A Warning Regarding the Use of Words
Once in an essay written by a man who had studied in England for several years I saw the word “destruct”, which was evidently used in the sense of “destroy”. At another time, I saw the same word, evidently used in the same sense, in an illustrated magazine1 published in Shanghai. At still another time I saw the word “destroyal” used in the sense of “destruction” by a man apparently well educated in English.
In fact, however, the verb is “destroy” and the noun is “destruction”, and there do not exist the words “destruct” and “destroyal.”
I do not think that the users of these non-existing words did not know the correct words. They were careless enough, though2. They just seized upon a combination of letters that looked like the word they wanted. It is true that these non-existing words may be understood by all who see them. But, of course, they cannot therefore justify themselves3.
Often in the English written by Chinese I find words that do not really exist. They use such words either because they do not know the correct words or merely because they are careless—or even because they believe they have a good knowledge of English word-building4. At any rate5, this is a very bad fault peculiar to those who are not at home in English6.
I would therefore advise you to use no word that you are not sure you have seen used by standard authors, and to consult your dictionary in cases of doubt.
One word more7 of warning. It is possible that you sometimes use a word that is recorded in your dictionary, but which is not in common use, and which you use not because you are sure of its existence but simply because you think it is the word you want. For instance, because you know the noun “aggression” and the adjective “aggressive”, you may use the verb “aggress”—which, however, is a very uncommon word.
- illustrated magazine 有图画的杂志
- though 但(副词)
- cannot therefore justify themselves 不能因此而有存在的理由
- word-building 词的构造
- at any rate 无论如何
- at home in English 精通英语的
- One word more 尚有一言（上文所举“destruct”，现在偶尔见到；但用法有限，不可随意取代“destroy”）