H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Yorkers, but from the common speech that has its sources in the native and immigrant proletariat and that displays its gaudiest freightage in the newspapers.
The impact of this flood is naturally most apparent in Canada, whose geographical proximity and common interests completely obliterate the effects of English political and social dominance. The American flat a has swept the whole country, and American slang is everywhere used; turn to any essay on Canadianisms,15 and you will find that nine-tenths of them are simply Americanisms. No doubt this is chiefly due to the fact that the Canadian newspapers are all supplied with news by the American press associations, and thus fall inevitably into the habit of discussing it in American terms. The great factor that makes us write and speak alike, says a recent writer on American speech habits,16 is the indefinite multiplication of the instantaneous uniformity of the American daily, due to a non-sectional, continental exchange of news through the agency of the various press associations. In this exchange Canada shares fully. Its people may think as Britons, but they must perforce think in American.
More remarkable is the influence that American has exerted upon the speech of Australia and upon the crude dialects of Oceanica and the Far East. One finds such obvious Americanisms as tomahawk, boss, bush, go finish (=to die) and pickaninny in Beach-la-Mar17 and more of them in Pidgin English. The common trade speech of the whole Pacific, indeed, tends to become American rather than English. An American correspondent at Oxford sends me some curious testimony to the fact. Among the Britishers he met there was one student who showed an amazing familiarity with American words and phrases. The American, asking him where he had lived in the United States, was surprised to hear that he had never been here at all. All his Americanisms had been picked up during his youth in a Chinese sea-port, where his father was the British Consul.
Note 15. For example, Geikies or Lighthalls. See the Bibliography. [back]
Note 16. Harvey M. Watts: Need of Good English Growing as World Turns to Its Use, New York Sun, Nov. 19, 1919. [back]
Note 17.Cf. Beach-la-Mar, by William Churchill, former United States consul-general in Samoa and Tonga. The pamphlet is published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington. [back]