H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 187
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 187
by many analogues, e. g., beanery, bootery, boozery, toggery. Condensery is used in the West to indicate a place where milk is condensed. I have encountered breadery in Baltimore; Dr. Pound reports hashery and drillery. 50 Somewhat similar are the words suggested by cafeteria, once a California localism. 51 Among other strange forms I have encountered haberteria (for haberdashery) and groceriteria (for grocery-store). The wide use of the suffix -ette in such terms as farmerette, conductorette, kitchenette, cellarette, featurette, leatherette, flannelette, crispette, usherette and huskerette, is due to the same effort to make one word do the work of two. In Baltimore, in 1918, the street railways company appealed to the public to drop conductorette and go back to woman conductor, but the new word survived. 52 I suspect that the popularity of near- as a prefix has much the same psychological basis. Near-beer is surely simpler than imitation beer or non-alcoholic beer, and near-silk is better than the long phrase that would have to be used to describe it accurately. So with the familiar and numerous terms in -ee, -ite, -ster, -ist, -er, -dom, -itis, -ism, -ize, etc., e. g., draftee, Kreislerite, dopester, chalkologist, soap-boxer, picturedom, golfitis, Palmerism, to hooverize, and so on. They all represent efforts to condense the meaning of whole phrases into simple and instantly-understandable words. “The great majority of shortened forms,” says Miss Wittmann, “are clearly made for convenience; their speakers employ them to save time and trouble.” 53 Here, incidentally, the influence of newspaper head-lines is not to be overlooked. The American head-line writer faces peculiar difficulties; he must get clearly explanatory phrases into very small space, and almost always he is handicapped by arbitrary regulations as to typographical arrangement—regulations which do not oppress his English colleague. As a result he is an ardent propagandish
Note 50.  Vogue Affixes in Present-Day Word-Coinage, Dialect Notes, vol. v, pt. i (1918), p. 10. [back]
Note 51.  A correspondent tells me, however, that the first cafeteria was in Chicago. He says: “A Chicago man was planning to open a new lunchroom in that city with the new feature of the guests serving themselves. He wanted a new and appropriate name for it, and applied to my cousin, who had lived in Buenos Aires. This cousin suggested cafeteria, which was adopted. It should be accented on the penultimate, but the patrons immediately moved the accent one place forward. This was about the year 1900.” [back]
Note 52.  Baltimore Trolley News, June 16, 1918. [back]
Note 53.  Clipped Words, op. cit., p. 116. [back]


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