H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 57
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 57
to small natural lakes, and of creek from small arms of the sea to shallow feeders of rivers. Such common English topographical terms as downs, weald, wold, fen, bog, fell, chase, combe, dell, tarn, common, heath and moor disappeared from the colonial tongue, save as fossilized in a few localisms and proper names. 20 So did bracken.
  With the new landscape came an entirely new mode of life—new foods, new forms of habitation, new methods of agriculture, new kinds of hunting. A great swarm of neologisms thus arose, and, as in the previous case, they were chiefly compounds. Back-country, back-woods, back-woodsman, back-settlers, back-settlements: all these were in common use early in the eighteenth century. Back-log was used by Increase Mather in 1684. Log-house appears in the Mary-land Archives for 1669. 21 Hoe-cake, Johnny-cake, pan-fish, corn-dodger, roasting-ear, corn-crib, corn-cob and pop-corn were all familiar before the Revolution. So were pine-knot, snow-plow, cold-snap, land-slide, ash-can, bob-sled, apple-butter, salt-lick, prickly-heat, shell-road and cane-brake. Shingle was a novelty in 1705, but one S. Symonds wrote to John Winthrop, of Ipswich, about a clap-boarded house in 1637. Frame-house seems to have come in with shingle. Trail, half-breed, Indian-summer, Indian-giver, and Indian-file, were obviously suggested by the Red Men. 22 Statehouse was borrowed, perhaps, from the Dutch. Selectman is first heard of in 1685, displacing the English alderman. Mush had displaced porridge by 1671. Soon afterwards hay-stack took the place of the English hay-cock, and such common English terms as byre, mews, wier and wain began to disappear. Hired-man is to be found in the Plymouth town records of 1737, and hired-girl followed soon after. So early as 1758, as we find by the diary of Nathaniel Ames, the second-year students at Harvard were already called sophomores, though for a while the spelling was often made sophimores. Camp-meeting was later; it did not appear until 1799. But land-office was familiar before 1700, and side-walk, spelling-bee, bee-line, moss-back,
Note 20.  E. g., Chevy Chase, Boston Common, the Back Bay fens, and cranberry-bog. [back]
Note 21.  Log-cabin came in later. Thornton’s first quotation is dated 1818. The Log-Cabin campaign was in 1840. [back]
Note 22.  Cf. Memorials of the Indian, by Alex. F. Chamberlain, Journal of American Folk-Lore, April-June, 1902, p. 107. [back]


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.