Page images


conservative mind, and while it serves to keep usage more stable from generation to generation it must always find itself overridden in certain instances because the figurative use of an expression may become so common that it is no longer regarded as figurative, and the original literal connotation may even be lost sight of altogether. So when Mark Antony is made to say, in his oft-quoted funeral oration for Caesar:

but were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar, that should move

The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.5 no one, surely, is displeased with the phrase ruffle up because of any tantalizing suggestion in it of a present literal meaning, for its figurative meaning to destroy the calm of' is frequently met with.

Sometimes the independent development of the literal and the figurative uses of a combination has produced two decidedly different meanings. So fall down, used literally, means 'to prostrate oneself,' but figuratively, “to lessen,' only; give in means 'to hand in,' but also to submit or yield’; give out is, literally, 'to give outward,' but figuratively 'to fail'; hold up may mean 'to support' and also 'to rob.'

Indeed, it is the existence at the same time of the literal and the figurative meanings which makes possible many of the puns and plays upon words which are so common in the current newspapers and magazines, and which tends to deter the thoughtful speaker from adopting the figurative expression.

The second objection, one which is founded upon a feeling for the logical in speech rather than upon the mere question of good taste in speech-usage, is directed at the use of redundant, or seemingly redundant, prepositional-adverbs. But even this objection is not strong enough to do away with all unnecessary particles, for while deliver up and devour up of the King James Bible are not often used today, and while the careful speaker of modern English avoids the colloquial beat up, bunk up, meet up, etc., yet such redundancies as bow down, fill up, hatch out, leaf out, have become so well entrenched in the language that one scarcely thinks it possible to use them otherwise.

5 See Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar, Act III, Sc. ii.
6 Such as the following:

"Do you think you will ever own a car?”
"Why not? The controlling circumstances are bound to meet."
"What do you mean?"
"Autos keep coming down and I keep saving up."

Louisville Courier-Journal.




As I have already stated, in the present study I have included only those combinations which are formed with the sixteen prepositionaladverbs about, across, around (or round), at, by, down, för, in, off, on, out, over, thru, to, up and with. While, in many of the combinations, these particles retain the meanings ordinarily possessed as prepositions or adverbs, at times the value of the particle differs in combination with the verb from the value which it has as a separate preposition or adverb. And more rarely the particle is so merged with the verb that it seems no longer to have an independent value.

About, across, around (or round), at, by, thru and with have, as a rule, about the same meanings in combination that they possess as prepositions. This is true of get about, knock about 'to wander about,' lay by 'to save or hoard,' put by 'to lay aside or reserve,' stand by 'to back or support,' get across 'to succeed,' bring around to resuscitate,' come round 'to yield,' come at 'to reach or gain,' get at 'to reach,' look at 'to view,' carry thru 'to complete successfully,' fall thru 'to fail,' look thru 'to examine or inspect,' pull thru 'to survive,' go with ‘to accompany.' So little, indeed, does the value of these differ from that of the prepositions that about the only justification that one might have for listing some of these as verbadverb combinations is a certain feeling for closeness between verb and particle as in stand by or look thru, a very uncertain standard by which to select, or else the fact that in such cases as fall thru 'fail’ and go with ‘accompany,' a single, simple verb can be substituted for the combination.

In the for-combinations done for 'tired out, dead, go for 'attack,' stand for 'tolerate or permit,' the value of the adverb is rather obscure and in these combinations is well illustrated the one tendency of the verbadverb combination to swallow up the particle in a derived special meaning.

In combination down has two main values. In the more frequently literal combinations such as bed down (a horse), burn down, cut down, get down, kneel down, nail down, ring down (a curtain), stoop down, the particle has a purely directional force. The same value is manifest in numerous combinations with a transferred use such as back down to recede downward from a position,' cipher down (in a contest), cut down 'to diminish,' hand down 'to leave to one's heirs,' lay down 'to make (a law),' pay down (money), spell down (in a contest), turn down 'to reject,' etc. Frequently, however, down implies a diminution or complete cessation of a state or action as in calm down, cool down, live down (a disgrace), narrow down, quiet down, shut down, tone down. In argue down, call down

[ocr errors]

'to reprimand,' talk down, and wear down it is difficult to determine whether a faint sense of downward motion is suggested, as in the case of spell down, where the contestant sits down after his failure, or whether merely the idea of diminution or cessation is contained in the verb-adverb combination. For one can never be entirely certain that a fairly clear-cut figure of speech doesn't still lurk in a seemingly prosaic, often-used verbadverb combination. To illustrate a little more fully, run down, meaning 'to trace successfully,' may recall the details of the chase with the quarry brought to earth, salt down may suggest only a culinary process in general or it may suggest placing pickles or meat down in a barrel, or even down in a cellar, tame down may bring to mind a rearing horse or other animal, and write down, while it usually implies merely dictation, probably with some people recalls a teacher standing above the writer, dictating words or sentences.

The particle in, as it is used in the verb-adverb combination, has various shades of meaning altho most of its uses imply penetration from surrounding conditions or circumstances. In cave in, come in, fall in (to a hole), fill in (a ditch), shut in, the ordinary literal value of the preposition is illustrated and the combination is so loose as to be little more than a verb with its adverbial modifier. Other combinations such as bid in, buy in, call in (bonds, etc.), hand in, muster in, take in, imply a bringing from circumference to center, so to speak, while others, like blow in 'to spend (money),' chime in 'to join in the conversation,' chip in 'to contribute,' lay in 'to make provision of,' pay in, turn in 'to return (tickets, etc.),' suggest action looking toward a common center or recipient. And, finally, numerous others suggest various phases of meaning which can be most clearly seen by the simple expedient of supplying a logical object for the prepositional particle. So break in implies ‘to break into harness,' drop in, 'to drop into a room or home,' dig in 'to dig into a pile of work,' give in 'to give into some one's hands,' set in 'to set in motion,' etc. As a group, the in-combinations are more likely to be figurative, perhaps because the particle has not developed any very appreciable specialized meaning in combination as some of the other particles, notably down, out, up, have done.

The adverb off contributes several phases of meaning to the verbadverb combination. Naturally, and often literally, it is used to show separation or departure as in bite off, break off, chip off, curtain off, cut off, fight off, give off, head off, hold off, knock off 'to cease work,' lay off 'to dismiss (workmen),' make off 'to depart,' shut off, tear off, warn off, etc. It expresses relief or release in beg off, cool off, fire off (a gun), get off (a joke), go off 'to explode,' let off 'to release,' etc. It shows riddance or extermination in auction off, buy off, call off 'to revoke,' die off, drop off 'to die,' kill off, pass off, pawn off, sell off, sign off, etc. In a few instances, such as in finish off, hit (it) off, pair off, point off, sugar off, ta per off, the particle implies an orderliness or completion which may be regarded as a slight extension of the last two groups. And, finally, there are some combinations of off which express removal either from or of the object. So one can brush off a coat or the dust adhering to it, burn off a field or the grass in it, check off the list or the separate items, clear off the table or the dishes on it, dry off the surface or the moisture, wash off, wear off, etc. While, of course, any one of these combinations could be used in a transferred sense, as a whole the group is more often used literally because off has developed in combination values which are distinctive enough to justify the combinations as a group.

In the use of on as a combining particle, usually either a prepositional or else an adverbial sequent may be assumed. We catch on (to a rail or a suggestion), draw on gloves (onto the hands), lay on a whip (to the back of the culprit), look on (to a game), pile on, try on, turn on, etc. On the other hand, with bring on, come on, get on 'to prosper,' go on, keep on, a sequent -ward may be assumed. So one really brings a cold onward, etc. In other words, on is here practically synonymous with onward, and the combination is in reality a mere adverbial modification whose presence in this study can best be justified by the fact that each of the examples abovenoted can be expressed by a simpler Romance verb, viz., precipitate or cause, advance, prosper, continue.

In a few cases the contribution of the particle on is not so easily determined. For example, in carry on 'to misbehave,' let on ‘to pretend, put on 'to assume or pretend,' and take on 'to misbehave, to make an uproar,' the two values may both be present to a certain degree.

With one exception, out is the most commonly used of all the particles which we are examining. Moreover its values are, as a rule, clearly distinguished. Its literal use, expressing direction outward or out from, is best illustrated by such combinations as branch out, broaden out, deal out, hand out, lengthen out, spread out. It implies removal or separation in numerous instances such as back out, buy out, cross out, crowd out, keep out, pick out, sell out, and especially in those verbs pertaining to household activities such as air out, brush out, clean out, rinse out, wash out, wring out. Completeness or finality is expressed in a rather large group like carry out 'to complete,' feather out, hammer out, hew out, leaf out, map out, measure out, plan out, win out, work out, etc. It is not difficult, in most of the combinations of this group, to find a suggestion of the literal in the particle out, and yet it is probably true that most speakers feel the completeness or finality of the action rather than direction or separation, which lurks very dimly in the mental background of the speaker if at all.



It is not easy to draw a line between this group and the next, but the inher

a ent meaning of the verb frequently gives to the combination with out the idea of openness or publicity which does not necessarily imply complete

This is true of blaze out, blossom out, boom out, break out 'to become prevalent,' call out 'to call loudly,' hatch out, pay out (money), ring out, weigh out (groceries, etc.). And, finally, the idea of direction or removal is carried to the ultimate conception of exhaustion or extinction in blot out, blow out 'to extinguish,' close out (a stock of goods), die out, fade out, freeze out, go out to become extinguished,' peter out 'to tire out,' strike out (especially as a baseball term), tire out, wear out, etc.

There are, of course, a few combinations with out which have become so commonplace that out is almost inexpressive and the verb itself has nearly lost its earlier individuality. Of this sort are find out 'to discover,' give out 'to fail,' look out 'to beware,' make out 'to comprehend,' try out 'to make a trial of.'

Over, like down, off and out, shows in combination both the ordinary prepositional value and new values developed specially in combination. The relationship is more loosely that of adverbial modification in the former as illustrated by blow over, deed over, fork over 'to deliver,' get over 'to recover,' give over, go over 'to examine,' hand over, heal over, knock over, look over 'to inspect or examine,' pass over, run over 'to practise hurriedly,' take over 'to assume,' think over, turn over 'to surrender,' win over, etc. In others over implies a repetition of the action, as in do over, fix over, make over 'to remake,' trim over 'to trim (a hat) anew, warm over (food), work over 'to rework.'

The fact that verb and adverb are more closely combined in the latter group than in the former is brought out nicely in the case of make over and work over, which may express both values of over. When the former value is expressed, the verb takes the greater stress and the particle is regarded, ordinarily, as a preposition governing the following noun whereas, in the latter use of the particle, the stress shifts to over and the combination governs the following noun as its direct object. To make over a child means 'to make a great display of affection or admiration,' but to make-over a child may mean to re-make the entire character of the child.' Likewise to work over butter means to work above it while to work-over butter is to work it until it assumes an entirely new character.

Combinations with to are relatively few and since the Elizabethan period have decreased quite notably. From Shakespeare and his contemporaries or more immediate successors can be quoted such phrases as go to, lay to, seal to, set to, stand to. A few are still used commonly in colloquial usage, especially come to 'to revive,' fall to 'to begin,' heave to, turn to, and pull to, push to and put to when applied to the closing of a door.


« PreviousContinue »