H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 39
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 39
 
devoted a brief chapter to “American Dialects” in his well-known work on English 74 and in it one finds the following formidable classification of Americanisms:

  1. Words borrowed from other language.
    1. Indian, as Kennebec, Ohio, Tombigbee; sagamore, quahaug, succotash.
    2. Dutch, as boss, kruller, stoop.
    3. German, as spuke(?), sauerkraut.
    4. French, as bayou, cache, chute, crevasse, levee.
    5. Spanish, as calaboose, chapparal, hacienda, rancho, ranchero.
    6. Negro, as buckra.
  2. Words “introduced from the necessity of our situation, in order to express new ideas.”
    1. Words “connected with and flowing from our political institutions,” as selectman, presidential, congressional, caucus, mass-meeting, lynch-law, help (for servants).
    2. Words “connected with our ecclesiastical institutions,” as associational, consociational, to fellowship, to missionate.
    3. Words “connected with a new country,” as lot, diggings, betterments, squatter.
  3. Miscellaneous Americanisms.
    1. Words and phrases become obsolete in England, as talented, offset (for set-off), back and forth (for backward and forward).
    2. Old words and phrases “which are now merely provincial in England,” as hub, whap (?), to wilt.
    3. Nouns formed from verbs by adding the French suffix -ment, as publishment, releasement, requirement.
    4. Forms of words “which fill the gap or vacancy between two words which are approved,” as obligate (between oblige and obligation) and variate (between vary and variation).
    5. “Certain compound terms for which the English have different compounds,” as bank-bill (bank-note), book-store (bookseller’s shop), bottom-land (interval-land), clapboard (pale), sea-board (sea-shore), side-hill (hill-side).
    6. “Certain colloquial phrases, apparently idiomatic, and very expressive,” as to cave in, to flare up, to flunk out, to fork over, to hold on, to let on, to stave off, to take on.
    7. Intensives, “often a matter of mere temporary fashion,” as dreadful, might, plaguy, powerful.
    8. “Certain verbs expressing one’s state of mind, but partially or timidly,” as to allot upon (for to count upon), to calculate, to expect (to think or believe), to guess, to reckon.
    9. “Certain adjectives, expressing not only quality, but one’s subjective feelings in regard to it,” as clever, grand, green, likely, smart, ugly.
Note 74.  Op. cit., pp. 119–28. [back]

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