H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 192
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 192
to census, 60 to wassermann, to major (i. e., to make this or that subject a major study in college), to debut, to author, to press-agent, to sacrilege, to house-clean, to reunion, 61 to headquarters, to pendulum, to janitor, 62 and to vacation. Many such verbs are in the vocabularies of the arts and crafts. American librarians say that a new book has been accessioned, trained nurses speak of specialing, firemen use siamesed hoses, uplifters report that they have contacted with cases, 63 dealers in kitchen appliances promise to service them (i. e., to keep them in repair for a definite time), and the managers of a well-known chain of hotels advertise that they are Statler-operated. The theatrical magazine, Variety, always brilliant with novel Americanisms, uses many such verbs, e. g., to lobby-display (i. e., to display photographs of a performer in a theatre lobby). A great boldness shows itself in the making of these new verbs. To demote, when it came in during the war, was scarcely challenged. To renig, a few years before, had been fashioned, as a matter of course, from renegade by back-formation. To knock, to rattle, to roast and to pan, when they appeared, were accepted without question as quite regular. I have found to s o s, in the form of its gerund. 64 To loan, still under the ban in England, has been long in very respectable use in the United States. I have observed its employment by a vice-president of the National City Bank of New York, 65 by the dramatic critic of the Nation, 66 and by the secretary of the Poetry Society of America. 67 Where a verb differs etymologically from its corresponding noun or is otherwise felt to be clumsy or pedantic, the tendency seems to be to dispose of the difference by manufacturing a new verb. Examples are afforded by to injunct, to steam-roller and to operate (transitive). To injunct, I note, has begun to crowd out to enjoin; it is obviously more in harmony
Note 60.  New International Encyclopedia, vol. xiv, p. 674. [back]
Note 61.  Freeman, May 12, 1920, p. 211, col. 1. [back]
Note 62.  Semi-Centennial Anniversary Book, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., 1919, p. 43. [back]
Note 63.  See a statement by the Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board, Congressional Record, June 28, 1919, p. 2105, col. 1. [back]
Note 64.  New York Evening Mail, Feb. 2, 1918, p. 1. [back]
Note 65.  George E. Roberts, Nation’s Business, Oct., 1920, p. 2, col. 1. [back]
Note 66.  Ludwig Lewisohn, in his translation of Wassermann’s The World’s Illusion; New York, 1920. [back]
Note 67.  Jessie B. Rittenhouse, Poetry, Jan., 1921, p. 229. [back]


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