In centuries of grammatical debate, many an uncomplimentary assertion has been made concerning the use of language. From strict interpreters of style who follow Walter Pater, the English tongue has received an almost Prussian drilling. With the precision of a top sergeant, they have marshalled modifiers to bear down on the sloppy ranks of slang.
Such rigid discipline of sentences produced by tricky parentheses and binding clauses has not met with favor in a liberal world. Rightly enough, the leaders of college composition have rejected the goose-step construction for the more informal expressions of thought. There seems little danger of a formal invasion of college literature, or conversation.
Yet there exists another bondage none the less real because it substitutes a shuffle for a lock-step. Even at Harvard where current collegiatisms exert no great moral pressure, a colloquialism can become standard overnight. The latest innovation of this sort had a lowly beginning at Arthur's as "Sorry on the Seagoing." And now throughout the College, men are "sorry on" every missing object from shoe trees to the ace of spades.
Thus is the chief advantage of slang, its originality, lost completely. Phrase after-phrase follows the imitative route to a dull oblivion. As a remedy for this stultifying condition, a simple moderation offers itself. And if the College composition courses can safely manoeuvre between the chill formality of Pater's stately sentences and the mongrel style of the streets, a Harvard man may yet produce the great American novel.