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Word of the Week: “To Become”


To BECOME [of be and cpeman, Sax. to please, of bequemen, G. to adapt or make fit, or bequem, G. fit, or of bekommen, G. to thrive or agree with] to befit, to adorn; also to be made or done. 


To BECO’ ME. v. n. pret. I became; comp. pret. I have become. [from by and come.] 

1. To enter into some state or condition, by a change form some other.

The Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.     Genesis, ii. 7.

And unto the Jews I became a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.       I Corin. ix. 20.

A smaller pear, grafted upon a stock that beareth a greater pear, will become great.       Bacon.

My voice thou oft hath heard, and hath not feared,/But still rejoiced; how is it now become/ So dreadful to thee?        Milton.

So the least faults, if mix’d with fairest deed,/Of future ill become the fatal deed.        Prior.


2. To become of.  To be the fate of; to be the end of; to be the subsequent or final condition of.  It is observable, that this word is never, or very seldom, used but with what, either indefinite or interrogative.

What is then become of so huge a multitude, as would have overspread a great part of the continent.        Raleigh.

Perplex’d with thoughts, what would become of me, and all mankind.   Milton.

The first hints of circulation of the blood were taken from a common person’s wondering what became of all the blood that issued out of the heart.       Graunt

What will become of me then?  for when he is free, he will infallibly accuse me.         Dryden 

What became of this thoughtful busy creature, when removed from this world, has amazed the vulgar, and puzzled the wife.          Rogers.

3.  In the following passage, the phrase, where is he become? is used for, what is become of him?

I cannot joy, until I be resolv’d
Where our right valiant father is become.      Shakesp.



BECOME, v. i. becum. pret. became. pp. become.  [Sax.  becumen, to fall out or happen; D. bekoomen; G. bekommen, to get or obtain; Sw. bekomma; Dan. bekommer, to obtain; be and come.  These significations differ from the sense in English. But the sense is, to come to , to arrive, to reach, to fall or pass to.  [See COME.]  Hence the sense of suiting, agreeing with.  In Sax. cuman, Goth. kwiman, is to come, and Sax. cweman, is to please, that is, to suit or be agreeable.]

1. To pass from one state to another; to enter into some state or condition, by a change from another state or condition, or by assuming or receiving new properties or qualities, additional matter, or a new character; as a cion becomes a tree.

The Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.

To the Jew, I became a Jew.

2. To become of, usually with what preceeding; to be the fate of; to be the end of; to be the final or subsequent condition; as, what will become of our commerce?  what will become of us?

In the present tense, it applies to place as well as condition.  What has become of my friend? that is, where is he? as well as, what is his condition?  Where is he become?  used by Shakespeare and Spenser, is obsolete; but this is the sense in Saxon, where has he fallen? 


Full Titles: 

Dictionarium Britannicum: or a more compleat universal etymological English dictionary than any extant. By Nathan Bailey. Second Edition. London, T. Cox, 1736.

A Dictionary of the English Language:  In Which the Words are Deduced from Their Originals, and Illustrated in Their Different Significations by Examples from the Best Writers.  To which are prefixed, A History of the Language, and An English Grammar.  By Samuel Johnson, LL.D.  In Two Volumes.–Vol. I.  The Sixth Edition.  London:  Printed for J. F. and C. Rivinton, L. David, T. Payne and Son, W. Owen, T. Longman, B. Law, J. Dodsley, C. Dilly, W. Lowndes, G. G. J. and J. Robinson, T. Cadell, Jo. Johnson, J. Robson, W. Richardson, J. Nichols, R. Baldwin, W. Goldsmith, J. Murray, W. Stuart, P. Elmsly, W. Fox, S. Hayes, A. Strahan, W. Bent, T. and J. Egerton, and M. Newberry.  1785.

An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. The origin, affinities and primary signification of English words, as far as they have been ascertained.  II. The genuine orthography and pronunciation of words, according to general usage, or to just principles of analogy.  III. Accurate and discriminating definitions, with numerous authorities and illustrations,  To which are prefixed, An Introductory Dissertation of the Origin, History and Conection of the Languages of Western Asia and of Europe, and a Concise Grammar of the English Language.  By Noah Webster, LL. D.  In Two Volumes.  Vol. I.  New York:  Published by S. Converse.  Printed by Hezekiah Howe-New Haven.  1828. 


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Filed under Dictionaries, Grammar, Language, Posted by Matthew Williams, Uncategorized

Item of the Day: The Enquirer (1797)

Full Title:  THE ENQUIRER.  Reflections on Education, Manners, and Literature, In a Series of Essays by William Godwin.  Philadelphia:  Printed for Robert Campbell & Co. by John Bioren. 1797.


Of Politeness.


It has been no unfrequent profession among men of a bold temper, and who are smitten with a love for the sublimer virtues, that they are enemies to politeness.

One of the greatest misfortunes incident to morality, as well as to a majority of sciences, flows from the ambiguity of words.

By politeness many persons understand artificial manners, the very purpose of which is to stand between the feelings of the heart and the external behaviour.  The word immediately conjures up to their mind a corrupt and vicious mode of society, and they conceive it to mean a set of rules, founded in no just reason, and ostentatiously practiced by those who, are familiar with them, for no purpose more expressly, than to confound and keep at a distance those who, by the accident of their birth or fortune, are ignorant of them.

In this sense no doubt politeness is worthy of our decisive disapprobation, and in this sense it is to be regretted that there is vastly too much politeness in the world.

Urbanity is a term that has met with a better fortune among our contemporaries, than politeness.  Yet, if we have recourse to their etymology, politeness is certainly not less appropriate and laudable.  As it descends to us from the Greek, its nature is precisely coincident; as it comes to us through the medium of the Latin word, which signifies to polish, to make smooth, agreeable to the eye, and pleasant to the touch, it is sufficiently adapted to that circumstance in morals which may admit of a substantial vindication.

Morality, or the exercise of beneficence, consists of two principal parts, which may be denominated the greater morality, and the less.  Those actions of a man’s life, adapted to purposes of beneficence, which are fraught with energy, and cannot be practiced but in an exalted temper of mind, belong to the greater morality, such as saving a fellow being from death, raising him from deep distress, conferring on him a memorable advantage, or exerting one’s self for the service of multitudes.  There are other actions, in which a man may consult the transitory feelings of his neighbours, and to which we can seldom be prompted by a lofty spirit of ambition; actions which the heart can record, but which the tongue is rarely competent to relate.  These belong to the lesser morality.

It should seem as if our temper and the permanent character of our minds, should be derived from the greater morality; but that the ordinary and established career of our conduct, should have reference to the less.

No doubt a man of eminent endowments and fortunate situation may do no more good by the practice of the greater morality, than he can do mischief by the neglect of the less.  But, even in him, the lesser moralities, as they are practiced or neglected, will produce important effects.  The neglect of them, however illustrious may be the tenour of his life, and however eminent his public services, will reflect a shade of ambiguity upon his character.  Thus authors, whose writings have been fraught with the seeds of general happiness, but whose conduct towards their relatives or acquaintance has been attended with any glaring defect, have seldom obtained much credit for purity of principle.  With the ordinary rate of mankind it is worse:  when they have parted with the lesser moralities they have nearly parted with every thing.

The great line of distinction between these two branches of morality, is that the less is of incomparably more frequent demand.  We may rise up and lie down for weeks and months together, without being once called upon for the practice of any grand and emphatical duty.  But it will be strange if a day pass over our heads, without affording scope for the lesser moralities.  They furnish therefore the most obvious test  as to the habitual temper of our lives.

Another important remark which flows from this consideration, is that the lesser moralities, however minute in their constituent particles, and however they may be passed over by the supercilious as unworthy regard, are of great importance in the estimate of human happiness.  It is rarely that the opportunity occurs for a man to confer on me a striking benefit.  But, ever time that I meet him, he may demonstrate his kindness, his sympathy, and, by attentions almost too minute for calculation, add new vigour to the stream of complacence and philanthropy that circulates in my veins.

Hence it appears that the lesser moralities are of most importance, where politeness is commonly least thought of, in the bosom of family intercourse, and where people have occasion most constantly to associate together.  If I see the father of a family perpetually exerting himself for what he deems to be their welfare, if he give the most unequivocal proofs of his attachment, if he cannot hear of any mischance happening to them without agony, at the same time that he is their despot and their terror, bursting out into all the fury of passion, or preserving a sour and painful moroseness that checks all the kindly effusions of their soul, I shall regard this man as an abortion, and I may reasonably doubt whether, by his mode of proceeding, he does not traverse their welfare in more respects than he promotes it. . . .

Politeness is not precisely that scheme and system of behaviour which can be learned in the fashionable world.  There are many things in the system of the fashionable world, that are practiced, not to encourage but depress, not to produce happiness but mortification.  These, by whatever name they are called, are the reserve of genuine politeness; and are accordingly commonly known by the denomination of rudeness, a word of exactly opposite application.  Much true politeness may often be found in a cottage.  It cannot however conspicuously exists, but in a mind itself unembarrassed, and at liberty to attend to the feelings of others; and it is distinguished by an open ingenuousness of countenance, and an easy and flowing manner.  It is therefore necessarily graceful.  It may undoubtedly best be learned in the society of the unembarrassed, the easy and the graceful.  It is most likely to exist among those persons who, delivered from the importunate pressure of the first wants of our nature, have leisure to attend to the delicate and evanescent touches of the soul.

Politeness has been said to be the growth of courts, and a manner frank, abrupt and austere, to be congenial to a republic.  If this assertion be true, it is a matter worthy of regret, and it will behove us to put it in the scale as a defect, to be weighed against the advantages that will result from a more equal and independent condition of mankind.  It is however probably founded in mistake.  It does not seem reasonable to suppose the the abolition of servility should be the diminution of kindness; and it has already been observed that, where the powers of intellect are strenuously cultivated, sensibility will be their attendant.  But, in proportion to the acuteness of any man’s feelings, will be, in a majority of cases, his attention and deference to the feelings of others.




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Filed under 1790's, England, Manners, Political Philosophy, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Uncategorized

Item of the Day: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1793)

Full Title:  Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, for Promoting Useful Knowledge. Volume III.  Philadelphia: Printed by R. Aitken & Son, 1789-1786-1793.


To Vol. the Third.

An Essay on those inquiries in Natural Philosophy, which at present are most beneficial to the United States of North America.  by DR. NICHOLAS COLLIN, Rector of the Swedish churches in Pennsylvania.

Read before the Society the 3rd of April, 1789.

Philosophers are citizens of the world; the fruits of their labours are freely distributed among all nations; what they sow is reaped by the antipodes, and blooms through future generations.  It is, however, their duty to cultivate with peculiar attention those parts of science, which are most beneficial to that country in which Providence has appointed their earthly stations.  Patriotic affections are in this, as in other instances, conducive to the general happiness of mankind, because we have the best means of investigating those objects, which are most interesting to us.  In the present circumstances of the United States some problems of natural philosophy are of peculiar importance; a survey of these may contribute to the most useful direction of our own inquiries, and those of our ingenious fellow citizens.  I submit, gentlemen, my reflections on this subject to your candid indulgence and enlightened judgement.

I.  ARTICLE, Medical Enquiries.

All countries have some peculiar diseases, arising from the climate, manner of living, occupations, predominant passions, and other causes, whose separate and combined influence is but imperfectly known.  In North America we may count five — nervous disorders, rheumatism, intermitting fevers, loss of teeth, and colds.  It is remarkable that nervous complaints are at present more frequent in Europe than they formerly were.  They spring in great measure from the indulgencies of a civilized life; but in America these fiends infest with less discrimination on the dwellings of industry and temperance.  Proteus-like they assume every shape, and often baffle the best physicians.  Their baneful effect on the mind requires the serious attention of legislators, divines, and moral philosophers:  I have myself often seen their amazing influence on religious sentiments.  when extreme, they derange the whole system; obscure the intellects, bewilder the imagination; prevent the natural order and operation of all the passions:  the soul vibrates between apathy and morbid sensibility:  she hates when she should love; and grieves when she ought to rejoice:  she resembles a disordered clock, that after a long silence chimes till you are tired, and often instead of one strikes twelve — These extremes are indeed rare; but the more general degrees are still analogous, and produce a great sum of evil.

Slight rheumatic pains are almost epidemic in some seasons of the year.  Yet, these are scarcely worth mentioning in comparison to the severe fits that afflict a great number of persons, even in the earlier parts of life, growing more frequent and violent with age; not seldom attended with lameness, and contraction of limbs.

Fever and ague is here, as in other countries, the plague of marshy and feeny situations, but what is singular, it also visits the borders of limpid streams.  The lesser degree of it generally called dumb ague, is not rare in the most salubrious places during the months of September and October.  Through all the low countries from north to south this diseases rages in a variety of hideous forms; and chiefly doth the surry quartan with livid hue, haggard looks, and trembling skeleton-limbs, embitter the life of multitudes:  I have known many to linger under it for years, and become so dispirited, as not even to seek any remedy.  It is a soul source of many other diseases often terminating in deadly dropsies and consumptions.

Premature loss of teeth is in many respects a severe misfortune.  By impairing mastication, and consequently digestion, it disposes for many disorders.  It injures the pronunciation; and is a particular disadvantage in a great republic, where so many citizens are public speakers. It exposes the mouth and throat to cold, and various accidents.  It diminishes the pleasure of eating, which is a real though no sublime, pleasure of life; and which I have heard some persons very emphatically regret. Finally, it is a mortifying stroke to beauty; and as such deeply felt by the fair sex!  Indeed that man must be a stoic, who can without pity behold a blooming maiden of eighteen afflicted by this infirmity of old age!  This consideration is the more important, as the amiable affections of the human soul are not less expressed by the traits and motions of the lips, than by the beaming eye. I have not mentioned the pains of tooth-ach, because they are not more common or violent in this country than in some others, where loss of teeth is rare; many persons here losing their teeth without much pain, as I have myself experienced.

The complaint of catching cold is heard almost every day, and in every company.  this extraordinary disorder, little known in some countries, is also very common in England.  An eminent physician of that country said that “colds kill more people than the plague”.  Indeed many severe disorders originate from it among us:  it is probably often the source of the before mentioned chronic diseases.  When it does not produce such funest effects, it is nevertheless a serious evil; being attended with loss of appetite, hoarseness, sore eyes, heach-ach, pains and swellings in the face, tooth and ear-ach, rheums, listless langour, and lowness of spirits:  wherefore Shenstone had some reason to call this uneasiness a checked perspiration.  Great numbers in the United States experience more or less these symptoms, are are in some degree valetudinarians for one third of the year. . . .

These distempers frequently co-exist in the most unhealthy parts of the country; and not seldom afflict individuals with united force.  Comparison for suffering fellow citizens ought in this case to animate our investigation of those general and complicated local causes.  The extreme variableness of the weather is universally deemed a principal and general cause of colds, and of the disorders by them produced; the fall and rise of the thermometer by 20 a 30 degrees within less than four and twenty hours, disturbing the strongest constitutions, and ruining the weak.  A most important desideratum is therefore the art of hardening the bodily system against these violent impressions; or, in other words, accommodating it to the climate.  The general stamina of strength support it under the excesses of both cold and heat.  The latter is, however, the most oppressive as we can less elude it by artificial conveniences.  We suffer especially during the summer four, til 6 a 8, critical extremes, when the thermometer after 86 a 92 degrees, falls suddenly to 60.  Could means be found to blunt these attacks on the human constitution, they would save multitudes from death and lingering diseases.  Sometimes this crisis happens as late as medium September, and is in a few days succeeded by the autumnal frosts:  in such case weak persons receive a shock, from which they cannot recover during the autumn, and will aggravate the maladies of the winter, especially when it is early and rigorous.

 Search for general causes of the mentioned distempers in the popular diet, we should examine the following circumstances — excessive use of animal food, especially pork:  the common drink of inferior spiritous liquors both foreign and home made; not tomention a too frequent intemperance even in the best kinds: the constant use of tea among the fair sex, drank generally hot and strong; and often by the poorer classes, of a bad quality.

In general modes of dress we plainly discern these defects: — the tight-bodied clothes, worn by both sexes, encrease the heat of a sultry summer; the close lacing and cumbersome head-dresses of the ladies are especially injurious to health.  The winter-cloathing is too think for the climate of the northern and middle states, which is for several months at times equally cold with the North of Europe.  Few persons preserve their feet from the baneful dampness of the slush occasioned by the frequent vicissitudes of hard frosts and heavy rains during the winter:  women generally wear stuff-shoes: the American leather, though otherwise good, is very spungy; a defect owing to the precipitate process of tanning.  Nor does either sex guard the head against the piercing north-west wind which is so general for five or six months: on journeys especially the men should exchange their hats for caps that cover the ears and cheeks.

In the modes of lodging these improprieties are observable: — the poorer, or more indolent people, especially in the less improved parts of the country, frequently dwell in houses that are open to the driving snow, and chilling blast:  good houses often want close doors; a chasm of six or eight inches near the floor admits a strong current of cold air, which sensibly affects the legs.  Such houses cannot be sufficiently warmed by the common fire-places; hence the frequent complaint, that the fore part of the body is almost roasted, while the back is freezing:  a situation very unnatural, productive of rheumatism and other distempers.  The larger towns of North-America have, with their spacious streets, a number of narrow alleys; which are peculiarly detrimental in a sultry climate, and in co-operation with the slovenly habits of their poorer inmates, are nurseries of disease.

Among the general customs which may influence health, the most striking is an excessive, and in some cases ill-judged cleanliness: the continual washing of houses, especially in the cold season, has, I am confident cost the lives of many estimable women, and entailed painful diseases on their families.

In the business of life we often remark a very irregular application: indolence succeeded by hurry and intense fatigue.  This must particularly inure our husbandmen, as the neglect of a day may damage a precious crop, if it is not compensated by exertions, which in the sultry heat of summer are very trying to the strongest constitution.

As to nervous disorders, philanthropy compells me to remark, that, besides their general connexion with a sickly constitution, they have in a great measure originated from two singular causes.  One is the convulsion of public affairs for a considerable time past, which occasioned many and great domestic distresses:  the natural events of the late war are universally known:  numbers of virtuous citizens have also felt the dire effects of the succeeding anarchy; especially the loss of property.  The operations of the cause are, however, continually lessened by time that cures our griefs, or buries them in the grave; and such evils will under Providence be for ever prevented by the new confederation of the United-States — The other cause is that gloomy superstition disseminated by ignorant illiberal preachers; the bane of social joy, or real virtue, and of manly spirit.  this phantom of darkness will be dispelled by the rays of science, and the bright charms of rising civilization.

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Filed under 1790's, Medicine, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Uncategorized