To the reader by C.K. Ogden - page 5
Notes from the translator - page 14
the insect - page 15
the answers - page 55
TO THE READER
5Without some theory of ‘ idiom ’, it is clear that a simple or limited word list will not, by itself, make it possible for the learner to get any sort of English into his head quickly and well. The chief units in a given list may be put together in their natural order without much help from teachers or from books : the limits of sense will be chiefly those fixed by the physical behaviour of things. The use of words representative of ‘ fictions ’ is only a little harder (in love, anger, control, etc., but at war, rest, peace).
6These two groups have a tendency to get mixed in the lists of what are generally named ‘ idioms ’ in books on language ; and it is quite possible for the loss of the first expansion to be so complete that any number of different accounts may be given, all of which will have some uncertain relation to present—day use. ‘ Put up with ' is an example of a word—complex which might be given an expansion in ten different ways by ten different persons, not one of whom would be ready to say that his account was certain or complete. This important fact has been very frequently overlooked by those who take the ‘ word ’ as the only teaching unit, and whose pages are full of theories about its ‘ varieties of meaning’, ‘ semantic multiplicity ’, and so on. The word has no values when not in use ; and what is commonly named the ' sense ’ of a word is more like the complex colour that one sees when a coloured card is slowly turning in a circle. If the attention is fixed on any one colour we may be conscious that it is there ; at the same time it is only when our attention is limited in this way, and only by a wrong use of words, that we say that it is the colour of the card.
7A boy does not get two words ‘ earth ’ into his head -- one a dirty substance, the other the Ball of Geography teachers ; from the start the two uses are mixed, and to him the ‘ earth ’ is that which goes round the sun, given the name because it is clearly formed out of the substance. If he is forced by the books to make two words of one, such books will be kept on the shelf as long as possible.
8small list of special uses makes it possible for reading material to be produced which to not unpleasing to the most delicate English ear, and which is only a little more trouble to the learner himself. At the worse, the 250 fixed word—groups may be looked on as additions to the Basic list. That is still a long way from any system in competition with Basic, and no one will have the face to say that all of the 250 are as unprobable as the word ‘scissors".
9in everyday talk. Certain senses have to be covered, or the system is no use for international purpose. If a thing is well done by one group, there is no need for another covering the same field. The question of delicate shades may come up again at a later stage. The great need of today is, in Lord Melbourne’s words, that we may all be able to say the same thing.
10The language is complex, stiff, and frequently not that of our time. In putting " The Gold Bug " into French, Baudelaire is quietly cruel with Poe’s thick masses of words. " The mortification consequent upon " becomes " L'humiliation de " : " of an abstruseness ten thousand times greater " becomes " dix mille fois plus compliqués " : Kidd’s “ coadjutors " become simply “ sea aides " ; and so on.
11In Shakespeare, the fact that words which are strange are mixed with others more clear is a necessary part of his art ; in Poe the only effect of such words is to make the sense of a straightforward account of facts dark and uncertain. Without them there is no loss to the story. “ The Gold Bug " is not dependent for its effect on that strange sense of ever—present danger produced by an expert hand in " The Black Cat ", “ The Fall of the House of Usher ", “ The Pit and the Pendulum " or “ The Cask of Amontillado ". This story, like " The Purloined Letter " and “ Marie Roget " (where we have an early form of Mycroft Holmes) has been the work of thought. Its slow motion and long words, which are signs that Poe was a reader of Sir Thomas Brown (and got a trick or two from him for producing the feeling of the dark and of the shades of death) have no special point in these stories. When a picture of the country is given, it seems to be there by chance, and to be no help to the story ; while the over-frequent weight of the talk, the self-important language of Legrand’s account are representative of the early days of American writing, still uncertain of itself, and still keeping to the old ways of English men of letters.
12When such things are cut out, the story is as good as ever. Its value like that of all good crime stories comes from the changes in the rhythm -- now making the interest stronger with the suggestion of waiting, now jumping forward with a quick and surprising turn. We are so used to our Thorndike and other experts that 'today' even Homes seems to us unprobable, and Poe's errors in chemistry and mathematics may be a cause of amusement. We may even be pleased that Captain Kidd was not bad at writing and did not put 'Ye' in place of 'the'. For all this, "The Gold Bug"1 is still a good story, and, in its place between Voltaire's Zadig and Wilkie Collins2, an important landmark in the development of the school of fiction which is based on crime and on police records. It is the hope and belief of those who have put it into Basic that for the international reader, no less than for English boys and girls, these pages give all that is of value in Poe's somewhat unequal work.
C. K. Ogden.The Orthological Institute,
NOTEEarly this year (1932), when I was in Japan, I had a letter from Mr. H. E. Palmer, a language expert in connection with the Membusho, or Education Office of the Japanese Government, to which he made the suggestion that I might put "The Gold Bug" into Basic English. He himself was getting it out in another form, with a word-list of 3,000 root-words, and the idea was to put the two stories side by side for the general purposes of the science of language teaching.
A. P. Rossiter.August, 1932.
THE GOLD INSECT
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