the hands, it was the Verb that lacked stability, it was the Verb that
had no permanent opinion about anything, it was the Verb that was always
dodging the issue and putting out the light and making all the trouble.
Further examination, further inquiry, further reflection,
confirmed this judgment, and established beyond peradventure the
fact that the Verb was the storm-center. This discovery made plain
the right and wise course to pursue in order to acquire certainty
and exactness in understanding the statements which the newspaper
was daily endeavoring to convey to me: I must catch a Verb and
tame it. I must find out its ways, I must spot its eccentricities,
I must penetrate its disguises, I must intelligently foresee and
forecast at least the commoner of the dodges it was likely to try
upon a stranger in given circumstances, I must get in on its main
shifts and head them off, I must learn its game and play the limit.
I had noticed, in other foreign languages, that verbs are bred
in families, and that the members of each family have certain features
or resemblances that are common to that family and distinguish it
from the other families–the other kin, the cousins and what not.
I had noticed that this family-mark is not usually the nose or the hair,
so to speak, but the tail–the Termination–and that these tails
are quite definitely differentiated; insomuch that an expert can
tell a Pluperfect from a Subjunctive by its tail as easily and as
certainly as a cowboy can tell a cow from a horse by the like process,
the result of observation and culture. I should explain that I
am speaking of legitimate verbs, those verbs which in the slang
of the grammar are called Regular. There are other–I am not meaning
to conceal this; others called Irregulars, born out of wedlock,
of unknown and uninteresting parentage, and naturally destitute
of family resemblances, as regards to all features, tails included.
But of these pathetic outcasts I have nothing to say. I do not
approve of them, I do not encourage them; I am prudishly delicate
and sensitive, and I do not allow them to be used in my presence.
But, as I have said, I decided to catch one of the others and break
it into harness. One is enough. Once familiar with its assortment
of tails, you are immune; after that, no regular verb can conceal
its specialty from you and make you think it is working the past
or the future or the conditional or the unconditional when it is
engaged in some other line of business–its tail will give it away.
I found out all these things by myself, without a teacher.
I selected the verb AMARE, TO LOVE. Not for any personal reason,
for I am indifferent about verbs; I care no more for one verb than
for another, and have little or no respect for any of them; but in
foreign languages you always begin with that one. Why, I don’t know.
It is merely habit, I suppose; the first teacher chose it,
Adam was satisfied, and there hasn’t been a successor since with
originality enough to start a fresh one. For they ARE a pretty
limited lot, you will admit that? Originality is not in their line;
they can’t think up anything new, anything to freshen up the old
moss-grown dullness of the language lesson and put life and “go”
into it, and charm and grace and picturesqueness.
I knew I must look after those details myself; therefore I thought
them out and wrote them down, and set for the FACCHINO and explained
them to him, and said he must arrange a proper plant, and get together
a good stock company among the CONTADINI, and design the costumes,
and distribute the parts; and drill the troupe, and be ready in three
days to begin on this Verb in a shipshape and workman-like manner.
I told him to put each grand division of it under a foreman,
and each subdivision under a subordinate of the rank of sergeant
or corporal or something like that, and to have a different uniform
for each squad, so that I could tell a Pluperfect from a Compound
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