H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 226
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · SUBJECT INDEX
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 226
 
phonetic than cosy. Curb has analogues in curtain, curdle, curfew, curl, currant, curry, curve, curtsey, curse, currency, cursory, curtain, cur, curt and many other common words: kerb has very few, and of them only kerchief and kernel are in general use. Moreover, the English themselves use curb as a verb and in all noun senses save that shown in kerbstone. Such forms as monolog and dialog still offend the fastidious, but their merit is not to be gainsaid. Nor would it be easy to argue logically against gram, toilet, mustache, anesthetic, draft and tire.
  But a number of anomalies remain. The American substitution of a for e in gray is not easily explained, nor is the retention of e in forego, nor the unphonetic substitution of s for z in fuse, nor the persistence of the y in gypsy and pygmy, nor the occasional survival of a foreign form, as in cloture. 5 Here we have plain vagaries, surviving in spite of attack by orthographers. Webster, in one of his earlier books, denounced the k in skeptic as a “mere pedantry,” but later on he adopted it. In the same way pygmy, gray and mollusk have been attacked, but they still remain sound American. The English themselves have many more such illogical forms to account for. They have to write offensive and defensive, despite their fidelity to the c in offence and defence. They have begun to drop the duplicate consonant from riveter, leveled and biased, despite their use of traveller and jewellery. 6 They cling to programme, but never think of using diagramme or telegramme. Worst of all, they are wholly inconsistent in their use of the -our ending, the chief hallmark of orthodox English orthography. In American the u appears only in Saviour and then only when the word is used in the biblical sense. In England it is used in most words of that class, but omitted from a very respectable minority, e. g., horror, torpor, ambassador. It is commonly argued in defense of it over there that it serves to distinguish
Note 5.  Fowler and Fowler, in The King’s English, p. 23, say that “when it was proposed to borrow from France what we [i. e., the English] now know as the closure, it seemed certain for some time that with the thing we should borrow the name, clôture; a press campaign resulted in closure.” But in the Congressional Record it is still cloture, though with the loss of the circumflex accent, and this form is generally retained by American newspapers. [back]
Note 6.  See the preface to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, p. vi. [back]

CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · SUBJECT INDEX
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.