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English Dictionaries
by [?]

I have allowed myself to say so much on this word ‘implicit,’ because the history of the mode by which its true meaning was lost applies almost to all other corrupted words–mutatis mutandis: and the amount of it may be collected into this formula,–that the result of the word is apprehended and retained, but the schematismus by which that result was ever reached is lost. This is the brief theory of all corruption of words. The word schematismus I have unwillingly used, because no other expresses my meaning. So great and extensive a doctrine however lurks in this word, that I defer the explanation of it to a separate article. Meantime a passable sense of the word will occur to every body who reads Greek. I now go on to a few more instances of words that have forfeited their original meaning through the ignorance of those who used them.

Punctual.‘ This word is now confined to the meagre denoting of accuracy in respect to time–fidelity to the precise moment of an appointment. But originally it was just as often, and just as reasonably, applied to space as to time; ‘I cannot punctually determine the origin of the Danube; but I know in general the district in which it rises, and that its fountain is near that of the Rhine.’ Not only, however, was it applied to time and space, but it had a large and very elegant figurative use. Thus in the History of the Royal Society by Sprat (an author who was finical and nice in his use of words)–I remember a sentence to this effect: ‘the Society gave punctual directions for the conducting of experiments;’ i.e. directions which descended to the minutiae and lowest details. Again in the once popular romance of Parismus Prince of Bohemia–‘She’ (I forget who) ‘made a punctual relation of the whole matter;’ i.e. a relation which was perfectly circumstantial and true to the minutest features of the case.


[1] Among the most shocking of the unscholarlike barbarisms, now prevalent, I must notice the use of the word ‘nice‘ in an objective instead of a subjective sense: ‘nice‘ does not and cannot express a quality of the object, but merely a quality of the subject: yet we hear daily of ‘a very nice letter’–‘a nice young lady,’ etc., meaning a letter or a young lady that it is pleasant to contemplate: but ‘a nice young lady’–means a fastidious young lady; and ‘a nice letter’ ought to mean a letter that is very delicate in its rating and in the choice of its company.

[2] Thus Milton, who (in common with his contemporaries) always uses the word accurately, speaks of Ezekiel ‘swallowing his implicit roll of knowledge’–i.e. coming to the knowledge of many truths not separately and in detail, but by the act of arriving at some one master truth which involved all the rest.–So again, if any man or government were to suppress a book, that man or government might justly be reproached as the implicit destroyer of all the wisdom and virtue that might have been the remote products of that book.