uses a conventional cry as an interjection. A cry of this sort, uttered as a conglomerate whole, where the mind makes no analysis, is, as far as the speaker is concerned, an interjection. We cannot doubt that this is the case in those instances where we hear it uttered as follows: 'By'r leave, if you please!' It is plain in this instance that the speaker understands the latter clause, but does not understand the former-for, if he did, he would feel the latter to be superfluous.

207. Fudge. Isaac Disraeli, in his Curiosities of Literature, vol. iii., quotes a pamphlet of the date 1700, to shew that this interjection has sprung from a man's name.

There was, sir, in our time, one Captain Fudge, commander of a merchantman, who, upon his return from a voyage, how ill-fraught soever his ship was, always brought home his owners a good cargo of lies ; so much that now aboard ship, the sailors when they hear a great lie told, cry out •You fudge it.'

He has added a circumstance which is of great use for the illustration of this section :—'that recently at the bar, in a court of law, its precise meaning perplexed plaintiff and defendant, and their counsel.' It is of the very nature of an interjection, that it eludes the meshes of a definition.

But it was Goldsmith who first gave this interjection a literary currency. Mr. Forster, speaking of The Vicar of Wakefield, recognises the elasticity of the interjectional function:

There never was a book in which indulgence and charity made virtue look so lustrous. Nobody is strait-laced; if we except Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs, whose pretensions are summed up in Burchell's noble monosyllable.

“Virtue, my dear Lady Blarney, virtue is worth any price; but where is that to be found ?'


208. Hail. Here we have the case of an adjective which has become an interjection. It is a very old salutation, being found not only in Anglo-Saxon, but also in Old High Dutch. In the early examples it always appears grammatically as an adjective of health joined with the verb 'to be' in the imperative. In the Saxon Version of the Gospels, Luke i. 28, ‘Hal wes Šu,' Hale be thou! and in the plural, Matt. xxviii. 9, ‘Hale wese ge,' Hale be ye !

All hail. This also was at first purely adjectival, as in the following from Layamon, which is quoted and translated above, 47:

al hal me makien

mid haleweize drenchen. By the sixteenth century this “all hail!' had become a worshipful salutation, and having lost all construction, was completely interjectionalised. Did they not sometime cry All hayle to me?

Shakspeare, Richard II, iv. I. The pronunciation is iambic; the All being enclitic, and the stress on hayle, as if the whole were a disyllable. We sometimes hear it otherwise uttered in Matthew xxvii. 9, as if All meant omnes, Trávtes; instead of being merely adverbial, omnino, trávrws. It does not indeed in that place represent any separate word at all, the original being simply Xalpete. In the Vulgate it is Avete ; and this is rendered by Wiclif Heil ze. Tyndal was the first who introduced this All hayle into the English version. The Geneva translators substituted for it God saue you. 204.

209. A remarkable example of a phrase which has passed into the interjectional state is Hallelujah, or in its Greek aspect Alleluia; meaning, Praise ye the Lord. This is a world-wide interjection of religious fervour; and it may safely be said of those who use it, that not one in a thousand understands it grammatically, or misunderstands it interjectionally.

210. But the example which holds the most conspicuous historical position, is the great congregational interjection of faith, the universal response of the Christian Church as well as of the Hebrew Synagogue, Amen. This word, at first in Hebrew a verbal adjective, and thence an affirmative adverb, signifying verily, truly, yea, was used in the early times of the Jewish Church (Deut. xxvii. 15; Ps. xli. 14, lxxii. 19, lxxxix. 53) for the people's response: 'and let the people say AMEN.' It was continued from the first in the Christian community, as we know from 1 Cor. xiv. 16, and is still in use in every body of Christians. For the most part it has been preserved in its original Hebrew form of AMEN; but the French Protestants have substituted for it a translation in the vulgar tongue, and they do not respond with Amen, but with Ainsi-soit-il, So be it'. They have by this change limited this ancient interjection to one of its several functions. For in this modern form it is only adapted to be a response to prayer, or the expression of some desire.

There are other sorts of assent and affirmation for which AMEN is available, besides that single one of desire or aspiration. In mediæval wills it was put at the head of the document In the name of God AMEN. This was a protestation of earnestness on the part of the testator, and a claim on all whom it might concern to respect his dispositions.

In Jeremiah xxviii. 6 we find one AMEN delivered by the

1 I am informed that the Freemasons have a time-honoured rendering of their own: So mote it be!

« IndietroContinua »