H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 413
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 413
desire on the part of the speaker to use English words, a thing that becomes very pronounced in the jargon that is sometimes heard.”
  Dr. Flaten exhibits the following declension of a typical loanword, swindler. In Dano-Norwegian there is no letter w, and the suffix of agency is not -er but -ar; so the word becomes svindlar. It is regarded as masculine and declined thus:
Nom.ein svindlarsvindlarn
Gen.aat svindlaraat svindlaré
Dat.(te) ein svindlar(te) svindlaré
Acc.ein svindlarsvindlarn
Nom.noko svindlarasvindlaradn
Gen.aat noko svindlaraaat svindlaro
Dat.(te) noko svindlara(te) svindlaro
Acc.noko svindlarasvindlaradn
  The vocabularies of Drs. Flaten and Flom show a large number of such substitutions of English (including some thoroughly American) words. The Dano-Norwegian φl is abandoned for the English beer, which becomes bir. Tonde succumbs to baerel, barel or baril (=barrel), frokost to brekkfaest (=breakfast), forsikring to inschurings (=insurance,) 28 stald to staebel (=stable), skat to taex (=tax,) and so on. The verbs yield in the same way: vaeljuéte (=valuate), titsche (teach), Katte (cut), Klém (claim), savére (survey), refjuse (refuse.) And the adjectives: plén (plain), jelős (jealous), kjokfuldt (chock-full), Krésé (crazy), aebel (able), Klir (clear), pjur (pure), pur (poor). And the adverbs and adverbial phrases: isé (easy), reit evé (right away), aept to (apt to), allreit (all right). Dr. Flaten lists some extremely grotesque compound words, e. g., nekk-tői (necktie), Kjaens-bogg (chinch-bug), hospaar (horse-power), gitte long (get along), hardvaer-staar (hardware-store), staets-praessen (state’s-prison), traevling-maen (traveling-man), uxe-jogg (yoke of oxen), stim-baat (steamboat). Pure Americanisms are not infrequent, e. g., bősta
Note 28.  Connoisseurs will recall Abe Potash’s insurings. What we have here is the substitution of a familiar suffix for one of somewhat similar sound but much less familiar—a frequent cause of phonetic decay. [back]


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