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

Page 91

celebrated “Travels in North America,” in 1827. When he argued that “surely such innovations are to be deprecated,” an American asked him this question: “If a word becomes universally current in America, why should it not take its station in the language?” “Because,” replied Hall in all seriousness, “there are words enough in our language already.”

3. The Expanding Vocabulary
  A glance at some of the characteristic coinages of the time, as they are revealed in the Congressional Globe, in contemporary newspapers and political tracts, and in that grotesque small literature of humor which began with Judge Thomas C. Haliburton’s “Sam Slick” in 1835, is almost enough to make one sympathize with Dean Alford. Bartlett quotes to doxologize from the Christian Disciple, a quite reputable religious paper of the 40’s. To citizenize was used and explained by Senator Young, of Illinois, in the Senate on February 1, 1841, and he gave Noah Webster as authority for it. To funeralize and to missionate, along with consociational, were contributions of the backwoods pulpit; perhaps it also produced hell-roaring and hellion, the latter of which was a favorite of the Mormons and even got into a sermon by Henry Ward Beecher. To deacon, a verb of decent mien in colonial days, signifying to read a hymn line by line, responded to the rough humor of the time, and began to mean to swindle or adulterate, e. g., to put the largest berries at the top of the box, to extend one’s fences sub rosa, or to mix sand with sugar. A great rage for extending the vocabulary by the use of suffixes seized upon the corn-fed etymologists, and they produced a formidable new vocabulary in -ize, -ate, -ify, -acy, -ous and -ment. Such inventions as to obligate, to concertize, to questionize, retiracy, savagerous, coatee (a sort of diminutive for coat) and citified appeared in the popular vocabulary and even got into more or less good usage. Fowler, in 1850, cited publishment and releasement with no apparent thought that they were uncouth. And at the same time many verbs were