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

Page 360

XI.   American Slang

1. Its Origin and Nature
  There is but one work, so far as I can discover, formally devoted to American slang, 1 and that work is extremely superficial. Moreover, it has been long out of date, and hence is of little save historical value. There are at least a dozen careful treatises on French slang, half as many on English slang, 2 and a good many on German slang, but American slang, which is probably quite as rich as that of France and a good deal richer than that of any other country, is yet to be studied at length. Nor is there much discussion of it, of any interest or value, in the general philological literature. Fowler and all the other early native students of the language dismissed it with lofty gestures; down to the time of Whitney it was scarcely regarded as a seemly subject for the notice of a man of learning. Lounsbury, less pedantic, viewed its phenomena more hospitably, and even defined it as “the source from which the decaying energies of speech are constantly refreshed,” and Brander Matthews, following him, has described its function as that of providing “substitutes for the good words and true which are worn out by hard service.” 3 But that is about as far as the investigation has got. Krapp has some judicious paragraphs upon the matter in his “Modern English,” 4 there are a few scattered essays upon the