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[221] instruction. We learn language mainly by ear, and speak good or bad English long before we have looked into a grammar. Hence young children, under refining influences, often avoid the inelegancies which their parents retain; and the improvement goes on from generation to generation. One may meet “in society” some young lady who is really very ignorant, and who has been too ill or too indolent to have more than a minimum of schooling, who yet habitually speaks more unexceptionable English than many a country schoolmaster or schoolmistress of twice her years and four times her real mental training. It is not altogether easy to explain this phenomenon, but there is no question about the fact. The mere practice of social usages is itself a school.

It is to be remembered, too, that the English language itself is a peculiarly whimsical and inconsistent one, where accuracy is largely a matter of good custom, and where mere grammatical consistency may often lead us astray unless we are constantly in touch with usage, and that the best usage. Thus, in writing, “into” is good form, but “onto” looks illiterate, although no reason can be given for the difference. Society finds “he ”

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