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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 ! þou wrecche mon, wuch mysaventure haþ þe ybrogt in to bys 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 characterise 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 I 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. of 1539.
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.
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 :-Nammiyô! nammiyo! 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,
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. Indeed ? I indeed. Discern'st thou ought in that? got honest ?
Iago. Honest, my lord ?
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'r 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.