H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 225
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 225
 
colour-line, colour-sergeant, colourable, colourably, neighbourhood, neighbourly, neighbourliness, favourite, favourable, slogger, kilogramme, kilometre, amphitheatre, centremost, baulky, anæsthesia, plough-boy, dreadnought, enclosure, endorsement, and by including forms that are going out of use in England, e. g., fluxation 2 for fluctuation, surprize for surprise, and forms that are still but half established in the United States, e. g., chlorid, brusk, cigaret, lacrimal, rime, gage, quartet, eolian, dialog, lodgment, niter, sulfite, phenix. According to a recent writer upon the subject, “there are 812 words in which the prevailing American spelling differs from the English.” 3 But enough examples are given here to reveal a number of definite tendencies. American, in general, moves toward simplified forms of spelling more rapidly than English, and has got much further along the road. Redundant and unnecessary letters have been dropped from whole groups of words, simple vowels have been substituted for degenerated diphthongs, simple consonants have displaced compound ones, and vowels have been changed to bring words into harmony with their analogues, as in tire, cider and baritone (cf. wire, rider, merriment). Clarity and simplicity are served by substituting ct for x in such words as connection and inflection, and s for c in words of the defense group. The superiority of jail to gaol is made manifest by the common mispronunciation of the latter by Americans who find it in print, making it rhyme with coal. The substitution of i for e in such words as indorse, inclose and jimmy is of less patent utility, but even here there is probably a slight gain in euphony. Of more obscure origin is what seems to be a tendency to avoid the o-sound, so that the English slog becomes slug, podgy becomes pudgy, slosh becomes slush, toffee becomes taffy, and so on. Other changes carry their own justification. Hostler is obviously better American than ostler, though it may be worse English. Show is more logical than shew. 4 Cozy is more nearly
Note 2.  I find “fluxation of the rate of exchange” in the New Witness, Feb. 4, 1921. Cassell marks it obsolete; the Concise Oxford gives only fluctuation. [back]
Note 3.  Richard P. Read: The American Language, New York Sun. March 7, 1918. [back]
Note 4.  To shew has completely disappeared from American, but it still survives in English usage. Cf. The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet, by George Bernard Shaw. The word, of course, is pronounced show, not shoe. Shrew, a cognate word, still retains the early pronunciation of shrow on the English stage, though not in common usage. It is now phonetic in American. [back]

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