Page:A Desk-Book of Errors in English.djvu/12

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viii
Introductory

wide and correct knowledge of the meanings of words. These can be most readily acquired by noting the meaning of every new word across which one may come in reading, and by constantly consulting a dictionary, preferably one which compares or contrasts words in such a manner as to bring out clearly the finer and nicer distinctions in their meanings—such distinctions as are necessary to the student to put him into possession of the essential differences of the words compared. Learn the meaning of words and your tongue will never slip. As Southey has said, "the greatest wisdom of speech is to know when, and what, and where to speak; the time, matter, and manner."

The best asset in life is knowledge. Knowledge well-grounded may be secured by the systematic study of words. The desirability of exercising great care not only in the selection of words, but in marshaling them in their correct order must be apparent to any one familiar with some of the errors committed by writers who, notwithstanding the blunders they have made, have acquired reputation as authors of good English, Dr. Samuel Johnson, in his "Lives of the Poets," is responsible for the following statement: "Shakespeare has not only shown human nature as it is, but as it would be found in situations to which it cannot be exposed—a statement the absurdity of which can not fail to impress the reader.