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

Page 94

convey the ideas behind them without circumlocution. The use of slim in the sense of meagre, as in slim chance, slim attendance and slim support, goes back still further. The English use small in place of it. Other, and less respectable contributions of the time are brash, bogus, brainy, peart, locoe (d), pesky, picayune, scary, well-heeled, hardshell (e. g., Baptist), low-flung, codfish (to indicate opprobrium) and go-to-meeting. The use of plumb as an adjective, as in plumb crazy, is an English archaism that was revived in the United States in the early years of the century. In the more orthodox adverbial form of plump it still survives, for example, in “she fell plump into his arms.” But this last is also good English.
  The characteristic American substitution of mad for angry goes back to the eighteenth century, and perhaps denotes the survival of an English provincialism. Witherspoon noticed it and denounced it in 1781, and in 1816 Pickering called it “low” and said that it was not used “except in very familiar conversation.” But it got into much better odor soon afterward, and by 1840 it passed unchallenged. Its use is one of the peculiarities that Englishmen most quickly notice in American colloquial speech today. In formal written discourse it is less often encountered, probably because the English marking of it has so conspicuously singled it out. But it is constantly met with in the newspapers and in the Congressional Record, and it is not infrequently used by such writers as Howells and Dreiser. In the familiar simile, as mad as a hornet, it is used in the American sense. But as mad as a March hare is English, and connotes insanity, not mere anger. The English meaning of the word is preserved in mad-house and mad-dog, but I have often noticed that American rustics, employing the latter term, derive from it a vague notion, not that the dog is demented, but that it is in a simple fury. From this notion, perhaps, comes the popular belief that dogs may be thrown into hydrophobia by teasing and badgering them.
  It was not, however, among the verbs and adjectives that the American word-coiners of the first half of the century achieved their gaudiest innovations, but among the substantives. Here they had temptation and excuse in plenty, for innumerable new objects and relations demanded names, and here they exercised their fancy without