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Stylistics of Units,or Paradigmatic Stylistics Stylistics of Sequences,or Syntagmatic Stylistics 4 страница

A similar, though somewhat more complicated, function is performed by archaic words in the Old Curiosity Shop by Ch. Dickens. Numerous

archaisms in the speech of Trent, the owner of the shop, underline his attachment to antiquity.

Quite different is the function of archaisms in poetry as well as (strange as it may appear) in official documents. Archaisms are employed in poetry due to their stylistic colouring of elevation. No longer current in ordinary speech, they are associated by language users with the speech of remote eras; and it is well known that man is liable to view the past as more romantic than the times he lives in. Besides, we know by experience that archaic words belong to poetry; their traditional use in it imparts the colouring of elevation to them.

I saw thee weep — the big bright tear

Came o'er that eye of blue;

And then methought it did appear

A violet dropping dew... (Byron)

Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland Lass! (Wordsworth)

The general function of archaisms in official forms of speech is the same as in poetry. In both, the stylistic purpose of their use is to rise above the ordinary matters of everyday life.

Stylistic colouring, however, is different in poetry and in documents. In both, it may be that of solemnity. The forms whereof or wherefore make both law acts and poems high-flown.

... in witness whereof we have caused this diploma to be signed... and our corporate seal to be hereto affixed...

Men of England, wherefore plough
. For the lords who lay ye low?

Wherefore weave with toil and care

The rich robes your tyrants wear? (Shelley)

Yet archaisms used in poetry impart to the latter a certain emotional colouring, the colouring that clearly differentiates lyrical poems from legal (official) prose. This is especially felt in what is called 'poetic diction' (see below).

Bookish (learned) words constitute the overwhelming majority of elevated words.

The words thus called are used, as their name shows, in cultivated spheres of speech: in books or in such types of oral communication as public speeches, official negotiations, and so on. Bookish words are ei­ther formal (sometimes high-flown) synonyms of ordinary neutral words (cf. commence and begin, respond and answer, individual and man) or express notions which can only be rendered by means of descriptive word combinations in the neutral and the subneutral spheres. Thus the word hibernal means 'wintry', but the verb to hibernate has no word-for-word


analogy in the neutral sphere, and its meaning must be described: 'to spend the winter in a sleeping state (of animals)', or 'to spend the winter in a mild climate (of persons)'. Recall the famous story, The Cop and the Anthem, by O. Henry. The writer uses another bookish word of the same root, a derived adjective, to describe his miserable character's reflections concerning the approach of winter:

The hibernatorial ambitions of Soapy were not of the highest... Three months on the Island was what his soul craved. Bookish words are mostly (though not always) loan-words, Latin and Greek, but whatever their origin, their use is confined to the above-mentioned spheres. The impropriety of using learned words in everyday conversation, with reference to trivial subjects, was splendidly shown by Otto Jespersen (a famous Danish scholar of English) in the following funny story:

A young lady home from school was explaining: " Take, an egg, " she said, " and make a perforation in the base and a corresponding one in the apex. Then apply the lips to the aperture, and by forcibly inhaling the breath the shell is entirely discharged of its contents." An old lady who was listening exclaimed: " It beats all how folks do things nowadays. When I was a gal they made a hole in each end and sucked." 2

Other examples of neutral expressions and their bookish counterparts given by Jespersen:

A great crowd came to see — A vast concourse was assembled to witness.

Great fire — Disastrous conflagration. Man fell — Individual was precipitated. Sent for the doctor — Called into requisition the services of the physician.

Began his answer — Commenced his rejoinder.

A special stratum of bookish words is made up of words traditionally used in poetry ('poetic diction'). Quite a number of such words are never used outside this sphere. Here are a few of them: quoth ('said'), spouse ('wife', 'husband'), steed, courser, charger, barb ('horse'), sylvan ('woody'), etc.

Some of them are archaic: aught ('anything'), naught ('nothing'), eke ('also'; compare auch in German), whilom ('formerly'), albeit ('though').

Others are morphological variants of neutral words: oft ('often'), list ('listen'), even ('evening'), morn ('morning'), or their phonetic variants: o'er, ne'er ('over', 'never').

It should be noted that in modern poetry 'poetic diction' is scarcely ever used.

Subneutral words. Among the words below the neutral stratum we distinguish:

a) words used in informal speech only — colloquial words;

b) jargon words and slang, as well as individual creations (nonce-

c) vulgar words.

The groups enumerated here occupy different places in the general stylistic classification of the vocabulary given above.

The group of colloquial words (a) lies nearest to that of neutral words. In their use there is no special stylistic intention on the part of the speaker: in most cases the speaker is not aware of the fact that he uses words from below the neutral sphere, or, at any rate, he has no stylistic aim in view — he does not intend to be disparaging, or rude, or jocular in his manner of expressing his thoughts. He just uses words current in the colloquial sphere, but since they cannot be used in higher spheres, they are not neutral: they are subneutral, although quite close to the neutral ones.

It is the other way with the second group. Group (b) includes words which seem to have been created for deliberate stylistic degradation. When using jargon, slang, or nonce-words, the speaker knows that they are the 'wrong' words. He employs them in defiance of propriety. Their place is, therefore, still lower than that of colloquial words (see the scheme given on p. 56).

In the lowest place (c) are the vulgarisms, i.e. words which due to their offensive character or their indecency are inadmissible in a civilized community.

Colloquial words. They are words with a tinge of informality or familiarity about them. There is nothing ethically improper in their stylistic colouring, except that they cannot be used in formal speech. Colloquialisms include:

a) colloquial words proper (colloquial synonyms of neutral words): chap
('fellow'), chunk ('lump'), sniffy ('disdainful'), or such as have no one-
word counterparts in the neutral or literary sphere: molly-coddle ('an
effeminate man or boy'), drifter ('a person without a steady job'). To this
group belong 'nursery' words: mummy ('mother'), dad ('father'), tummy
('stomach'), pussy ('she-cat'), gee-gee ('horse').

b) phonetic variants of neutral words: gaffer ('grandfather'), baccy
('tobacco'), feller ('fellow'); a special place is taken by phonetic con­
tractions of auxiliary and modal verbs: shan't, won't, don't, doesn't, 've,
'd, 'II,

c) diminutives of neutral (or of colloquial) words: granny, daddy, lassie,
especially diminutives of proper names: Bobby, Polly, Becky,


З'Ьк. 169

d) colloquial meanings of polysemantic words; their primary mean­
ings put them in the neutral sphere, while their figurative meanings
pertain to the colloquial sphere. Thus, the word spoon when it denotes (as
it usually does) the tool for ladling food (soup, cereal, etc.), is neutral,
whereas the same word, when it was used with the meaning of 'man of
low mentality' is a colloquialism. A hedgehog (animal) is a neutral word,
yet it is a colloquial one with reference to an unmanageable person. Pretty
('good-looking') is neutral; pretty 'fairly' (pretty good, pretty quick) is

e) most interjections belong to the colloquial sphere: gee!, eh?, well,
This does not concern the interjection oh, which is a universal signal
of emotion, used in both low and high spheres of communication.

Care should be taken to avoid confusing colloquial speech with the uncultivated, illiterate speech of uneducated people. Forms like we was, I goes, I corned, me (my) eyes, he is sorta mad, we should of seen him, he ain't coming are outside the standard language.

Jargon words. These appear in professional or social groups as in­formal, often humorous replacers of words that already exist in the neutral or superneutral sphere. Formal and even neutral words are viewed by jargon users (and creators) as 'holier-than-thou', pedantic, overcorrect, and unnecessarily high-flown. The use of jargon implies defiance, a kind of naughtiness in lingual behaviour.

Jargon words can be roughly subdivided into two groups. One of them consists of names of objects, phenomena, and processes characteristic of the given profession — not the real denominations, but rather nicknames, as opposed to the official terms used in this professional sphere.

The other group is made up of terms of the profession used to denote non-professional objects, phenomena, and processes.

Thus we may say that jargon words are either non-terminological, unofficial substitutes for professional terms (sometimes called 'professionalisms', especially when used outside the professional sphere — see above), or official terms misused deliberately, to express disrespect.

A few illustrations of the first group. In soldiers' jargon, the expres­sion picture show is (or was) current, which has nothing to do with the cinema, but denotes a purely military concept for which there is an official word — the word battle. The well-known word machine-gun is replaced by sewing machine (the metaphorical reason — similarity of noise — is clear). The official expression killed in action is euphemistically described as put in a bag. Since an airman, a real one, can be called metaphorically a bird (though perhaps no one actually uses this denomination), a cadet pilot, not yet capable of flying a plane, is humorously called an egg. As can be seen, all these words referring to military matters are common lexical units, originally having nothing


to do with war. A curious example of the same kind is the phrase dog robber which means 'orderly'. The phrase is an allusion to the fact that an orderly usually feeds on the remnants of his officer's meals, in this way preventing dogs from getting their lawful share.

Examples of the second group of j argon words are: big gun which means 'an important person', GI ('Government Issue' — originally a stamp on the military uniform which came to denote metonymically the soldier who wears this uniform). The word dug-out in its primary sense is a military term; in soldiers' jargon it denotes a retired soldier returned to active service. (Most of the examples of soldiers' jargon have been taken from G. McKnight's English Words and Their Background.)

Every professional group has its own jargon. We distinguish students' jargon, musicians' jargon, lawyers' jargon, soldiers' jargon and so on.

Many jargon words come to be used outside the professional sphere in which they first appeared, thus becoming 'slang words' (on slang see next section). Very often it is impossible to say positively if this or that word belongs to the jargon of some group or to slang in general. See, for instance, such abbreviations as exam or math which are used not only by students or schoolchildren.

A peculiar place is occupied by cant, a secret lingo of the underworld — of thieves and robbers. To be more exact, the striving for secrecy was perhaps only the primary reason why it appeared. The present-day function is to serve as a sign of recognition: he who talks cant gives proof of being a professional criminal (and can therefore be trusted by other criminals).

Cant words are for the most part ordinary English words with transferred meanings. Thus the utterance Ain't a lifer, not him! Got a stretch in stir for pulling a leather up in Chi means: " He was not sentenced to imprisonment for life: he only has to serve a term in prison for having stolen a purse up in Chicago."

Numerous examples of cant can be found in Oliver Twist by Dickens as well as in The True History of a Little Ragamuffin by James Green­wood.

" Barkers for me, Barney, " said Toby Crackpit.

" Here they are, " replied Barney, producing a pair of pistols...

" All right! " replied Toby, stowing them away. " The persuaders? "

" I've got 'em, " replied Sikes. (Greenwood)

(Persuader is a metonymical name for dagger.)

The origin of the word cant is uncertain. Etymologically it seems connected with the word chant (cf. Lat. cantare 'to sing') and probably implied at first the pleading tones of beggars' lamentations (compare the corresponding Russian expression блатная музыка, now preferably блатная феня).

3* 67


Slang. Slang is part of the vocabulary consisting of commonly un­derstood and widely used words and expressions of humorous or derogatory character — intentional substitutes for neutral or elevated words and expressions.

Scholars often confuse the terms (and the notions of) 'slang' and 'jargon'. In most cases the word jargon is not used at all. Instead, expressions like students' slang, soldiers' slang, etc. are employed (alongside the expression general slang). It seems preferable, however, to speak, as we do in the present book, about professional and social jargon, and apply the term 'slang' only to what is in common use, to what is employed under the circumstances by every English-speaking person, not only by students, or soldiers, or lawyers, or criminals. To be sure, many words and expressions which we now class as slang originally appeared in narrow professional groups, and they were at first jargon words and jargon expressions; but since they have gained wide currency, they must be considered as belonging to slang at large. Slang is, then, nothing but general jargon, a jargon universally spoken.

The psychological reason for its appearance and existence (exactly like that of jargon) is the striving for novelty of expression. This psychological and stylistic tendency is especially strong with the younger generation, with people who rebel against established convention in the speech of their elders. Why is a slang word used? As H. Bradley aptly remarks, it is used for the only reason that it is the wrong word, a substitution word. We use it, he remarks, just as we use a nickname instead of the real name of a person.3 As soon as a slang word, George McKnight says, comes to be used because of its own intrinsic merits, not because it is the wrong word and therefore a funny word, it ceases to be slang — it becomes a colloquial word, and later perhaps even an ordinary neutral word.4 Here are several instances of words which first appeared as slang, but are quite neutral today: skyscraper, cab, bus, taxi, movies, piano, phone, pub, flu, photo, mob, dandy.

As mentioned above, slang arises due to our propensity for replacing habitual old denominations by original expressive ones. And yet the growing popularity of every new creation prevents it from remaining fresh and impressive. What was felt as strikingly witty yesterday be­comes dull and stale today, since everybody knows it and uses it. It is not mere chance that slang calls itself 'canned wit', i.e. humour pre­served for everyone's use. Actual loss of novelty brings about constant change in slang: words come and go, appear and are replaced by new ones. Of course, old-timers and newcomers co-exist for a while, which makes slang very rich in synonyms. Lexicologists say there are at least 30 or 40 slang words to express such everyday notions as food or money. Here are a few of them:

FOOD: chuck, chow, grub, hash; MONEY: jack, tin, brass, oof, slippery stuff.

Various figures of speech, or, to be more exact, tropes (see chapter on semasiology) participate in slang formation.

UPPER STOREY ('head') - metaphor SKIRT ('girl') - metonymy KILLING ('astonishing') - hyperbole SOME ('excellent' or 'bad') - understatement CLEAR AS MUD - irony

In slang, we can find expressions originating in written speech: thus yours truly is used (orally) instead of the pronoun I or of its objective case form, me.

" Hold on, Arthur, my boy, " he said attempting to mask his anxiety with facetious utterance. " This is too much at once for yours truly. Give me a chance to get my nerve. You know I didn't want to come..." (Martin Eden by Jack London)

A very peculiar graphic metaphor is the expression number one, a slang expression of nearly the same meaning as the previous: the figure 'one' (1) and the pronoun of the first person singular (I) look identical; besides, the idea of the first number implies priority to everybody else — hence the egoistic tinge in the meaning:

" Then I've a string of brothers — I'm the youngest — but they

never helped nobody. They've just knocked around over the world,

lookin' out for number one. The oldest died in India." (J. London)

" Take myself — I choose that example because after all, number

one is what I know most about." 5

Certain slang words are mere distortions of standard words: cripes (instead of 'Christ! '). Abbreviation is also a widely used means of word-building in slang: math, exam, prof (originally jargon words current among students and schoolchildren, later understood and used by the public at large). Sometimes new words are just invented: shenanigans ('tricks', 'pranks').

Some of the English and American authors condemn the use of slang. They proclaim that slang is degradation of English. Of course, one should not use slang on official occasions, but it is impossible to prohibit it, just as it is impossible to stop the development of language.

Many slang words and slang expressions (phrases) are used by educated people, especially young ones. Michael Mont, the Tenth Baronet (A Modern Comedy by J. Galsworthy) shocks his father-in-law, Soames Forsyte, by using the words ripping, topping, corking, smell, some, A-I ('a-one') instead of the neutral words good, excellent. For illustration let us discuss an episode from The White Monkey by J. Galsworthy.

Soames asks if his son-in-law can find a job for a certain young man. " Has your young man had the bird? " inquires Michael (to have the bird means 'to be discharged').

Soames objects: " I know nothing about a bird. His name is Butterfield; he wants a job."

Michael is willing to help: " I'll see him tonight and let you know what I can wangle."

Soames' reaction: " Good God! what jargon!..."

Further instances of slang in the speech of the same character:

1. " I say! " he said, " 'some' picture! "

" This is my real Goya, " said Soames drily. " By George! He was swell..."

2. He thought her father had some " ripping" pictures... consid­
ered the name Fleur simply topping...

3. " His name was Swithin."
" What a corking name! "

4. " How's the boy? "
" A-I, sir."

The reader is expected to bear in mind the intentional character of stylistic degradation effected by slang words and phrases. The same is true, as we remember, with regard to jargon words and phrases. But here, a problem is exposed to our view at once: intentional and unintentional degradation, how can we tell them apart? To a degree, everything seems to be a matter of taste here, a matter of individual experience. The only efficient way of differentiating the two varieties of degradation (which implies separating slang or jargon words from colloquial ones) was suggested by I.V. Arnold and E.S. Aznaurova. This is explanatory transformation of word definitions.6

For instance, what is a fin in slang? Its primary (literal) meaning is 'плав­ник (рыбы)'. Its meaning as a slang word is 'hand'. The explanatory transformation reads: fin is not a kind of hand, but a humorous or contemptuous way of talking about a hand. Similarly: skirt is not a kind of girl, but a contemptuous way of talking about a girl; tootsie is not a kind of woman, but an endearing way of talking about a woman. Compare: chap is not a kind of man, but an informal way of talking about a man. The same attribute 'informal' (instead of humorous or contemptuous) will be used in the definitions of the colloquial words chunk, baccy, feller, etc. Of course, the question whether we are dealing with merely 'informal', or with 'familiar' or 'humorous', even derogatory manner can be more or less adequately answered only by native speakers.

Nonce-words. The English language is characterized by a comparatively greater freedom of coining new words on the basis of existing ones than other

languages, Russian for one. This circumstance gives rise to the extensive use in English of words invented by the speaker, words for the given occasion (ad hoc, in Latin) — such words as do not remain in the language after being created by analogy with " legitimate" words and, having served their one-time purpose, disappear completely (if in oral speech) or stay on as curiosities (if in books of fiction). They are called 'nonce-words'.

Being non-existent, unknown, yet comprehensible due to the situa­tion or the context, they produce, as a rule, a humorous effect. The reason for this effect lies in the discrepancy between the outlaw status of the word and its formal correctness, the structural Tightness of its appearance.

Thus, by analogy with the well-known word humanity a jocular word is formed: womanity. Since there are words like mouthful, spoonful, handful, the word balconyful may be formed — a word which may never have been used any more since it appeared in a book by R. Chesterton: There was a balconyful of gentlemen....

In the formation of nonce-words all means of word-building are employed: derivation, composition, conversion. As for derivation, it is worth mentioning that nonce-words are formed not only with the help of productive affixes, but also by non-productive ones. The suffix -ish in the following instance seems to be less productive than the suffix -ness; in both cases, however, the humour is obvious:

" He had a clean-cravatish formality of manner and kitchen-pokerness of carriage. " (Dickens) More examples:

" She objected to George because he was George. It was, as it were, his essential Georgeness that offended her." (Wodehouse)

" Her nose was red and dew-droppy. She was too... Jack-in-the-boxy." (Aldington)

Jack-in-the-box: a toy figure that springs out of its box when opened.

Nonce-words, incidentally, contribute to brevity of speech. To nonce-words may also be referred word combinations and sentences used attributively. Recall the famous example from Three Men in a Boat by Jerome:

" There is a sort of 'oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it better-and-nobler' expression about Montmorency."

Of special significance is occasional conversion of the noun-verb type: " I'd chambermaid them if I had my way." (Priestley) " I didn't buy the piano to be sonatoed out of my own house." (Greenwood)


Dickens in his novel Hard Times puts in Mr. Bounderby's mouth very uncommon nonce-words made by conversion. Mrs. Sparsit [Bounderby's housekeeper] gives her account of events:

" I have heard him on such occasions produce sounds of a nature similar to what maybe sometimes heard in Dutch clocks..."

" Well! " said the exasperated Bounderby. " While he was snoring, or choking, or Dutch-clocking, or something or other..." Another example (from the same episode):


" In the little safe in young Tom's closet, the safe for petty purposes, there was a hundred and fifty odd pounds."

" A hundred and fifty-four, seven, one, " said Bitzer.

" Come! " retorted Bounderby... " let's have none of your inter­ruptions. It's enough to be robbed when you're snoring because you're too comfortable, without being put right with your four seven ones. I didn't snore myself, when I was your age, let me tell you. I hadn't victuals enough to snore. And I didn't four seven one. Not if I knew it."

Vulgar words. This stylistically lowest group consists of words which are considered too offensive for polite usage.

Obj ectionable words may be divided into two groups: lexical vulgarisms and stylistic vulgarisms.

To the first group belong words expressing ideas considered unmentionable in civilized society. Indecencies are usually expressed, if need be, by various euphemistic substitutes, abbreviations, omissions (dashes), or by scientific (medical) terms. It is, so to speak, the lexical meaning of such words that is vulgar. Among lexical vulgarisms are various oaths. Quite unmentionable are the so-called 'four-letter words' (as chance would have it, practically every word denoting the most inimate spheres of human anatomy and physiology consists of four letters). It is worth mentioning that the Puritan morality in England once forbade the use of such words as seem to us quite harmless nowadays. The word damn, for one, was kept out of print until 1914. Present-day editions, on the contrary, do not shun even the worst four-letter words (see, for instance, Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger).

The ousting of objectionable words by norms of ethics is inevitably followed by the creation of all sorts of substitutes. The word bloody is replaced by adjectives and participles beginning with the same sound combination: blooming, blasted, blessed, blamed, etc. It is clear that as soon as a substitute becomes generally known and accepted, it sheds its euphemistic garments and is considered nearly as vulgar as its pre­decessor.

The second group — stylistic vulgarisms — are words and phrases the lexical meanings of which have nothing indecent or, on the whole, im­proper about them. Their impropriety in civilized life is due solely to their stylistic value — to stylistic connotations expressing a derogatory at­titude of the speaker towards the object of speech. This group consists of words that are considered by some scholars to be 'low slang' — such as old bean ('old man' — deprecatingly), smeller (nose'), pay dirt ('money'), and the like.

Oaths and stylistic vulgarisms are frequent in affective colloquial speech. See, for instance, the following tirade of a character in the play Billy Liar by Waterhouse and Hall:

" And you stop that bloody game. I'm talking to you. You're bloody helpless. And you can start getting bloody well dressed be­fore you come down in the morning."

If used too frequently, that is to say, habitually, vulgar words (or their euphemistic substitutes) lose their emotional quality: Every blessed fool was present...; You are so darn good-looking.

Phraseology and its stylistic use. What was said above concerning the vocabulary is more or less applicable to the English phraseology: set phrases possess certain properties of individual words.

Some of them are elevated: an earthly paradise; to breathe one's last; to fiddle while Rome burns; the sword of Damocles. Some are subneutral: to rain cats and dogs; to be in one's cups (= to be drunk); big bug ('important official'); small fry ('unimportant people').

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