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[220] such grammatical misadventures might still use smaller inelegancies which would also classify them in the ears of the fastidious. They might say, for instance, “cute,” or “I don't know as,” or “a great ways.” Nine-tenths of us, according to Mr. Howells, would use some of these phrases, but there is no question that they will grate upon the ears of the other tenth. They do not touch the morals, the intelligence, the essential good manners, of those who utter them; they simply classify such persons as having reached a certain grade of cultivation, and no further. When heard, they cause a certain dismay, such as once came to an ardent young friend of mine, when, having climbed to the top of a stage-coach in order to be near a certain celebrated pulpit orator, not now living, she heard him remark to his little daughter, “Sis, do you set comfortable where you be?”

In his case, and in many such cases, this was probably a mere reversion to the habits of childhood, in familiar talk. It is not likely that he would have said the same in the pulpit. I have heard an eminent professor of rhetoric use language almost as lax when off his guard in his own class-room. This illustrates the fact that our talk is, after all, quite as much a matter of social training as of intellectual

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William Dean Howells (1)
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