H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
few writers of any ability. Nearly all the Icelandic periodicals of the New World are published in Canada, chiefly at Winnipeg.34 They are conducted, in the main, by natives of Iceland, and hence endeavor to preserve the purity of the language. But the Icelander born in America prefers to speak English, and even when he essays Icelandic he fills it with English words and phrases.
I am informed by Mr. S. S. Lontos, editor of Atlantis, the Greek newspaper published in New York, that Greek journalists and other writers working in the United States try to avoid the use of Americanisms in their writing, and that the same care is observed by educated Greeks in conversation. But the masses of Greek immigrants imitate the newcomers of all other races by adopting Americanisms wholesale. In most cases the loan-words, as in Italian, undergo changes. Thus, bill-of-fare becomes biloferi, pie changes to pay, sign and shine to saina (there is no sh-sound in Greek), cream to creamy, fruit-store to fruitaria, clams to clammess, steak to stecky, polish to policy, hotel to otelli, stand to stanza, lease to lista, depot to depos, car to carron (=Modern Greek, karron, a cart), picture to pitsa, elevator and elevated to elevata, and so on. The Greeks suffer linguistic confusion immediately they attempt English, for in Modern Greek nay (spelled nai) means yes, P. M. indicates the hours before noon, and the letter N stands for South. To make things even worse, the Greek papoose means grandfather and mammie means grandmother.
So far as I know, no philological study of American Greek has been made. Undoubtedly all the processes of decay that have been going on in Greece itself for centuries will be hastened in this country. Whenever English begins to influence another language it plays havoc with the inflections.
Note 34. Icelandic-American Periodicals, by Halldór Hermannsson, Pub. Soc. for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, vol. iii, no. 2; Urbana, III., July, 1916. [back]