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SLANG.

It has been a pleasant conceit with
philosophers and writers to distinguish the
successive ages of what, in the plenitude of their
wisdom, they call the world, by some metallic
nickname. We have had the Golden Age,
and the Silver Age, the Age of Iron, and the
Age of Bronze; this present era will,
perhaps, be known to our grandchildren as the
age of Electro-plating, from its general
tendency to shams and counterfeits; and,
when the capital of the Anglo-Saxon Empire
shall be, some hundreds of years hence,
somewhere in the South Seas, or in the centre of
Africa or interior of China, the age that is to
come may be known as the Age of Platina
or that of Potassium, or some one of the
hundreds of new metals, which will, of course,
be discovered by that time.

However, this present age may be
distinguished by future generations, whether
ferruginously, or auriferously, or argentinally, there
can be no doubt that the Victorian era will
be known hereafterand anything but favourably,
I surmiseas an epoch of the most
unscrupulous heterodoxy in the application of
names. What was once occasionally
tolerated as a humorous aberration, afterwards
degenerated into folly and perversity, and
is now a vice and a nuisance. Without
the slightest regard to the proprieties of
nomenclature, or to what I may call
the unities of signification, we apply
names to objects, abstractions, and persons
stupidly, irrationally, and inconsistently:
completely ignoring the nature, the quality, the
gender, the structure of the thing, we prefix
to it a name which not only fails to convey
an idea of what it materially is, but actually
obscures and mystifies it. A persistence
in such a course must inevitably tend to
debase, and corrupt that currency of speech
which it has been the aim of the greatest
scholars and publicists, from the days of
Elizabeth downwards, to elevate, to improve,
and to refine; and, if we continue the
reckless and indiscriminate importation and
incorporation into our language of every cant
term of speech from the columns of American
newspapers, every Canvas Town epithet from
the vocabularies of gold-diggers, every bastard
classicism dragged head and shoulders from
a lexicon by an advertising tradesman to puff
his wares, every slip-slop Gallicism from
the shelves of the circulating library; if
we persist in yoking Hamlets of adjectives
to Hecubas of nouns, the noble English
tongue will become, fifty years hence, a mere
dialect of colonial idioms, enervated ultramontanisms
and literate slang. The fertility of a
language may degenerate into the feculence
of weeds and tares; should we not rather,
instead of raking and heaping together worthless
novelties of expression, endeavour to weed,
to expurgate, to epurate; to render, once more,
wholesome and pellucid that which was once
a "well of English undefiled," and rescue it
from the sewerage of verbiage and slang?
The Thames is to be purified; why not the
language? Should we not, instead of dabbling
and dirtying the stream, endeavour to imitate
those praiseworthy men of letters who, at
Athens, in that miserable and most forlorn
capital of the burlesque kingdom of Greece,
have laboured, and successfully laboured, in
the face of discountenance, indifference,
ignorance, and a foreign court, to clear the Greek
language from the barbarisms of words and
phrases, Venetian, Genoese, French, Lingua
Franca, Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Spanish,
Sclavonic, Teutonic which, in the course of
successive centuries of foreign domination and
oppression, had crept into it; and now (though
in the columns of base-priced newspapers,
printed on rotten paper with broken type)
give the debates of a venal chamber, and the
summary of humdrum passing events, in the
language of Plato and Socrates? These men
have done more good and have raised a more
enduring monument to the genius of their
country, than if they had reared again every
column of the Acropolis, or brought back
every fragment of the Elgin marbles from
Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury.

It is no excuse for this word-sinning of ours
to say, that we have learnt a great portion
of our new-fangled names and expressions
from America. The utterer is as bad as the
coiner. It is true that our trans-atlantic
cousins have not only set us the example, but
have frequently surpassed us in their eagerness
to coin new words, and to apply names
to things with which they have not the
remotest relation. The Americans call New
York the " empire city," as if a cityand in

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