Philip Melanchthon on the art of speaking clearly

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Wise men have learnt from usage that nothing is more difficult than to speak clearly and perspicuously about any topic. For, first, unless you support the power and weight of the words by your speech, what listener will understand your discourse?

For since words are tried by use like coins, one must use those which one has received, which are free of obscurity because eloquent men have passed them on to following generations as if from hand to hand. In a past century, when each forged his own words, and foreign words mingled with Latin ones, in this manner a language became melted together which could not even be understood by the men of that age.

There is too much lacking for posterity to understand. For who would understand Scotus or another writer of the same kind in that age? Furthermore, the most practised could scarcely vouch that they would not somewhere violate the structure or the diction of the language; if these were corrupted, the speech would necessarily become more obscure. And how much do even the educated utter improperly? How often do they render their speech obscure by incongruous and silly metaphors? For who can bear Apuleius and his monkeys? But Apuleius speaks rightly when, portraying the ass, he wanted to bray rather than speak.

Finally, if you know the words and diction well enough, it is nevertheless very difficult to distribute them each in their place, to suppress some and render others conspicuous, to contract some briefly, and extend others more generously, to dissemble and conceal some, and expose others to view, so that they stand out and become conspicuous like lights among shadows.

For the reference, see:

 

Imputatio

Puritan Board Freshman
I would have loved to have heard great speakers of the past. Men that demanded you listen simply by the way in which they spoke. Mastery of language, gravity of person, etc.
 
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