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A great word of the day is survival:

Dr. Carpenter did not agree with him that natural selection was a vera causa. The true cause lay in those developmental forces which gave origin to advances of type and varieties of form. Natural selection by producing the survival of the fittest did nothing but limit and direct the operation of this cause.—The Guardian, August 28, 1872.

In -ical, based upon French -ic. The adjectives in French -i/ue and English -ic ran with unusual celerity into substantival significations, as domestique, domestic; physique, physic; logique, logic. Hence there was a further demand for an adjectival form which should be unequivocal. This seems to be the account of that strain of adjectives in -ical, which is one of the notes of the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and which has been largely discarded in recent times. Matthew Parker dreaded the ‘Germanical natures’ of those who would fain have Zwinglianised the Church of England."


Dogs and such like domestical creatures—Richard Sibbs, Soules Conflict, ch. x.

Such discarded forms have an air of obsolete old-fashionedness about them, and it almost excites a surprise to find that after all we have been rather arbitrary in our discontinuance of some, while we have continued to use others whose case is nowise different. We familiarly use archaeological, ecumenical, evangelical, logical, mathematical, mechanical, methodical, practical, rhetorical, surgical, symmetrical, tropical, whimsical.

-ar, Latin -aris:—auricular, circular, consular, /amiliar, linear, molecular, orbicular, perpendicular, polar, popular, negular, secular, singular, vulgar.

Substantivate :-scholar.

419. -an, -ian, Latin -anus, -ianus ; as African, American, Christian, Darwinian, diocesan, Dominican, Franciscan, HiČernian, Indian, Persian, Polynesian, Puritan, Roman, Russian, Scandinavian, veteran. This form acquired its importance in the first century of the Roman Empire. The soldiers who attached themselves to Julius Caesar in the civil wars were called Juliani, and this grew to be the established formula for the expression of a body of supporters or followers. The friends of Otho were called O/homiami, those of Vitellius were Vilelliami; and in the same period it was that ‘the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Then it served for names of persons; as Appian, Cyprian, Gralian, Hadrian, Lucian, Valentinian. By assimilation Ossian.

* Strype, Parker, vol. i. p. 156.

To this class of legends belong the poems respecting Saint Patrick and the old warrior-poet, Oisin, with whom the modern reader is better acquainted under the name of Ossian. They are to this day chaunted in those parts of Ireland in which the Gaelic language is spoken. . . . . Oisín had died two centuries before Patrick's mission.—Aubrey de Vere, Legends of Saint Patrick, 1872; Preface.

An instance of its playful use :

12th March, 1821.

My dear Friend,-You were very good in writing to me so long a letter, and kind in your own Robinsonian way.—William Wordsworth to H. C. Robinson, Diary.

Amplified forms are produced by the addition of this formative to -ar, -ary, whence -arian, as latitudinarian, parliamentarian, Trinitarian, zaleludinarian, vegetarian. Likewise to -al, making adjectives in -alian, as bacchamalian, episcopalian. The Latin plural -alia provides an easy transition to -alian, as when we render Horace’s ‘sesquipedalia verba’ by ‘sesquipedalian words.’

Greek Adjectival Forms.

420. The Greek forms are few : In -ic, from the Greek -oxos. Examples:—academic, acoustic, asthetic, analytic, anarchic, arctic, antarctic, apathetic, apologetic, archaic, aromatic, athletic, A//antic, atomic, authentic, barbaric M, catharsic, caustic, despolic, diatomic, dramatic, dynamic, epic, ethic, gastric, graphic, mimetic, mystic, optic, poetic, polyfechnic, pragmatic, pyrotechnic, synoptic, telegraphic, theoretic. These are roughly distinguishable from those in -ic after the French -ique, by being entirely of Greek material. Strictly to distinguish the two sets, there needs an historical enquiry into each example severally. The bulk of these adjectives are shared by us with all the great languages of Western Europe, and there is no form that more distinctly represents the general influx of Greek into modern languages and the importance of its contributions towards the formation of a universal terminology. And -istic, -astic, from the Greek -worrukh -aorrukh. Examples:—antagonistic, characteristic, drastic, enthusiastic, gymnastic, patristic, pleonastic.

Of Adjectival Flexion.

Of Declension—that is, of flectional variations to express Gender, Number, Case—the English adjective has none. A few obscure instances of the adoption of the French plural adjective, as lessers patents, cannot be held to constitute an exception to this general statement. This entire freedom of the adjective from Declension makes one of the largest features of the modern as against the ancient vernacular. In this member of our language the work of deflectionization has been complete. The contrast with Anglosaxon is the more striking, as the old adjective had not only all the apparatus of a declension in three genders, but even a double set of trigeneric inflections, like that which forms the beginner's difficulty in German. There was an Indefinite and a Definite declension, or as they are now generally called, a Strong and a Weak declension. Thus, in order to say “I recognize a good man, or a good woman, or a good thing —the adjective would vary three times, thus, “Ic oncháve aenne godne man, oë Seane gode faemne, oëSean god Śing’: but if we use the definite article and say, ‘I saw the good man, and the good woman, and the good thing’—it would be thus expressed, ‘Ic geseah bone godan man, and pa godan faemne, and paet gode ping.’

Comparison of Adjectives.

421. Some slight traces remain of that ancient Indo-European -MA superlative, which we see in Greek and Latin, as £330pos, infimus, primus, optimus, ultimus.

It is a remarkable point of agreement between Moesogothic and AngloSaxon, that these two, almost to the exclusion of the other dialects, have preserved this ancient form. Some specimens of it linger on in English, but masked under a modern guise, as if it had something to do with more and moss. 422. The system of comparison which is common to the whole Gothic family is that in -er and -ess.

MOEsogor Hic ANGLosAxon ENGLISH fruma forma foremost hinduma hindema hindermost innuma innema innermost utena uttermost medema midmost

niöema nethermost

We English have moved on to a third method, namely by prefixing the adverbs more and most : a method which is also used in Swedish and Danish.

This has gained immensely in modern times upon the elder forms, insomuch that the comparison by -er and -est is rarely used now for words of more than two syllables, and not always for these. In early writers we meet with such long forms as ancienter, eloquenter, honourablest, but in our day such forms are used only for a certain rhetorical effect that they carry with them, or for a sort of humour which they seem to convey.


Does human nature possess any free, volitional, or truly anthropomorphic element, or is it only the cunningest of all Nature's clocks?—Professor Huxley, Lay Sermons, viii.

In an anonymous story-book which purports to represent life in East London, the flectional comparison of long words is a stock feature of the characterisation. A churlish dealer in waste paper, who is something of a reader, talks as follows:– wonderfullest.

I like travels, too, a bit, and now and then I get hold of an interesting Life, but mostly they're about people that nobody ever knew anything about till they were dead, and then somebody makes 'em out to be the wonderfullest people that ever lived.—Episodes in an Obscure Life, vol. ii. ch. viii.

The effect is still more peculiar when a participle is so treated: starfleder.

And yet, if you'll believe me, I once found a fairy story in a blue-book. If I'd found a fairy in it I couldn't have been startleder.—Id, ibid.

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