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

Page 147

almost as hazardous as for it to refer to the ghetto. When the New York papers desire to discuss the doings of the Jewish Socialists on the East Side, they are forced to retire behind East side agitators or soap-boxers. Years ago, being city editor of a newspaper in a large city, I employed a reporter to cover the picturesque and often strikingly dramatic life of the Russian and Polish Jews in its slums. He staggered along for two or three months, trying in vain to invent terms to designate them that would not offend the large Jewish advertisers. Finally, the business office bombarded me with so many complaints that I instructed him to abandon the Jews, and devote himself to the Italians and Bohemians, who were all poor and without influential compatriots uptown.
  Save in this one particular I believe that the American newspapers have made appreciable progress toward the use of plain English in recent years. The gaudy style of a generation ago has perished, and with it have vanished its euphemisms—casket for coffin, obsequies for funeral, nuptial ceremony for wedding, happy pair for bridal couple, and consigned to earth for buried. A death notice offers an excellent test of a reporter; if he is an idiot he will invariably show it when he writes one. Save in the small towns and in some of the cities of the South—where an aged Methodist sister still “goes to her heavenly father” or “falls asleep in the arms of Jesus”—the newspapers of the Republic now deal with death in a simple and dignified manner. On account of their sharp differentiation between news and editorial opinion, they even avoid the “we regret to announce” with which all English journals begin their reports of eminent dissolutions. Nine-tenths of them are now content to open proceedings by saying baldly that “John Smith died yesterday.” Nor do they slobber as they used to over weddings, balls, corner-stone layings and other such ceremonies.
  The use of Madame as a special title of honor for old women of good position survived in the United States until the 70’s. It distinguished the dowager Mrs. Smith from the wife of her eldest son; today the word dowager, imitating the English usage, is frequently employed in fashionable society. 45 Madame survives among the