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

Page 213

stood. He often has to repeat a remark or a request two or three times to make his meaning clear, especially on railroads, in hotels and at bars. The American visiting England for the first time has the same trouble.”  21 Despite the fact that American actors always imitate English pronunciation to the best of their skill, this visiting Englishman asserted that the average American audience is incapable of understanding a genuinely English company, at least “when the speeches are rattled off in conversational style.” When he presented one of his own plays with an English company, he said, many American acquaintances, after witnessing the performance, asked him to lend them the manuscript, “that they might visit it again with some understanding of the dialogue.”  22 American speech is just as difficult for Englishmen.

2. The Vowels
  In Chapters II and III, I have already discussed historically the pronunciation of a in the United States—not, I fear, to much effect, but at all events as illuminatingly as the meagre materials so far amassed permit. The best study of the pronunciation of the letter today is to be found in George Philip Krapp’s excellent book, “The Pronunciation of Standard English in America,” from which I have, already quoted several times. This work is the first adequate treatise upon American phonology to be published, and shows very careful observation and much good sense. Unluckily, Krapp finds it extremely difficult, like all other phonologists, to represent the sounds that he deals with by symbols. He uses, for example, exactly the same symbol to indicate the a-sound in cab and the a-sound in bad, though the fact that they differ very greatly must be obvious to everyone. In the same way he grows a bit vague when he tries to represent the compromise a-sound which lies somewhere between the a of father and the a of bad. “It is heard … chiefly,” he says,