Society for Pure English Tract 4 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 67 pages of information about Society for Pure English Tract 4.

’The wrong use of feasible is that in which, by a slipshod extension, it is allowed to have also the other sense of possible, and that of probable.  This is described by the highest authority as “hardly a justifiable sense etymologically, and ... recognized by no dictionary”.  It is however becoming very common; in all the following quotations, it will be seen that the natural word would be either possible or probable, one of which should have been chosen:—­Continuing, Mr. Wood said:  “I think it is very feasible that the strike may be brought to an end this week, and it is a significant coincidence that ...”. / Witness said it was quite feasible that if he had had night binoculars he would have seen the iceberg earlier. / We ourselves believe that this is the most feasible explanation of the tradition. / This would appear to offer a feasible explanation of the scaffold puzzle.’


Mr. Sargeaunt (on p. 26) suggests that we might do well to keep the full Greek form of this word, and speak and write protagonistes.  Familiarity with Agonistes in the title of Milton’s drama, where it is correctly used as equivalent to ‘mighty champion’, would be misleading, and the rejection of the English form ‘protagonist’ seems otherwise undesirable.  The following remarks by Mr. Fowler show that popular diction is destroying the word; and if ignorance be allowed its way we shall have a good word destroyed.

’The word that has so suddenly become a prime favourite with journalists, who more often than not make it mean champion or advocate or defender, has no right whatever to any of those meanings, and almost certainly owes them to the mistaking of the first syllable (representing Greek [Greek:  pr[^o]tos] “first”) for [Greek:  pro] “on behalf of”—­a mistake made easy by the accidental resemblance to antagonist.  “Accidental”, since the Greek [Greek:  ag[^o]nist[^e]s] has different meanings in the two words, in one “combatant”, but in the other “play-actor”.  The Greek [Greek:  pr[^o]tag[^o]nist[^e]s] means the actor who takes the chief part in a play—­a sense readily admitting of figurative application to the most conspicuous personage in any affair.  The deuteragonist and tritagonist take parts of second and third importance, and to talk of several protagonists, or of a chief protagonist or the like, is an absurdity.  In the newspapers it is a rarity to meet protagonist in a legitimate sense; but two examples of it are put first in the following collection.  All the others are outrages on this learned-sounding word, because some of them distinguish between chief protagonists and others who are not chief, some state or imply that there are more protagonists than one in an affair, and the rest use protagonist as a mere synonym for advocate.

’Legitimate uses:  The “cher Hal[’e]vy” who is the protagonist of the amazing dialogue. / Marco Landi, the protagonist and narrator of a story which is skilfully contrived and excellently told, is a fairly familiar type of soldier of fortune.

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Society for Pure English Tract 4 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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