H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
coinages of that era is Old-Stick-in-the-Mud, which Farmer and Henley note as having reached England by 1823.
Contact with the French in Louisiana and along the Canadian border, and with the Spanish in Texas and further West, brought many more new words. From the Canadian French, as we have already seen, prairie, batteau, portage and rapids had been borrowed during colonial days. To these French contributions bayou, picayune, levee, chute, butte, crevasse and lagniappe were now added, and probably also shanty and canuck. The use of brave to designate an Indian warrior, almost universal until the close of the Indian wars, was also of French origin. From the Spanish, once the Mississippi was crossed, and particularly after the Mexican war, there came a swarm of novelties, many of which have remained firmly imbedded in the language. Among them were numerous names of strange objects: lariat, lasso, ranch, loco (weed), mustang, sombrero, canyon, desperado, poncho, chapparal, corral, broncho, plaza, peon, cayuse, burro, mesa, tornado, presidio, sierra and adobe. To them, as soon as gold was discovered, were added bonanza, eldorado, placer and vigilante. Cinch was borrowed from the Spanish cincha in the early Texas days, though its figurative use did not come in until much later. Ante, the poker term, though the etymologists point out its obvious origin in the Latin, probably came into American from the Spanish. Thorntons first example of its use in its current sense is dated 1857, but Bartlett reported it in the form of anti in 1848. Coyote came from the Mexican dialect of Spanish; its first parent was the Aztec coyotl. Tamale had a similar origin, and so did frijole and tomato. None of these is good Spanish.32 As usual, derivatives quickly followed the new-comers, among them peonage, broncho-buster, hot-tamale, ranchman and ranch-house, and such verbs as to ranch, to lasso, to corral, to ante up and to cinch. To vamose (from the Spanish vamos, let us go), came in at the same time. So did sabe. So did gazabo in the American sense.
This was also the period of the first great immigrations, and the American people now came into contact, on a large scale, with peoples
Note 32. Many such words are listed in Félix Ramos y Duartes Diccionario de Mejicanismos, 2nd ed., Mexico City, 1898; and in Miguel de Toro y Gisberts Americanismos; Paris, n. d. [back]