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

Page 218

shows signs of itself disappearing. This is particularly noticeable, in American, in such words as moral, quarrel and real, which become mor’l, quar’l and re’l, each a single syllable. In the vulgar speech this neutral e is also dropped from other words, notably poem, diary, violet and diamond, which become pome, di’ry, vi’let and di’mond. Even in the standard speech it grows shadowy in the second syllable of fertile, hostile, servile, fragile, agile, reptile, etc. In standard English these words are pronounced with the second syllable clearly rhyming with vile. The long e-sound in creek is maintained in standard American, but changed to the short i-sound of sit in the vulgate. Sleek has divided into two words, slick and sleek, the former signifying cunning and ingratiating and the latter referring especially to appearance. Of late there has been a strong tendency to abandon the old e-sound in such terms as bronchitis and appendicitis for an ai-sound, as in pie and buy; this is a senseless affectation, but it seems to be making progress. A contrary movement to abandon the old ai-sound in iodine, quinine, etc., for an e-sound, as in sleep, has better support in etymology, but is apparently less popular. Chlorine is always pronounced with the e-sound, but iodine continues to be iodyne, and kin-een for quinine still sounds strange. In two other familiar words the ai-sound has been supplanted in American: in sliver by the short i of liver, and in farina by an e-sound. Both have the ai-sound in standard English. Been, in America, almost always is bin; bean never appears save as a conscious affectation. But in England bean is invariably heard, and in a recent poem an English poet makes it rhyme with submarine, queen and unseen. 28
  I have already mentioned the displacement of o by ah or au in such words as dog and God. “Whenever the o-sound is fully stressed and long, and especially when it is final, it tends,” says Krapp, “to become diphthongal, starting with o and closing with [the] u [of bush], as in dough, doe, toe, tow, flow, floe, château, etc.”  29 But in British speech a greater variety of diphthongal shadings occur, “some of them familiar in the exaggerated representations of Englishmen