H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
us, for example, stomp for stamp,108 snoot for snout, guardeen for guardian, janders for jaundice, muss for mess, and champeen for champion.
But all these vowels, whether approved or disapproved, have been under the pressure, for the past century, of a movement toward a general vowel neutralization, and in the long run it promises to dispose of many of them. The same movement also affects standard English, as appears by Robert Bridges Tract on the Present State of English Pronunciation, but I believe that it is stronger in America, and will go farther, at least with the common speech, if only because of our unparalleled immigration. Standard English has 19 separate vowel sounds. No other living tongue of Europe, save Portuguese, has so many; most of the others have a good many less; Modern Greek has but five. The immigrant, facing all these vowels, finds some of them quite impossible; the Russian Jew, for example, cannot manage ur. As a result, he tends to employ a neutralized vowel in the situations which present difficulties, and this neutralized vowel, supported by the slip-shod speech-habits of the native proletariat, makes steady progress. It appears in many of the forms that we have been examiningin the final a of would-a, vaguely before the n in thisn and offn, in place of the original d in use to, and in the common pronunciation of such words as been, come and have, particularly when they are sacrificed to sentence exigencies, as in I bn thinking, cm ere, and he wouldve saw you.
Here we are upon a wearing down process that shows many other symptoms. One finds, not only vowels disorganized, but also consonants. Some are displaced by other consonants, measurably more facile; others are dropped altogether. D becomes the unvoiced t, as in holt, or is dropped, as in tole, hankerchief, bran-new, dint (=didnt) and fine (for find). In ast (for ask) t replaces k; when the same word is used in place of asked, as often happens, e. g., in I ast him his name, it shoulders out ked. It is itself
Note 108.Stomp is used only in the sense of to stamp with the foot. One always stamps a letter. An analogue of stomp, accepted in correct English, is strop (e. g., razor-strop), from strap. In American champ (chomp) and tramp (tromp) tend to diverge in the same way. A horse chomps its bit, but champ (=champion) retains the flat a. A cow tromps her fodder, but a tramp remains a tramp. [back]