H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
colored folk, who almost always apply it to women singers of their race, and often to women hairdressers, dressmakers and milliners also. It is felt to be a shade more distinguished than Miss or Mrs., and is applied to married and unmarried women indiscriminately.
5. Expletives and Forbidden Words
When we come to words that, either intrinsically or by usage, are improper, a great many curious differences between English and American reveal themselves. The Englishman, on the whole, is more plain-spoken than the American, and such terms as bitch, mare and on foal do not commonly daunt him, largely, perhaps, because of his greater familiarity with country life; but he has a formidable index of his own, and it includes such essentially harmless words as sick, stomach, bum and bug. The English use of ill for sick I have already noticed, and the reasons for the English avoidance of bum. Sick, over there, means nauseated, and when an Englishman says that he was sick he means that he vomited, or, as an American would say, was sick at the stomach. The older (and still American) usage, however, survives in various compounds. Sick-list, for example, is official in the navy,46 and sick-leave is known in the army, though it is more common to say of a soldier that he is invalided home. Sick-room and sick-bed are also in common use, and sick-flag is used in place of the American quarantine-flag. But an Englishman hesitates to mention his stomach in the presence of ladies, though he discourses freely about his liver. To avoid the necessity he employs such euphemisms as Little Mary. As for bug, he restricts its use very rigidly to the Cimex lectularius, or common bed-bug, and hence the word has highly impolite connotations. All other crawling things he calls insects. An American of my acquaintance once greatly offended an English friend by using bug for insect. The two were playing billiards one summer evening in the Englishmans house, and various flying things came through the window and alighted