H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 233
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 233
 
traversed by Webster himself. New words, and particularly loanwords, are simplified, and hence naturalized in American much more quickly than in English. Employè has long since become employee in our newspapers, and asphalte has lost its final e, and manœuvre has become maneuver, and pyjamas has become pajamas. Even the terminology of science is simplified and Americanized. In medicine, for example, the highest American usage countenances many forms which would seem barbarisms to an English medical man if he encountered them in the Lancet. In derivatives of the Greek haima it is the almost invariable American custom to spell the root syllable hem, but the more conservative English make it hæm—e. g., in hæmorrhage and hæmiplegia. In an exhaustive list of diseases issued by the United States Public Health Service 12 the hæm- form does not appear once. In the same way American usage prefers esophagus, diarrhea and gonorrhea to the English æsophagus, diarrhæa and gonorrhæa. In the style book of the Journal of the American Medical Association I find many other spellings that would shock an English medical author, among them curet for curette, cocain for cocaine, gage for gauge, intern for interne, lacrimal for lachrymal, and a whole group of words ending in -er instead of in -re. 13
  Webster’s reforms, it goes without saying, have not passed unchallenged by the guardians of tradition. A glance at the literature of the first years of the nineteenth century shows that most of the serious authors of the time ignored his new spellings, though they were quickly adopted by the newspapers. Bancroft’s “Life of Washington” contains -our endings in all such words as honor, ardor and favor. Washington Irving also threw his influence against the -or ending, and so did Bryant and most of the other literary big-wigs of that day. After the appearance of “An American Dictionary of the English Language,” in 1828, a formal battle was joined, with Lyman Cobb and Joseph E. Worcester as the chief opponents of
Note 12.  Nomenclature of Diseases and Conditions, prepared by direction of the Surgeon General; Washington, 1916. [back]
Note 13.  American Medical Association Style Book; Chicago, 1915. At the 1921 session of the American Medical Association in Boston an English gynecologist read a paper and it was printed in the Journal. When he received the proofs he objected to a great many of the spellings, e. g., gonorrheal for gonorrhæal, and fallopian for Falloppian. The Journal refused to agree to his English spellings, but when his paper was reprinted separately they were restored. [back]

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