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

Page 181

even more. 33 Here, as always, the popular speech is pulling the exacter speech along, and no one familiar with its successes in the past can have much doubt that it will succeed again, soon or late. In the same way it is breaking down the inflectional distinction between adverb and adjective, so that “I feel bad” begins to take on the dignity of a national idiom, and sure, in bad, to go big and run slow 34 become almost respectable. When, on the entrance of the United States into the late war, the Tank Corps chose “Treat’ em rough” as its motto, no one thought to raise a grammatical objection, and the clipped adverb was printed upon hundreds of thousands of posters and displayed in every town in the country, always with the imprimatur of the national government. So again, American, in its spoken form, tends to obliterate the distinction between nearly related adjectives, e. g., healthful and healthy, tasteful and tasty. And to challenge the somewhat absurd text-book prohibition of terminal prepositions, so that “where are we at?” loses its old raciness. And to dally with the double negative, as in “I have no doubt but that.” 35
  But these tendencies, or at least the more extravagant of them, belong to the next chapter. How much influence they exert, even indirectly, is shown by the American disdain of the English precision in the use of the indefinite pronoun, already noticed. I turn to the Saturday Evening Post, and in two minutes find: “one feels like an atom when he begins to review his own life and deeds.” 36 The error is very rare in English; the Fowlers, seeking examples of it, could get them only from the writings of a third-rate woman