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59. Your narratives, my opponent says, are overrun with barbarisms and solecisms, and disfigured by monstrous blunders. A censure, truly, which shows a childish and petty spirit; for if we allow that it is reasonable, let us cease to use certain kinds of fruit because they grow with prickles on them, and other growths useless for food, which on the one hand cannot support us, and yet do not on the other hinder us from enjoying that which specially excels, and which nature has designed to be most wholesome for us. For how, I pray you, does it interfere with or retard the comprehension of a statement, whether anything be pronounced smoothly33583358 So Orelli and Hildebrand, reading glabre from a conjecture of Grotius, for the ms. grave. or with uncouth roughness? whether that have the grave accent which ought to have the acute, or that have the acute which ought to have the grave? Or how is the truth of a statement diminished, if an error is made in number or case, in preposition, participle, or conjunction? Let that pomposity of style and strictly regulated diction be reserved for public assemblies, for lawsuits, for the forum and the courts of justice, and by all means be handed over to those who, striving after the soothing influences of pleasant sensations, bestow all their care upon splendour of language. But when we are discussing matters far removed from mere display, we should consider what is said, not with what charm it is said nor how it tickles the ears, but what benefits it confers on the hearers, especially since we know that some even who devoted themselves to philosophy, not only disregarded refinement of style, but also purposely adopted a vulgar meanness when they might have spoken with greater elegance and richness, lest forsooth they might impair the stern gravity of speech and revel rather in the pretentious show of the Sophists. For indeed it evidences a worthless heart to seek enjoyment in matters of importance; and when you have to deal with those who are sick and diseased, to pour into their ears dulcet sounds, not to apply a remedy to their wounds. Yet, if you consider the true state of the case, no language is naturally perfect, and in like manner none is faulty. For what natural reason is there, or what law written in the constitution of the world, that paries should be called hic,33593359 i.e., that the one should be masculine, the other feminine. and sella hæc?—since neither have they sex distinguished by male and female, nor can the most learned man tell me what hic and hæc are, or why one of them denotes the male sex while the other is applied to the female. These conventionalities are man’s, and certainly are not indispensable to all persons for the use of forming their language; for paries might perhaps have been called hæc, and sella hic, without any fault being found, if it had been agreed upon at first that they should be so called, and if this practice had been maintained by following generations in their daily conversation. And yet, O you who charge our writings with disgraceful blemishes, have you not these solecisms in those most perfect and wonderful books of yours? Does not one of you make the plur. of uter, utria? another utres?33603360 i.e., does not one of you make the plural of uter masc., another neut.? [Note the opponent’s witness to the text of the Gospels.] Do you not also say cœlus andcœlum, filus and filum, crocus and crocum, fretus andfretum? Also hoc pane andhic panis, hic sanguis and hoc sanguen? Are not candelabrum and jugulum in like manner written jugulus and candelaber? For if each noun cannot have more than one gender, and if the same word cannot be of this gender and of that, for one gender cannot pass into the other, he commits as great a blunder who utters masculine genders under the laws of feminines, as he who applies masculine articles to feminine genders. And yet we see you using masculines as feminines, and feminines as masculines, and those which you call neuter both in this way and in that, without any distinction. Either, therefore, it is no blunder to employ them indifferently, and in that case it is vain for you to say that our works are disfigured with monstrous solecisms; or if the way in which each ought to be employed is unalterably fixed, you also are involved in similar errors, although you have on your side all the Epicadi, Cæsellii, Verrii, Scauri, and Nisi.
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