Percival Leigh.

The comic English grammar : a new and facetious introduction to the English tongue online

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C7551 • Comi c English

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Comic English





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Fashion requires, and like the rest of her sex, requires be-
cause she requires, that before a writer begins the business of
his book, he should give an account to the world of his reasons
for producing it; and therefore, to avoid singularity, we shall
proceed with the statement of our own, excepting only a few
private ones, which are neither here nor there.

To advance the interests of mankind by promoting the cause
of Education; to ameliorate the conversation of the masses ; to
cultivate Taste, and diffuse Refinement; these are the objects
we have in view in submitting a Comic English Grammar to
the patronage of a discerning Public.

Few persons there are, whose ears are so extremely obtuse,
as not to be frequently annoyed at the violations of Grammar
by which they are so often assailed. It is really painful to be
forced, in walking along the streets, to hear such phrases as,
"That 'ere omnibus." "Where've you bin?" " Vot''s the
odds ?" and the like. Very dreadful expressions are also used
by cartmen and others in addressing their horses. What can
possibly induce a human being to say "Gee woot!" "'Mather
way!" or "Woal' not to mention the atrocious "Kim aup!"
of the barbarous butcher's boy.

It is notorious that the above and greater enormities are per-
petrated in spite of the number of Grammars already before the
world. This fact sufficiently excuses the present addition to
the stock ; and as serious English Grammars have hitherto
failed to effect the desired reformation, we are induced to at-
tempt it by means of a Comic one.

With regard to the moral tendency of our labors, we may be
here permitted lo remark, that they will tend, if successful, to
the suppression of evil speaking; and as tlie Spartans used to
exhibit a tipsy slave to their children with a view to disgust
them with drunkenness, so we, by giving a few examples here
and there, of incorrect phraseology, shall expose, in their naked
deformity, the vices of speech to the ingenious reader.


The comical mind, like the jaundiced eye, v^ews ever)i;hing
through a colored medium. Such a mind is that of the gener-
ality of our countrymen. We distinguish even the nearest ties
of relationship by facetious names. A father is called "dad,"
or "poppa;" an uncle, "nunkey ;" and a wife, a " rib," or more
pleasantly still, as in the advertisements for situations, " an en-

We will not allow a man to give an old woman a dose of
rhubarb if he have not acquired at least half a dozen sciences ;
but we permit a quack to sell as much poison as he pleases.
When one man runs away with another's wife, and, being on
that account challenged to fight a duel, shoots the aggrieved
party through the head, the latter is said to receive satisfaction.

We never take a glass of wiiie at dinner without getting
somebody else to do the same, as if we wanted encouragement ;
and then, before we venture to drink, we bow to each other
across the table, preserving all the while a most wonderful
gravity. This, however, it may be said, is the natural result of
endeavoring to keep one another in countenance.

The way in which we imitate foreign manners and customs
is very amusing. Savages stick fish-bones tlu'ough their noses ;
our fair countrywomen have hoops of metal poked through their
ears. The Caribs flattfen the forehead ; the Chinese compress
the foot; and we possess similar contrivances for reducing the
figure of a young lady to a resemblance to an hour-glass or a

There being no other assignable motive for these and the
like proceedings, it is reasonable to suppose that they are adopt-
ed, as schoolboys say, " for fun."

We could go on, were it necessary, adducing facts to an al-
most unlimited extent; but we consider that enough has now
been said in proof of the comic character of the national mind.
And in conclusion, if any other than an English or American
author can be produced, equal in point of wit, humor, and drol-
lery, to Swift, Sterne, Dickens, or Paulding, we hereby engage
to eat him ; albeit we have no pretensions to the character of
a "helluo librorum."



" English Grammar," according to Lindley Murray,
"is the art of speaking and writing the English lan-
guage with propriety."

The English language, written and spoken with pro-
priety, is commonly called the King's English.

A monarch, who, three or four generations back,
occupied the English throne, is reported to have said,
"If beebles will be boets, they must sdarve." This
was a rather curious specimen of " King's English."
It is, however, a maxim of English law, that "the
King can do no wrong." Whatever bad English,
therefore, may pi'oceed from the royal mouth, is not
"King's English," but "Minister's English," for whicli
they alone are responsible.

King's English (or perhaps, under existing circum-
stances it should be called, Queeii's English) is the?
current coin of conversation, to mutilate which, and
unlawfully to utter the same, is called clipping tlie
King's English ; a high crime and misdemeanor.

Clipped English, or bad English, is one variety of


Comic English, of which we shall adduce instancea

Slipslop, or the erroneous substitution of one word
for another, as "prodigy" for "protegee," "derange.

He's only a little " prodigy" of mine, Doctor.

ment" for " arrangement," " exasperate" for " aspi
rate," and the like, is another.

Slang, which consists in cant words and phrases, as
" dodge" for " sly trick," " no go " for " failure," and
" Carney" "to flatter," may be considered a third.

Latinised English, or Fine English, sometimes as-
sumes the character of Comic English, especially
when applied to the purposes of common discourse ;


as " Extinguish the luminary," " Agitate the commu-
nicator," "Are your corporeal functions in a condition
of salubrity?" "A sable visual orb," "A sanguinary
nasal protuberance."

American English is Comic English in a ^^ pretty
f articular considerable tai'nation" degree.

English Grammar is divided into four parts — Or-
thography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody; and as
these are points that a good grammarian always stands
upon, he, particularly when a pedant, and consequently
somewhat Jlat, may very properly be compared to a





Orthography is like a schoolmaster, or instructor
of youth. It teaches us the nature and powers of
letters and the right method of spelling words.

Comic Orthography teaches us the oddity and ab-
surdities of letters, and the wrong method of spelling
words. The following is an example of Comic Or-
thography : —


islinton foteenth of
my Deer jemes febuary 1844.

wen fust i sawed yu doun the middle and up agin
att the bawl i maid Up my Mind to skure you for my
oan for i Felt at once that my appiness was at Steak,
and a sensashun in my Bussum I coudent no ways
accompt For. And i said to mary at missis Igginses
said i theres the Mann for my money o ses Shee i nose
a Sweeter Yung Man than that Air Do you sez i Agin
then thei'e we Agree To Differ, and we was sittin by
the window and we wos wery Neer fallin Out. my
deer gemes Sins that Nite i Havent slept a Wink and
Wot is moor to the Porpus i Have quit Lost my Happy
tight and am gettin wus and wus witch i Think yu ort
to pitty Mee. i am Tolled every Day that ime Gettin
Thinner and a Jipsy sed that nothin wood Cure me
But a Ring.

i wos a Long time makin my Mind Up to rig] it to
You for of Coarse i Says jemes will think me too forrad
but this bein Leep yere i thout ide Make a Plunge,
leastways to all Them as dont Want to Bee old Mades
all their blessed lives, so my Deer Jemes if yow want
a Pardoner for Better or for wus nows Your Time
dont think i Behave despicable for tis my Luv for yu
as makes Me take this Stepp.

please to Burn this Letter when Red and excuse the
scralls and Blotches witch is Caused by my Teers i

till deth Yure on Happy

jane you No who.


nex Sunday Is my sunday out And i shall be Att
the corner of Wite Street at a quawter pas Sevn.


Wen This U. C.
remember Mee

I 'I


Now, to proceed with Orthography, we may remark,
that a letter is the least part of a word.

Of a comic letter an instance has already been given.
Dr. Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield is a capital

The letters of the Alphabet are the representatives of
articulate sounds.

The Alphabet is a Republic«of Letters.


There are many things in this world erroneously as
well as vulgarly compared to " bricks." In the case
of the letters of the Alphabet, however, the compari-
son is just; they constitute the fabric of a language,
and grammar is the mortar. The wonder is that there
should be so few of them. The English letters are
twenty-six in number. There is nothing like begin-
ning at the begiiining ; and we shall now therefore
enumerate them, with the view also of rendering their
insertion subsidiary to mythological instruction, in
conformity with the plan on which some account of
the Heathen Deities and ancient heroes is prefixed or
subjoined to a Dictionary. We present the reader
with a form of Alphabet composed in humble imitation
of that famous one, which, while appreciable by the
dullest taste, and level to the meanest capacity, is
nevertheless that by which the greatest minds have
been agreeably inducted into knowledge.


A was Apollo, the god of the carol,

B stood for Bacchus, astride on his barrel ;

C for good Ceres, the goddess of grist,

D was Diana, that wouldn't be kiss'd;

E was nymph Echo, that pined to a sound,

F was sweet Flora, with buttercups crown 'd ;

G was Jove's pot-boy, young Ganymede hight,

H was fair Hebe, his barmaid so tight ;

I, little lo, turn'd into a cow,

J, jealous Juno, that spiteful old sow ;

K was Kitty, more lovely than goddess or muse ,

L, Lacooon — I wouldn't have been in his shoes !


M was blue-eyed Minerva, with stockings to match,

N was Nestor, with grey beard and silvery thatch ;

was lofty Olympus, King Jupiter's shop,

P, Parnassus, Apollo hung out on its top ;

Q stood for Quirites, the Romans, to wit ;

R, for rantipole Roscius, that made such a hit ;

S, for Sappho, so famous for felo-de-se,

T, for Thales the wise, F. R. S. and M. D :

U was crafty Ulysses, so artful a dodger,

V was hop-a-kick Vulcan, that limping old codger ;

Wenus — Venus I mean — with a W begins,

(Veil, if I ha7n a Cockney, wot need of your grins ?)

X was Xantippe, the scratch-cat and shrew,

Y, I don't know what Y was, whack me if I do !

Z was Zeno the Stoic, Zenobia the clever,

And Zoilus the critic, whose fame lasts forever.

Letters are divided into Vowels and Consonants.
The vowels are capable of being perfectly uttered by
themselves. They are, as it were, independent mem-
bers of the Alphabet, and like independent members
elsewhere, form a small minority. The vowels are a,
e, i, 0, u, and sometimes w and y.

An I. O. U. is a more pleasant thing to have, than
it is to give.

A blow in the stomach is very likely to W up.

W is a consonant when it begins a word, as " Wick-
ed Will Wiggins whacked his wife with a whip ;" but
in every other place it is a vowel, as crawling, drawl-
ing, sawney, screwing, Jew. Y follows the same
rule. ,

A consonant is an articulate sound ; but, like an
old bachelor, if it exists alone, it exists to no purpose.



It cannot be perfectly uttered without the aid of a
vowel ; and even then the vowel has the greatest share
in the production of the sound. Thus a vowel joined
to a consonant becomes, so to speak, a " better half:"
or at all events very strongly resembles one.

A dipthong is the union of two vowels in one sound,
as ea in heavy, eu in Meux, ou in stout.

A tripthong is a similar union of three vowels, as
eau in the word beau ; a term applied to dandies, and
addressed to geese : probably because they are bix'ds
of a feather.

A proper dipthong is that in which the sound is
formed by both the vowels : as, aw in awkward, ou in


An improper dipthong is that in which the sound is
formed by one of the vowels only, as ea in heartless.
oa in hoax.

According to our notions there are a great many
improper dipthongs in common use. By improper
dipthongs we mean vowels unwarrantably dilated into
dipthongs, and dipthongs mispronounced, in defiance
of good English.

For instance, the rustics and dandies say, —

" Loor ! whaut a foine gaal ! Moy oy !"

" Whaut a precious soight of crows !"

" As I was a comin' whoam through the corn fiddles
(fields) I met Willum Jones."

" I sor (saw) him."

" Dror (draw) it out."

" Hold your jor (jaw)."

"I caun't. You shaun't. How's your Maw and
Paw ? Do you like taut (tart) ?"

We have heard young ladies remark, —

" Oh, my ! What a naice young man !"

'• What a bee — eautiful day !"

" I'm so fond of dayncing !"

Again, dandies fi'equently exclaim, —

" I'm postively tiawed (tired)."

" What a sweet tempaw ! (temper)."

" How daughty (dirty) the streets au !"

And they also call, —

Literature, " literetchah."

Perfectly, " pawfacly."

Disgusted, " disgasted."

Sky, " ske — eye."

Blue, "ble— ew."

We might here insert a few remarks on the nature



of the human voice, and of the mechanism by means
of which articulation is performed ; but besides our
dislike to prolixity, we are afraid of getting down in
the mouth, and thereby going the wrong way to please
our readers. We may nevertheless venture to invite
attention to a few comical peculiarities in connection
with articulate sounds.

Ahem ! at the commencement of a speech, is a
sound agreeably droll.

The vocal comicalities of the infant in arms are
exceedingly laughable, but we are unfortunately una-
ble to spell them.

The articulation of the Jew is peculiarly ridiculous.
The " peoplesh " are badly spoken of, and not well

Bawling, croaking, hissing, whistling, and grunting,
are elegant vocal accomplishments.

Lisping, as, Ihweet, Dthooliur, thawming, kwecchau,
is by some considered interesting, by others absurd.

But of all the sounds which proceed from the human
mouth, by far the funniest are Ha! ha! ha! — Ho! ho!
ho ! and He ! he ! he !






Syllable is a nice word, it sounds so much like
syllabub !

A syllable, whether it constitute a word or part of a
word, is a sound, either simple or compound, produced
by one effort of the voice, as, " O !, what, a, lavk !
— Here, we, are !"

Spelling is the art of putting together the letters
which compose a syllable, or the syllables which com-
pose a word.

Comic spelling is usually the work of imagination.


The chief rule to be observed in this kind of spelling,
is, to spell every word as it is pronounced ; though
the rule is not universally observed by comic spellers.
The following example, for the genuineness of which
we can vouch, is one so singularly apposite, that al-
though we have ali'eady submitted a similar specimen
of orthography to the reader, we are irresistibly tempt-
ed to make a second experiment on his indulgence.
The epistolary curiosity, then, which we shall now
proceed to transcribe, was addressed by a patient to
his medical adviser.


" My Granmother wos very much trubeld With
the Gout and dide with it my father wos also and dide
with it when i wos 14 years of age i wos in the habbet
of Gettin whet feet Every Night by pumping water
out of a Celler Wicn Cas me to have the tipes fever
wich Cas my Defness when i was 23 of age i fell in
the Water betwen the ice and i have. Bin in the habbel
of Gettin wet when traviling i have Bin trubbeld with
Gout for seven years

" Your most humbel
" Servent

Among the various kinds of spelling may be enu-
merated spelling for a favor ; or giving what is called
a broad hint.

Certain rules for the division of words mto syllables
are laid down in some grammars, and we should be
very glad to follow the established usage, but limited
as we are by considerations of comicality and space,


we cannot afford to give more than two very general
directions. If you do not know how to spell a word,
look it out in the dictionary, and if you have no dic-
tionary by you, write the word in such a way, that,
while it may be guessed at, it shall not be legible.



There is no one question that we are aware of more
puzzling than this, " What is your opinion of things in
general ?" Words in general are, fortunately for us,
a subject on which the formation of an opinion is
somewhat more easy. Words stand for things : they
are a sort of counters, checks, bank-notes, and some-
times, indeed, they are notes for which people get a
great deal of money. Such words, however, are, alas !
not generally English words, but Italian. Strange!
that so much should be given for a mere song. It is
quite clear that the givers, whatever may be their pre-
tensions to a refined or literary taste, must be entirely
unacquainted with Wordsworth.

Fine words are oily en^ough, and he who uses them
is vulgarly said to "cut it fat;" but for all that it is
well known that they will not butter parsnips.

Some say that words are but wind : for this reason,
when people are having words, it is often said, that
"the wind's up."



Different words please different people. Philoso-
phers are fond of hard words; pedants of tough words,
long words, and crackjaw words; bullies, of rough
words ; boasters, of big words ; the rising generation,
of slang words ; fashionable people, of French words ;
wits, of sharp words and smart words; and ladies, of
nice words, sweet words, soft words, and soothing
woids; and, inde3d, of words in general.

Words (when spoken) are articulate sounds used by
common consent as signs of our ideas.

A word of one syllable is called a Monosyllable : as,
you, are, a, great, oaf.

A word of two syllables is named a Dissyllable ; as,
cat-gut, mu-sic.

A word of three syllables is termed a Trisyllable ;
as, Mag-net-ism, Mum-mer-y.

A word of four or more syllables is entitled a Poly-
syllable ; as, in-ter-mi-na-ble, cir-cum-lo-cu-ti-on, ex-
as-pe-ra-ted, func-ti-o-na-ry, met-ro-po-li-tan, ro-tun-

Words of more syllables than one are sometimes
comically contracted into one syllable ; .as, in s'pose
for suppose, b'lieve for believe, and 'seuse for excuse :
here, perhaps, 'buss, abbreviated from omnibus, de-
serves to be mentioned.

In like manner, many long words are elegantly
trimmed and shortened ; as, ornary for ordinary,
'strornary for extraordinary, and curosity for curi-
osity ; to which mysterus for mysterious may also be

Polysyllables are an essential element in the sub.
lime, both in poetry and in prose ; but especially in



that species of the sublime which borders very closely
on the ridiculous ; as,

" Aldiborontiphoscophormio,
Where left's thou Chrononhotonthologos ?

All words are either primitive or derivative. A
primitive word is that which cannot be reduced to any
simpler word in the language; as, brass, York, knave.
A derivative word, under the head of which compound
words are also included, is that which may be reduced
to another and a more simple word in the English lan-
guage ; as, brazen, Yorkshire, knavery, mud-lark,
lighterman. Broadbrim is a derivative word; but it
is one often applied to a. 'v ery priinitive kind of person.





Etymology teaches the varieties, modifications, and
derivation of words.

The derivation of words means that which they
come from as toards j for what they come from as
sounds, is another matter. Some words come from the
heart, and then they are pathetic ; others from the
nose, in which case they are ludicrous. The funniest
place, however, from which words can come is the
stomach. By the way, the Mayor would do well to
keep a ventriloquist, from whom, at a moment's notice,
he might ascertain the voice of the corporation.

Comic Etymology teaches us the varieties, modifica-
tions, and derivation, of words invested with a comic

Grammatically speaking, we say that there are, in
English, as many sorts of words as a cat is said to have
lives, nine ; namely, the Article, the Substantive or
Noun, the Adjective, the Pronoun, the Verb, the Ad-
verb, the Preposition, the Conjunction, and the Inter-

Comically speaking, there are a great many sorts of
words which we have not room enough to particularise
individually. We can therefore only afford to classify
them. For instance ; there are words which are spoken


in the Low Countries, and are High Dutch to persons of

Words in use amongst all those who have to do with

Words that pass between rival cab-men.

Words spoken in a state of intoxication.

Words uttered under excitement.

Words of endearment, addressed by parents to chil-
dren in arms.

Similar words, sometimes called burning, tender, soft,
and broken words, addressed to young ladies, and
"Hvhispered, lisped, sighed, or drawled, accoi'ding to cir-

Words of honor ; as, tailors' words and shoemakers'
words ; which, like the above-mentioned, or lovers'
words, are very often broken.

With many other sorts of words, which will be readily
suggested by the reader's fancy.

But now let us go on with the parts of speech.

1. An Article is a word prefixed to substantives to
point them out, and to show the extent of their meaning ;
as, a dandy, an ape, the simpleton.

One kind of comic article is otherwise denominated
an oddity, or queer article.

Another kind of comic article is often to be met with
in some of our monthly magazines.

2. A Substantive or Noun is the name of anything
that exists, or of which we have any notion ; as, tinker,
tailor, soldier, sailor, apothecary, ploughhoy, thief.

Now the above definition of a substantive is Lindley
Murray's, not ours. We mention this, because we
have an objection, though, not, perhaps, a serious one,


to urge against it ; for, in the first place, we have " n«
notion" of Impudence, and yet impudence is a substan-
tive ; and, in the second, we invite attention to the fol-
lowing piece of Logic,

A substantive is something,

But nothing is a substantive ;

Therefore, nothing is something.
A substantive i.'>.ay generally be known by its taking
an article before it, and by its making sense of itself;
as, a treat, the muIUgruls, an ache.

3. An Adjective is a word joined to a substantive to
denote its quality ; as a ragged regiment, an odd set.

You may distinguish an adjective by its making
sense with the word thing : as, a poor thing, a su-cet
thing, a cool thing ; or with any particular substantive,
as a ticklish position, an awkward mistake, a strange step.

4. A Pronoun is a word used in lieu of a noun, in
order to avoid tautology ; as, " The man wants calves;
he is a lath ; he is a walking-stick."

5. A Verb is a word which signifies to be, to do,
or to suffer : as, I am ; I calculate; I am fixed.

A verb may usually be distinguished by its making
sense with a personal pronoun, j3r with the word to
before it : as I yell, he grins, they caper ; or to drink, to
smoke, to cheio.

Fashionable accomplishments !

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