H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Abridgments, as stage (for stage-coach), turnpike (for turnpike-road), spry (for sprightly), to conduct (for to conduct ones self).
Quaint or burlesque terms, as to tote, to yank; humbug, loafer, muss, plunder (for baggage), rock (for stone).
Low expressions, mostly political, as slangwhanger, loco foco, hunker; to get the hang of.
Ungrammatical expressions, disapproved by all, as do dont, used to could, cant come it, Universal preacher (for Universalist), theres no two ways about it.
Elwyn, in 1859, attempted no classification.75 He confined his glossary to archaic English words surviving in America, and sought only to prove that they had come down from our remotest ancestry and were thus undeserving of the reviling lavished upon them by English critics. Schele de Vere, in 1872, followed Bartlett, and devoted himself largely to words borrowed from the Indian dialects, and from the French, Spanish and Dutch. But Farmer, in 1889,76 ventured upon a new classification, prefacing it with the following definition:
An Americanism may be defined as a word or phrase, old or new, employed by general or respectable usage in America in a way not sanctioned by the best standards of the English language. As a matter of fact, however, the term has come to possess a wider meaning, and it is now applied not only to words and phrases which can be so described, but also to the new and legitimately born words adapted to the general needs and usages, to the survivals of an older form of English than that now current in the mother country, and to the racy, pungent vernacular of Western life.
He then proceeded to this classification:
Words and phrases of purely American derivation, embracing words originating in:
Indian and aboriginal life.
Pioneer and frontier life.
Trades of all kinds.
Travel, afloat and ashore.
Words brought by colonists, including:
The German element.
Note 75. Alfred L. Elwyn, M.D.: Glossary of Supposed Americanisms Phila., 1859. [back]
Note 76. John S. Farmer: Americanisms Old and New London, 1889. [back]