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in Shakspeare, King John, i. 1, Have is have'; and in Longfellow's
Mother, what does marry mean? In these cases the word is (as one may say) taken up between the finger and thumb, and looked at, and made an object of. It is no longer, as words commonly are, a symbol of some object or idea in the mind's meaning, i.e. subjective ; it enters for the moment into an objective position of its
There are many instances of this. Must is a verb. But when we hear the popular saying ‘Oh! you must, must you? Must is made for the Queen'here must is a noun.
This "objective' citation of words being cleared away, it remains now to consider how words may change their subjective condition, that is to say, their relation to the thinking mind, and vary their characters as parts of speech accordingly. 215. And first, the verb may become a substantive, as
To err is human, to forgive divine.
Is not to die.—Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground. The word handicap is an old Saxon noun meaning a compromise or bargain, and in this character, I suppose, it figures in the technical language of horse-racing. This sporting substantive signifies the extra weight which horses carry as a compensation for any advantage they may have in respect of age. It frequently stands for a verb, as in the following from a contemporary journal.
The legitimate objects of the Trades Unions are overlaid by elaborate attempts to handicap ability and industry, and to exclude competition.
216. Further examples of the functional interchange between substantive and verb:
With all good grace to grace a gentleman.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, ii. 4.
In 1811 the Swedes, though not yet actually at war with England, were making active preparations for defence by sea and land, ‘in case,' says Parry, we should be inclined to Copenhagen them.'—Memoirs of Sir W. E. Parry, by his Son, ch. ii.
Passing to more familiar and trivial instances, such as are (be it remembered) the best examples of the unfettered and natural action of a language, we hear such expressions as 'to cable a message'; and again, 'If such a thing happens, wire me.'
I do not say that these expressions have become an acknowledged part of the language. If we confined our attention solely to that which is mature and established, we should act like a botanist who never studied buds, or a physiologist who neglected those phenomena which are peculiar to young things. Young sprigs of language have a levity and skittishness which render them unworthy of literature and grammar, but which make an exhibition of the highest value for the purposes of philology. There are many movements that are natural and that are among the best guides to the student of nature, which are discontinued with staid age. main character of philology as contrasted with grammar that it is unconfined by literary canons, and that the whole realm of speech is within its province.
217. To such an extent does the language exert this faculty of verbifying a substantive, that even where there is already by the ancient development of the language a verb and a noun of the same stem, it will sometimes drop the established verb, and make a new verb by preference out of the noun. Thus we have the verb to graff, and the noun graft. But we have dropped the proper verb graff and have made a new verb out of the substantive. Everybody now talks of grafting, and says to graft, and we never hear of to graff except in church.
It is a
The pronoun can be used as a verb, thusTaunt him with the license of Inke: if thou thou'st him some thrice, it shall not be amisse.—Twelfe Night, iii, 2. 42.
The substantive becomes an adjective. This is so common in our language that examples are offered not to establish the fact but to identify it. Main is a well-known old Saxon substantive, which appears in its original character in such an expression as 'might and main’; but it becomes an adjective in 'main force,' or in this :
And on their heads
John Milton, Paradise Lost, vi. 654. We have an example of a different kind in the word cheap. This originally was a substantive, meaning market, and the expression 'good cheap' meant to say that a person had made a good marketing, after the French bon marché. While it went with an adjective harnessed to it, it was manifestly regarded as a substantive. But since we no more speak of 'good cheap'; since we have changed it to 'very cheap'; and since the word has taken the degrees of cheaper and cheapest, -its adjectival character is established beyond question.
218. The adjective becomes a substantive. In such expressions as 'the young and the old,' the good and the bad,' 'the rich and the poor,' the high and the low,' 'the strong and the weak,' we have adjectives used substantively. The adjective employed substantively sometimes takes the plural form; and then it is impossible to deny it the quality of a substantive; for the adjective has no plural form in English grammar. Therefore the words irrationals and comestibles in the following quotations, though adjectives by form and extraction, must be called grammatical substantives, not only on account of their substantival use, but also by reason of their grammatical form.
Irrationals all sorrow are beneath.
Edward Young, Night Thoughts, v. 538. What thousands of homes there are in which the upholstery is excellent, the comestibles costly, and the grand piano unexceptionable, both for cabinet work and tone, in which not a readable book is to be found in secular literature.— Intellectual Observer, October 1866.
So the adjective worthy has become a substantive when we speak of a worthy and the worthies. Other grammatical structures, besides plurality, may demonstrate that an adjective has become a substantive. We call contemporary an adjective in the connection contemporary with; but it is a noun when we say a contemporary of. The word good considered by itself would be called an adjective, but it is an acknowledged substantive, not only in the plural form goods, but also in such a construction as 'the good of the land of Egypt,' Genesis xlv. 18.
And specially must the whilom adjective be called a substantive when it is suited with an adjective of its own. The adjectives ancient, preventive, must be parsed as substantives in the following quotations :
Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head.-Goldsmith, Dedication of the Deserted Village.
Those sanitary measures which experience has shown to be the best preventive.- Queen's Speech, 1867. More examples in 404, 413, 415, 417.
219. The same changeableness of grammatical character may be seen in the adverb. The commonest form of the adverb, namely -ly, was made out of an adjective, which was made out of a substantive; as will be fully explained below, 398, 438, 441. A substantive may suddenly by a vigorous stroke of art be transformed into an adverb, as forest in the following passage
'Twas a lay More subtle-cadenced, more forest wild Than Dryope's lone lulling of her child.
John Keats, Endymion.
In the following line the word ill appears first as an adverb
Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, ii. 4. Sometimes the employment of one and the same word in a diversity of grammatical powers leads to a modification of the form of the word. The old preposition Surh has come to be employed as an adjective, in a thorough draught,' or, as in the following quotation :
These two critics, Bentley and Lachmann, were thorough masters of their craft.—Dr. Lightfoot, Galatians, Preface.
It has been a modern consequence of this adjectival use of thorough, that a different form has been established for the preposition, viz. through. But this variety of form does not interfere with the justice of the statement that here we have had the same word in two grammatical characters.
220. How easily the offices of preposition and conjunction glide into each other may be seen from one or two examples. In the Scotch motto, ‘Touch not the cat but the glove,' but is the old preposition butan, signifying without.' This is the character and signification which it had in early times, and from which the better known uses of but are derivative. If however we expand this sentence a little without alteration to its sense, and write it thus—“Touch not the cat but first put on the glove,' we perceive that but is no longer a preposition—it has become a conjunction. In the sentence, 'I saw nobody else but him, but is a preposition: if it be recast and expressed thus, 'I saw nobody else, but I saw him, but is a conjunction.