H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Spain the Real Academia Española de la Lengua is constantly at work upon its great Diccionario, Ortografía and Gramática, and revises them at frequent intervals, taking in all new words as they appear and all new forms of old ones. And in Latin-America, to come nearer to our own case, the native philologists have produced a copious literature on the matter closest at hand, and one finds in it excellent works upon the Portuguese dialect of Brazil, and the variations of Spanish in Mexico, the Argentine, Chili, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay and even Honduras and Costa Rica.8 But in the United States the business has attracted little attention and less talent. The only existing formal treatise upon the subject,9 if the present work be excepted, was written by a Swede trained in Germany and is heavy with errors and omissions. And the only usable dictionary of Americanisms10 was written in England, and is the work of an English-born lawyer.
I am not forgetting, of course, the early explorations of Noah Webster, of which much more anon, nor the labors of our later dictionary makers, nor the inquiries of the American Dialect Society,11 nor even the occasional illuminations of such writers as Richard Grant White, Charles H. Grandgent, George Philip Krapp, Thomas S. Lounsbury and Brander Matthews. But all this preliminary work has left the main field almost uncharted. Webster,
Note 8. A number of such works are listed in the Bibliography and in Part II, Section 3 of the Appendix. The late Ricardo Palma, director of the Biblioteca Nacional at Lima, was an ardent student of American-Spanish, and tried to induce the Academia to adopt a long list of terms used in the Spanish of South America. [back]
Note 9. Maximilian Schele de Vere: Americanisms: The English of the New World; New York, 1872. Since this was written Gilbert M. Tucker has published his American English; New York, 1921. [back]
Note 10. Richard H. Thornton: An American Glossary 2 vols.; Phila. and London, 1912. Mr. Thornton returned to the United States after his dictionary was published. [back]
Note 11. Organized Feb. 19, 1889, with Dr. J. J. Child, of Harvard, as its first president. [back]