James Howell's Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660) frontispiece,
Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
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So that to the perfect knowledge of a Language is required (besides the signification of the words, and the grammatical joining them together) that you acquaint your self with the use and custome of a Language, by observing what manner of Phrases and Forms of Speech are used in it, upon such occasions and in such subjects, which is the business, the greatest labour that belongs to a Language. This propriety and use of such and such Phrases, is called the Idiom or Propriety of a Tongue, and such manner of usual Phrases and Expressions are called Idiotisms, and he that hath attained to that perfection in any Tongue, that he can use these in their due places, without uncouth and unusual Phrases, is said to speak pure, i.e. properly, or as we say, for example, good English, good Latine, good French, or the like.
John Merryweather, Directions for the Latin Tongue (1681)

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