H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
The process is even more clearly shown in the history of such words as corn and shoe. Corn, in orthodox English, means grain for human consumption, and especially wheat, e. g., the Corn Laws. The earliest settlers, following this usage, gave the name of Indian corn to what the Spaniards, following the Indians themselves, had called maíz. The term appears in Bradfords History of Plimouth Plantation (1647) and in Mourts Relation (1622). But gradually the adjective fell off, and by the middle of the eighteenth century maize was called simply corn and grains in general were called breadstuffs. Thomas Hutchinson, discoursing to George III in 1774, used corn in this restricted sense, speaking of rye and corn mixed. What corn? asked George. Indian corn, explained Hutchinson, or, as it is called in authors, maize.35 So with shoe. In English it meant (and still means) a topless article of footwear, but the colonists extended its meaning to varieties covering the ankle, thus displacing the English boot, which they reserved for foot coverings reaching at least to the knee. To designate the English shoe they reaching to use the word slipper. This distinction between English and American usage still prevails, despite the fashion which has lately sought to revive boot in the United States, and with it its derivatives, boot-shop and boot-maker.
Store, shop, lumber, pie, dry-goods, cracker, rock and partridge among nouns and to haul, to jew, to notify and to heft36 among verbs offer further examples of changed meanings. Down to the middle of the eighteenth century shop continued to designate a retail establishment in America, as it does in England to this day. Store was applied only to a large establishmentone showing, in some measure, the character of a warehouse. But in 1774 a Boston young man was advertising in the Massachusetts Spy for a place as a clerk in a store (three Americanisms in a row!). Soon afterward shop began to acquire its special American meaning of a factory, e. g., machine-shop. Meanwhile store completely displaced shop in the English sense, and it remained for a late flowering of Anglomania, as in the case of boot and shoe, to restore, in a measure, the status
Note 35.Vide Hutchinsons Diary, vol. i, p. 171; London, 1883-6. [back]
Note 36. A correspondent informs me that this verb occurs in the testification prefixed to the Book of Mormon. [back]