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

Page 13

journals, still make their way in British-English comfortably enough, though now and then, I daresay, an English novel daunts them. But the English have a great deal more difficulty with American, and devote a great deal of attention to its peculiarities—often with very ill grace. For a long while, as we shall see in the next chapter, they viewed its differentiation from standard English with frank indignation, and sought to put an end to the process by violent denunciation; even so late as the period of the Civil War their chief spokesman saw in every Americanism that quality of abhorrent barbarism which they looked upon as the salient mark of the American people. But in later years, despite a certain lingering waspishness, they have brought themselves to a more philosophical view, and the fact that American-English is definitely separating itself from British-English is now admitted as a matter of course. The Cambridge History of English Literature, for example, says that the two have become “notably dissimilar” in vocabulary, and that American is splitting off into a distinct dialect. 22 The Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, going further, says that the two languages are already so far apart that “it is not uncommon to meet with [American] newspaper articles of which an untravelled Englishman would hardly be able to understand a sentence.” 23 A great many other academic authorities, including A. H. Sayce and H. W. and F. G. Fowler, bear testimony to the same effect.
  On turning to the men actually engaged in writing English, and particularly to those aspiring to an American audience, one finds nearly all of them adverting, at some time or other, to the growing difficulties of intercommunication. William Archer, Arnold Bennett, W. L. George, George Moore, H. G. Wells, Edgar Jepson, H. N. Brailsford, Sidney Low, J. C. Squire, the Chestertons and Kipling are some of those who have dealt with the matter, following Dickens, Ruskin, George Augusta Sala and others of an elder generation. Low, in an article in the Westminster Gazette 24 ironically headed “Ought American to be Taught in Our Schools?” has described how the latter-day British business man is “puzzled by his