The American Language

by H.L. Mencken

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Chapter IX - Footnotes

[1] Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. xiii, p. 167.

[2] Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages; New York, 1905. This work extends to 1267 pages and contains about 30,000 proverbs, admirably arranged.

[3] James Maitland: The American Slang Dictionary; Chicago, 1891.

[4] For example, the works of Villatte, Virmaitre, Michel, Rigaud and Devau.

[5] The best of these, of course, is Farmer and Henley's monumental Slang and Its Analogues, in seven volumes.

[6] Matthews' essay, The Function of Slang, is reprinted in Clapin's Dictionary of Americanisms, pp. 565-581.

[7] P. 199 et seq.

[8] For example, The Psychology of Unconventional Language, by Frank K. Sechrist, Pedagogical Seminary, vol. xx, p. 413, Dec., 1913, and The Philosophy of Slang, by E. B. Taylor, reprinted in Clapin's Dictionary of Americanisms, pp. 541-563.

[9] Olaf E. Bosson: Slang and Cant in Jerome K. Jerome's Works; Cambridge, 1911.

[10] Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. xii, p. 144.

[11] Curiously enough, the American language, usually so fertile in words to express shades of meaning, has no respectable synonym for chicken. In English there is flapper, in French there is ingénue, and in German there is backfisch. Usually either the English or the French word is borrowed.

[12] The Life and Growth of Language, New York, 1897, p. 113.

[13] Cf. Two Children in Old Paris, by Gertrude Slaughter; New York, 1918, p. 233. Another American popular saying, once embodied in a coon song, may be traced to a sentence in the prayer of the Old Dessauer before the battle of Kesseldorf, Dec. 15, 1745: "Or if Thou wilt not help me, don't help those Hundvögte."

[14] Modern English, p. 211.

[15] A Plea for the Queen's English, p. 244.

[16] Life and Letters of E. C. Stedman, ed. by Laura Stedman and George M. Gould; New York, 1910, vol. i, p. 477.

[17] Governor M. R. Patterson, of Tennessee, in an address before the National Anti-Saloon League at Washington, Dec. 13, 1917.

[18] Long before this the general question of the relative superiority of various languages had been debated in Germany. In 1796 the Berlin Academy offered a prize for the best essay on The Ideal of a Perfect Language. It was won by one Jenisch with a treatise bearing the sonorous title of A Philosophico-Critical Comparison and Estimate of Fourteen of the Ancient and Modern Languages of Europe, viz., Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, English, Danish, Swedish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian.

[19] Is English Destined to Become the Universal Language?, by W. Brackebusch; Göttingen, 1868.

[20] I take these figures from A Modern English Grammar, by H. G. Buehler; New York, 1900, p. 3.

[21] World Almanac, 1914, p. 63.

[22] The Geography of Great Languages, World's Work, Feb., 1908, p. 9907. Babbitt predicts that by the year 2000 English will be spoken by 1,100,000,000 persons, as against 500,000,000 speakers of Russian, 300,000,000 of Spanish, 160,000,000 of German and 60,000,000 of French.

[23] P. 5 et seq.

[24] Cf. Beach-la-Mar, by William Churchill, former United States consul-general in Samoa and Tonga. The pamphlet is published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

[25] A glossary of latter-day Australian slang is in Doreen and the Sentimental Bloke, by C. J. Dennis; New York, 1916.

[26] The American Language, by J. F. Healy; Pittsburgh, 1910, p. 6.

[27] History of the English Language, p. 476.

[28] Dublin, 1907. See also ch. ii of Ireland's Literary Renaissance, by Ernest A. Boyd; New York, 1916.


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