"The most correct English I heard during my short visit to the United States two years ago came from the mouth of a red-cap in Boston!" says St. John Ervine in a recent article in Vanity Fair; and almost simultaneously appears a letter in the Boston Herald scoring the use of a glaring split infinitive in the correspondence of the Associated Harvard Clubs. A passing observance on the signs of the times, and a joint argument for renewed activity on the part of the purists.
Now Heaven forfend that we should give our days and nights to the study of grammar, or the practice of "English as she is spoke". Affectation can be carried to excess as well in the use of a language as in any other species of human thought and action; super-conceits are only ridiculous. But it does seem as though even leaving English. A and the "red-cap" out of the question the average person, be he litterateur, scientist of philosopher, should be willing both to listen and speak with some degree of care. More than that, he must do so if he is to succeed in his chosen field. Examples to strengthen this argument are unnecessary, surely. Not that "the man on the street" ought to be able to distinguish at first hearing, the difference in sound and meaning of "Epithalamium" and "Epipsychidion"; but that, if only for his own good, he should respect the basic principles of his native tongue.
Those of us who have had more opportunity than most to hear and study the beat of English may take the matter even more to heart. Accepted though the custom may be of poking fun at "English A" and its strictures, there was much wisdom behind its inauguration Mr. Gavit has had some very decisive things to say on the subject, "outsider" though he may incidentally, we must prove our rights to an education at Harvard if Harvard is to mean anything in the future, and when a "red-cap" shows us the way, he if only in a single instance, it is time to look to our laurel.
And quite aside from all other considerations, there is a story of Dander's known as "La Derniere Clagge" which points a not insignificant moral!