H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 42
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 42
 
  In addition, Thornton added a provisional class of “words and phrases of which I have found earlier examples in American than in English writers;… with the caveat that further research may reverse the claim”—a class offering specimens in alarmist, capitalize, eruptiveness, horse of another colour (sic!), the jig’s up, nameable, omnibus bill, propaganda and whitewash.
  Tucker, in 1921, 78 attempted to reduce all Americanisms to two grand divisions, as follows:

  1. Words and phrases that originated in America and express something that the British have always expressed differently if they have mentioned it at all.
  2. Words and phrases that would convey to a British ear a different meaning from that which they bear in this country.
  To which he added seven categories of locutions not to be regarded as Americanisms, despite their inclusion in various previous lists, as follows:

  1. Words and phrases stated by the previous compiler himself to be of foreign [i.e., chiefly of English] origin, like Farmer’s hand-me-downs.
  2. Names of things exclusively American, but known abroad under the same name, such as moccasin.
  3. Names of things invented in the United States, like drawing-room car.
  4. Words used in this country in a sense hardly distinguishable from that they bear in England, like force for a gang of laborers.
  5. Nonce words, like Mark Twain’s cavalieress.
  6. Perfectly regular and self-explanatory compounds, like office-holder, planing-machine, ink-slinger and fly-time.
  7. Purely technical terms, such as those employed in baseball.
  No more than a glance at these discordant classifications is needed to show that they hamper the inquiry by limiting its scope—not so much, to be sure, as the extravagant limitations of White and Lounsbury, but still very seriously. They leave out of account some of the most salient characters of a living language. Only Bartlett and Farmer establish a separate category of Americanisms produced by umlaut, by shading of consonants and by other phonological changes, though even Thornton, of course, is obliged to take notice of such forms as bust and bile, and even Tucker lists buster. None of them, however, goes into the matter at any length, nor even into the matter
Note 78.   Gilbert M. Tucker: American English; New York, 1921. [back]

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