H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
plishes that object the more effectively it meets the needs of an energetic and practical people and the larger its inherent vitality. The history of every language of Europe, since the earliest days of which we have record, is a history of simplifications. Even such languages as German, which still cling to a great many exasperating inflections, including the absurd inflection of the article for gender, are less highly inflected than they used to be, and are proceeding slowly but surely toward analysis. The fact that English has gone further along that road than any other civilized tongue is not a proof of its decrepitude, but a proof of its continued strength. Brought into free competition with another language, say German or French or Spanish, it is almost certain to prevail, if only because it is vastly easierthat is, as a spoken languageto learn. The foreigner essaying it, indeed, finds his chief difficulty, not in mastering its forms, but in grasping its lack of forms. He doesnt have to learn a new and complex grammar; what he has to do is to forget grammar.
Once he has done so, the rest is a mere matter of acquiring a vocabulary. He can make himself understood, given a few nouns, pronouns, verbs and numerals, without troubling himself in the slightest about accidence. Me see she is bad English, perhaps, but it would be absurd to say that it is obscureand on some not too distant tomorrow it may be very fair American. Essaying an inflected language, the beginner must go into the matter far more deeply before he may hope to be understood. Bradley, in The Making of English,9 shows clearly how German and English differ in this respect, and how great is the advantage of English. In the latter the verb sing has but eight forms, and of these three are entirely obsolete, one is obsolescent, and two more may be dropped out without damage to comprehension. In German the corresponding verb, singen, has no fewer than sixteen forms. How far English has proceeded toward the complete obliteration of inflections is shown by such barbarous forms of it as Pidgin English and Beach-la-Mar, in which the final step is taken without appreciable loss of clarity. The Pidgin English verb is identical in all tenses. Go stands for both went and gone; makee is both make and made. In the same