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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 10

English, displayed an unaccountable desire to deny its existence altogether, and to the support of that denial they brought a critical method that was anything but unprejudiced. White devoted not less than eight long articles in the Atlantic Monthly 19 to a review of the fourth edition of John Russell Bartlett’s American Glossary 20 and when he came to the end he had disposed of nine-tenths of Bartlett’s specimens and called into question the authenticity of at least half of what remained. And no wonder, for his method was simply that of erecting tests so difficult and so arbitrary that only the exceptional word or phrase could pass them, and then only by a sort of chance. “To stamp a word or a phrase as an Americanism,” he said, “it is necessary to show that (1) it is of so-called ‘American’ origin—that is, that it first came into use in the United States of North America, or that (2) it has been adopted in those States from some language other than English, or has been kept in use there while it has wholly passed out of use in England.” Going further, he argued that unless “the simple words in compound names” were used in America “in a sense different from that in which they are used in England” the compound itself could not be regarded as an Americanism. The absurdity of all this is apparent when it is remembered that one of his rules would bar out such obvious Americanisms as the use of sick in place of ill, of molasses for treacle, and of fall for autumn, for all of these words, while archaic in England, are by no means wholly extinct; and that another would dispose of that vast category of compounds which includes such unmistakably characteristic Americanisms as joy-ride, rake-off, show-down, up-lift, out-house, rubber-neck, chair-warmer, fire-eater and back-talk.
  Lounsbury went even further. In the course of a series of articles in Harper’s Magazine, in 1913, 21 he laid down the dogma that “cultivated speech… affords the only legitimate basis of comparison between the language as used in England and in America,” and then went on: