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

Page 292

Neuter Gender
  These inflections, as we shall see, are often disregarded in use, but nevertheless it is profitable to glance at them as they stand. The only variations that they show from standard English are the substitution of n for s as the distinguishing mark of the absolute form of the possessive, and the attempt to differentiate between the logical and the merely polite plurals in the second person by adding the usual sign of the plural to the former. The use of n in place of s is not an American innovation. It is found in many of the dialects of English, and is, in fact, historically quite as sound as the use of s. In John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible (circa 1380) the first sentence of the Sermon on the Mount (Mark v, 3) is made: “Blessed be the pore in spirit, for the kyngdam in hevenes is heren.” And in his version of Luke xxiv, 24, is this: “And some of ourenwentin to the grave.” Here heren (or herun) represents, of course, not the modern hers, but theirs. In Anglo-Saxon the word was heora, and down to Chaucer’s day a modified form of it, here, was still used in the possessive plural in place of the modern their, though they had already displaced hie in the nominative. 71 But in John Purvey’s revision of the Wycliffe Bible, made a few years later, hern actually occurs in II Kings vii, 6, thus: “Restore thou to hir alle things that ben hern.” In Anglo-Saxon there had been no distinction between the conjoint and absolute forms of the possessive pronoun; the simple genitive sufficed for both uses. But with the decay of that language the surviving remnants of its grammar began to be put to service somewhat recklessly, and so there arose a genitive inflection of this genitive—a true double inflection. In the Northern dialects of English that inflection was made by simply adding s, the sign of the possessive. In the Southern dialects the old n-declension