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WORDS AND THEIR WAYS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Geographers, like the christeners of Pullman cars, are sometimes hard put to it to find appropriate names. The Department of the Interior, when it named one of its western Indian Reservations, thought that "Moqui" was a good Indian word and suitable enough for the tribe. But the tribe, with some reason, showed annoyance, for it transpired that "Moqui" means "Dead Ones".

The temptation to choose an unfamiliar word for its mere sound is a trap that has caught others besides the Government and Mrs. Malaprop. The prodigious oaths of small boys can scarcely be called profanity: they are nothing more than an innocent Pistolese, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Politicians, publicity agents, and country ministers have vocabularies of similar range and equal disregard for dictionary conventions. One is reminded of the early CRIMSON book-review which said that Professor Norton's notes on the Lowell letters were of course "of infinitesimal value."

Foreigners are especially open to these dangers. One cannot blame the Italian who chose "cellar-door" as the most melodious word in our language; Tennyson's choice for the same distinction unfortunately is not admitted to polite company. Even men of the same tongue are apt to get into difficulties, as Americans in England have discovered with such words as "bloody" and others that appear equally innocent. Lore Robert Cecil, when he was being entertained in a Boston club, meant only courteous approval when he remarked "What a homely room you have here!"--and he found it difficult to understand the coolness of his hosts during the rest of the evening.

The experience of Yale, if no more than a fiction, is a lesson for all time. With the pride of crudition, it sponsors chose for its motto a high-sounding. He brew phrase; but instead of some such noble sentiment as "Lux of Veritas", malicious scholars are rumored to, have proved that the phrase means "Farmers and Swindlers". Namers of summer cottages, and all others who are lured by the lust for distinctive words, will do well to take warning. A spade is not always a spade.

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