H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
direct and unrestrained conflict with one of these new stocks, it tends to succumb, or, at all events, to give up the battle. The Irish, in the big cities of the East, attained to a truly impressive political power long before the first nativeborn generation of them had grown up.2 The Germans, following the limestone belt of the Alleghany foothills, preempted the best lands East of the mountains before the new republic was born. And so in our own time we have seen the Swedes and Norwegians shouldering the native from the wheat lands of the Northwest, and the Italians driving the decadent New Englanders from their farms, and the Jews gobbling New York, and the Slavs getting a firm foothold in the mining regions, and the French Canadians penetrating New Hampshire and Vermont, and the Japanese and Portuguese menacing Hawaii, and the awakened negroes gradually ousting the whites from the farms of the South.3 The birthrate among all these foreign stocks is enormously greater than among the older stock, and though the deathrate is also high, the net increase remains relatively formidable. Even without the aid of immigration it is probable that they would continue to rise in numbers faster than the original English and so-called Scotch-Irish.4
Turn to the letter z in the New York telephone directory and you will find a truly astonishing array of foreign names, some of them in process of anglicization, but many of them still arrestingly outlandish. The only Anglo-Saxon surname beginning with z is Zacharias5 and even that was originally borrowed from the Greek. To this the Norman invasion seems to have added only Zouchy. But in Manhattan and the Bronx, even among the necessarily limited class of telephone subscribers, there are nearly 1500 persons whose names begin with the letter, and among them one finds fully 150 different surnames. The German Zimmermann, with either one n or two, is naturally the most numerous single name, and following close upon it are its relatives, Zimmer and Zimmern. With them are many more German names, Zahn, Zechendorf, Zeffert, Zeitler,
Note 2. The great Irish famine, which launched the chief emigration to America, extended from 1845 to 1847. The Know Nothing movement, which was chiefly aimed at the Irish, extended from 1852 to 1860. [back]
Note 3. Richard T. Ely: Outlines of Economics, 3rd rev. ed.; New York, 1916, p. 68. [back]
Note 4.Cf. Seth K. Humphrey: Mankind; New York, 1917, p. 45. [back]
Note 5.Cf. William G. Searle: Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum; Cambridge, 1897. [back]