Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797. (The actual title is about twenty times as long as that, actually — perhaps one day I’ll make a blog post of nothing but the title of this book.)
On THE PARTS OF SPEECH:
[words] are divided into eight parts of speech, called noun, pronoun, verb, participle, adverb, conjunction, preposition and interjection…
Nouns are divided into Nouns Substantive, and Nouns Adjective. A noun substantive is the thing itself; as, a man, a boy, a girl; and the adjective expresses the qualities or properties of a thing, as handsome, poor, &c. For if any one should say “I see a handsome, or a poor,” he would not be understood, unless a substantive be added, as “I see a handsome woman, or a poor man.”
Adjectives, in reality, are only the modificatives of nouns; though in one view they may be considered as nouns, viz. as they do not so much represent a quality of circumstance of the object, as the object itself, clothed with that quality of circumstance: nor must it be omitted, that a noun adjective frequently becomes a substantive; for as its nature is to express the quality of an object, if that quality happen to be the object itself spoken of, then it becomes a substantive.
Thus if I say, “a good intention,” the word good is an adjective, representing the intention as clothed with the quality of goodness; but if I say, “the good is to be chosen,” it is evident that good is here the subject spoken of, and consequently is a noun substantive.
Some of them lay down grammar rules for it; but as a mere grammarian is a mere blockhead, their rules are not worth attending to.
Few precise rules can be given which will hold, without exception, in all cases, but much must be left to the judgment and taste of the writer.
There you go. I bet you never knew before that an adjective is just one type of noun. Or that a grammarian is a blockhead. (Though some of you may have suspected the latter.)
Next week…the truth about Europeans, as seen by Stapleton. (Same Risky Time, same Risky Channel!)
And remember — the first Tuesday of the month is the Jane Austen Movie Club! (July’s movie: the 1995 version of PERSUASION. Please join us!)
Cara King, blockhead extraordinaire