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A Difficulty, an Obstacle. A Difficulty, embarrasses; an Obstacle, stops. us. move the one; we surmount the other. Generally, the first, expresses somewhat arising from the nature and circumstances of the affair ; the second, somewhat arising from a foreign cause. Philip found Difficulty in managing the Athenians from the nature of their dispositions; but the eloquence of Demofthenes was the greatest Obstacle to his designs.
Wisdom leads us to speak and act what is most proper. Prudence, prevents our speaking or acting improperly, A wise man, employs the most proper means for success; a prudent man, the safest means for not being brought into danger.
Enough, Suficient. Enough, relates to the quantity which one wishes to have of any thing. Sufficient, relates to the use that is to be made of it. Hence, Enough, generally imports a greater quantity than Sufficient does. The covetous man never has enough; although he has what is fufficient for nature,
To avow, to acknowledge, to confess. Each of these words imports the affirmation of a fact, but in very different circumstances. To avow, supposes the person to glory in it; to
acknowledge, supposes a small degree of faulti- LECT.
To remark, to observe. We remark, in the way of attention, in order to remember ; we observe, in the way of examination, in order to judge. A traveller remarks the most striking objects he fees; a general observes all the motions of his enemy.
Equivocal, Ambiguous. An Equivocal Expression is, one which has one senfe open, and designed to be understood ; another sense concealed, and understood only by the person who uses it. An Ambiguous Expression is, one which has apparently two senses, and leaves us at a loss which of them to give it. An equivocal expression is used with an intention to deceive; an ambiguous one, when it is used with design, is, with an intention not to give full information. An honest man will never employ an equivocal expression; a confused man may often utter ambiguous ones, without any design. I shall give only one instance more.
With, By. Both these particles express the connection between some instrument, or means of effecting an end, and the agent who employs it; but with, expresses a more close and immediate connection ; by, a more remote one. We kill a man with a sword; be dies by violence. The criminal is bound with ropes by the executioner. The proper distinction in the use of these particles, is elegantly marked in a passage of Dr. Robertson's History of Scotland.
When one of the old Scottish kings was making an enquiry into the tenure by which his nobles held their lands, they started up, and drew their swords : “ By these," said they, " we acquired our lands, and with these, es we will defend them.” “ By these we
acquired our lands;" signifies the more remote means of acquisition by force and martial deeds; and, “ with these we will defend “ them;" signifies the immediate direct instrument, the sword, which they would employ in their defence.
These are instances of words, in our Language, which, by careless writers, are apt to be employed as perfectly synonymous, and yet are not so. Their significations approach, but are not precisely the same. The more the distinction in the meaning of such
words is weighed, and attended to, the more L E C T. clearly and forcibly shall we speak or write *.
From all that has been said on this head, it will now appear, that, in order to write or speak with Precision, two things are especially requisite; one, that an author's own ideas be clear and distinct; and the other, that he have an exact and full comprehension of the force of those words which he employs. Natural genius is here required ; labour and attention ftill more. Dean Swift is one of the authors, in our Language, most diftinguished for Precision of Style. In his writings, we feldom or never find vague expressions, and synonymous words, carelesly thrown together. His meaning is always clear, and strongly inarked.
* In French, there is a very useful treatise on this subject, the Abbé Girard's Synonymes Françoises, in which he has made a large collection of such apparent Syno. nymes in the Language, and shown, with much accuracy, the difference in their fignification. It is to be wished, that come such work were undertaken for our tongue, and executed with equal taste and judgment. Nothing would contribute more to precise and elegant writing. In the mean time, this French Treatise may be perused with confiderable profit. It will accuftom persons to weigh, with attention, the force of words; and will suggest several diftin&tions betwixt synonymous terms in our own language, analogous to those which he has pointed out in the French; and, accordingly, several of the instances above given were suggested by the work of this author.
I HAD occafion to observe before, that though all subjects of writing or discourse demand Perspicuity, yet all do not require the same degree of that exact Precision, which I have endeavoured to explain. It is, indeed, in every sort of writing, a great beauty to have, at least, some measure of Precision, in distinction from that loose profusion of words which imprints no clear idea on the reader's -mind. But we muft, at the same time, be on our guard, lest too great a ftudy of Precision, especially in subjects: where it is not strictly requisite, betray us into a dry and barren Style; left, from the desire of pruning too clofely, we retrench all copiousness and ornament. Some degree of this failing may, perhaps, be remarked in Dean Swift's serious works. Attentive only to exhibit his ideas clear and exact, resting wholly on his sense and distinctness, he appears to reject, disdainfully, all embellishment which, on some occasions, may be thought to render his manner fomewhat hard and dry. To unite Copiousness and Precifion, to be flowing and graceful, and, at the same time, correct and exact in the choice of every word, is, no doubt, one of the higheft and most difficult attainments in writing. Some kinds of composition may require more of Copiousness and Ornament; others, more of Precision and Accuracy; nay, in the same