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

Page 2

in North America as different from the future language of England as the modern Dutch, Danish and Swedish are from the German, or from one another.” 1
  Neither Jefferson nor Webster put a term upon his prophecy. They may have been thinking, one or both, of a remote era, not yet come to dawn, or they may have been thinking, with the facile imagination of those days, of a period even earlier than our own. In the latter case they allowed far too little (and particularly Webster) for factors that have worked powerfully against the influences they saw so clearly in operation about them. One of these factors, obviously, has been the vast improvement in communications across the ocean, a change scarcely in vision a century ago. It has brought New York relatively nearer to London today than it was to Boston, or even to Philadelphia, during Jefferson’s presidency, and that greater proximity has produced a steady interchange of ideas, opinions, news and mere gossip. We latter-day Americans know a great deal more about the everyday affairs of England than the early Americans did, for we read more English books, and find more about the English in our newspapers, and meet more Englishmen, and go to England much oftener. The effects of this ceaseless traffic in ideas and impressions, so plainly visible in politics, in ethics and æsthetics, and even in the minutiæ of social intercourse, are also to be seen in the language. On the one hand there is a swift exchange of new inventions on both sides, so that many of our American neologisms quickly pass to London and the latest English fashions in pronunciation are almost instantaneously imitated, at least by a minority, in New York; and, on the other hand, the English, by so constantly having the floor, force upon us, out of their firmer resolution and certitude, and no less out of the authority that goes with their mere cultural seniority, a somewhat sneaking respect for their own greater conservatism of speech, so that our professors of the language, in the overwhelming main, combat all signs of differentiation with the utmost diligence, and safeguard the doctrine that the standards of English are the only reputable standards of American.