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This volume was published in 1901.


ALTHO the various essays which are now
brought together in this book have been
written from time to time during the past ten
years, nearly all of them have had their origin in
a desire to make plain and to emphasize one
fact: that the English language belongs to the
peoples who speak it -- that it is their own pre-
cious possession, to deal with at their pleasure
and at their peril. The fact itself ought to be
obvious enough to all of us ; and yet there would
be no difficulty in showing that it is not every-
where accepted. Perhaps the best way to pre-
sent it so clearly that it cannot be rejected is to
draw attention to some of its implications ; and
this is what has been attempted in one or another
of these separate papers.

The point of view from which the English lan-
guage has been approached is that of the man of
letters rather than that of the professed expert in
linguistics. But the writer ventures to hope that
the professed expert, even tho he discovers little
that is new in these pages, will find also little
that demands his disapproval. The final essay
is frankly more literary than linguistic, for it is
an attempt to define not so much a word as a

So wise a critic of literature and of language as
Sainte-Beuve has declared that " orthography is
like society: it will never be entirely reformed;
but we can at least make it less vicious." In this
sensible saying is the warrant for the simplified
spellings adopted in the following pages. As
will be seen by readers of the two papers on our
orthography, the writer is by no means a radical
"spelling-reformer," so called. But he believes
that all of us who wish to keep the English lan-
guage up to its topmost efficiency are bound al-
ways to do all in our power to aid the tendency
toward simplification -- whether of orthography
or of syntax -- which has been at work unceas-
ingly ever since the language came into existence.

B. M.
Columbia University
July 4, 1901.

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