H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
long-vacation, Lady Day and Michaelmas. Per contra, he knows nothing whatever of our Thanksgiving, Arbor, Labor and Decoration Days or of legal holidays, or of Yom Kippur. Finally, he always says a quarter to nine, not a quarter of nine. If it is 8.35 he usually says that it is five-and-twenty minutes to nine. But he never inverts any other number; it is twenty-three minutes to and twenty-seven minutes past. He rarely says fifteen minutes to; nearly always he uses quarter to. He never says a quarter hour or a half hour; he says a quarter of an hour and half an hour.
In English usage, to proceed, the word directly is always used to signify immediately; in American a contingency gets into it, and it may mean no more than soon. In England quite means completely, wholly, entirely, altogether, to the utmost extent, nothing short of, in the fullest sense, positively, absolutely; in America it is conditional, and means only nearly, approximately, substantially, as in he sings quite well. An Englishman does not say I will pay you up for an injury, but I will pay you back. He doesnt look up a definition in a dictionary; he looks it out. He doesnt say, being ill, I am getting on well, but I am going on well. He doesnt use the American different from or different than; he uses different to. He never adds the pronoun in such locutions as it hurts me, but says simply, it hurts. He never catches up with you on the street; he catches you up. He never says are you through? but have you finished? He never uses to notify as a transitive verb; an official act may be notified, but not a person. He never uses gotten as the perfect participle of get; he always uses plain got.25 An English servant never washes the dishes; she always washes the dinner or tea things. She doesnt live out, but goes into service. Her beau is not her fellow, but her young man. She does not keep company with him but walks out with him. She is never hired, but always engaged; only inanimate things, such as a hall or cab, are hired. When her wages are increased she does not get a raise, but a rise. When her young man goes into the army he does not join it; he joins up.
That an Englishman always calls out I say! and not simply say! when he desires to attract a friends attention or register
Note 25. But nevertheless he uses begotten, not begot. [back]