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

Page 62

leniency and to demean, and Richard Grant White joined him in an onslaught upon to donate. But all of these words are in good use in the United States today, and some of them have gone over into English. 33

4. Changed Meanings
  A number of the foregoing contributions to the American vocabulary, of course, were simply common English words with changed meanings. To squat, in the sense of to crouch, had been sound English for centuries; what the colonists did was to attach a figurative meaning to it, and then bring that figurative meaning into wider usage than the literal meaning. In a somewhat similar maner they changed the significance of pond, as I have pointed out. So, too, with creek. In English it designated (and still designates) a small inlet or arm of a large river or of the sea; in American, so early as 1674, it designated any small stream. Many other such changed meanings crept into American in the early days. A typical one was the use of lot to designate a parcel of land. Thornton says, perhaps inaccurately, that it originated in the fact that the land in New England was distributed by lot. Whatever the truth, lot, to this day, is in almost universal use in the United States, though rare in England. Our conveyancers, in describing real property, always speak of “all that lot or parcel of land.” 34 Other examples of the application of old words to new purposes are afforded by freshet, barn and team. A freshet, in eighteenth century English, meant any stream of fresh water; the colonists made it signify an inundation. A barn was a house or shed for storing crops; in the colonies the word came to mean a place for keeping cattle also. A team, in English, was a pair of draft horses; in the colonies it came to mean both horses and vehicle.