H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
but Thornton rejected it, apparently because, in the sense of a collapse, it has come into colloquial use in England. Its etymology is not given in the American dictionaries. It may be a compound regularly formed of English materials, like its brother, hoedown.
3. New Words of English Material
But of far more importance than these borrowings was the great stock of new words that the colonists coined in English metalwords primarily demanded by the new circumstances under which they were placed, but also indicative, in more than one case, of a delight in the business for its own sake. The American, even in the early eighteenth century, already showed many of the characteristics that were to set him off from the Englishman later onhis bold and some-what grotesque imagination, his contempt for dignified authority, his lack of æsthetic sensitiveness, his extravagant humor. Among the first colonists there were many men of education, culture and gentle birth, but they were soon swamped by hordes of the ignorant and illiterate, and the latter, cut off from the corrective influence of books, soon laid their hands upon the language. It is impossible to imagine the austere Puritan divines of Massachusetts inventing such verbs as to cowhide and to logroll, or such adjectives as no-account and stumped, or such adverbs as no-how and lickety-split, or such substantives as bull-frog, hog-wallow and hoe-cake; but under their eyes there arose a contumacious proletariat which was quite capable of the business, and very eager for it. In Boston, so early as 1628, there was a definite class of blackguard roisterers, chiefly made up of sailors and artisans; in Virginia, nearly a decade earlier, John Pory, secretary to Governor Yeardley, lamented that in these five months of my continuance here there have come at one time or another eleven sails of ships into this river, but fraighted more with ignorance than with any other marchansize. In particular, the generation born in the New World was uncouth and iconoclastic;18
Note 18.Cf. The Cambridge History of American Literature, vol. i, pp. 14 and 22. [back]