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

Page 72

by Southerners is explained by a recent investigator 59 on the ground that it began in England during the reign of Charles II, and that most of the Southern colonists came to the New World at that time. The court of Charles, it is argued, was under French influence, due to the king’s long residence in France and his marriage to Henrietta Marie. Charles “objected to the inharmonious contractions willn’t (or wolln’t) and wasn’t and weren’t… and set the fashion of using the softly euphonious won’t and wan’t, which are used in speaking to this day by the best class of Southerners.” A more direct French influence upon Southern pronunciation is also pointed out. “With full knowledge of his g’s and his r’s, … [the Southerner] sees fit to glide over them, … and he carries over the consonant ending one word to the vowel beginning the next, just as the Frenchman does.” The political importance of the South, in the years between the Mecklenburg Declaration and the adoption of the Constitution, tended to force its provincialisms upon the common language. Many of the acknowledged leaders of the nascent nation were Southerners, and their pronunciation, as well as their phrases, must have become familiar everywhere. Pickering gives us a hint, indeed, at the process whereby their usage influenced that of the rest of the people. 60
  The majority of Americans early dropped the initial h-sound in such words as when and where, 61 but so far as I can determine they never elided it at the beginning of other words, save in the case of herb and humble. This elision is commonly spoken of as a cockney vulgarism, but it has extended to the orthodox English speech. In ostler the initial h is openly left off; in hotel and hospital it is