Page:A Desk-Book of Errors in English.djvu/14

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Introductory

equally absurd example taken from an issue of the Freeman's Journal of the year 1890, announces "The health of Mr. Parnell has lately taken a very serious turn, and fears of his recovery are entertained by his friands," which, one may add, was rather unfriendly on their part. Isaac Disraeli in his "Curiosities of Literature" himself was guilty of an absurdity when he wrote, "It is curious to observe the various substitutes for paper before its invention."

Errors of a different sort found their way even into our earlier dictionaries. Cockeram defined a lynx as "a spotted beast which hath the most perfect sight in so much as it is said that it can see through a wall." The salamander he described as "a small venomous beast with foure feet and a short taile; it lives in the fire, and at length by its extreme cold puts out the fire." Both of these definitions show the rudimentary stage of the knowledge of our forefathers in matters zoological.

Of slang no less eminent a writer of English than Richard Grant White has said, "Slang is a vocabulary of genuine words or unmeaning jargon, used always with an arbitrary and conventional signification," and because "it is mostly coarse, low, and foolish," certain slang terms and phrases have been included in the following pages, together with a few undesirable colloquialisms. These are included because the indiscriminate use of slang leads to slov-