H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
a paper; he takes in a paper. He does not ask his servant, Is there any mail for me? but Are there any letters for me? for mail, in the American sense, is a word that he seldom uses, save in such compounds as mail-van, mail-train and mail-order. He alwaus speaks of it as the post. The man who brings it is not a letter-carrier but a postman. It is posted, not mailed, at a pillar-box, not at a mail-box. It never includes postal-orders but only post-cards, never money-orders, but only postal-orders or postoffice-orders.2 The Englishman dictates his answers, not to a typewriter, but to a typist; a typewriter is merely the machine. If he desires the recipient to call him by telephone he doesnt say, phone me at a quarter of eight, but ring me up at a quarter to eight. And when the call comes he says are you there? When he gets home, he doesnt find his wife waiting for him in the parlor or living-room,3 but in the drawing-room or in her sitting-room, and the tale of domestic disaster that she has to tell does not concern the hired-girl but the scullery-maid. He doesnt bring her a box of candy, but a box of sweets. He doesnt leave a derby hat in the hall, but a bowler. His wife doesnt wear shirtwaists, but blouses. When she buys one she doesnt say charge it, but put it down. When she orders a tailor-made suit, she calls it a costume or a coat-and-skirt. When she wants a spool of thread she asks for a reel of cotton.4 Such things are bought, not in the department-stores, but at the stores, which are substantially the same thing. In these stores calico means a plain cotton cloth; in the United States it means a printed cotton cloth. Things bought on the instalment plan in England are said to be bought on the hire-purchase plan or system; the instalment business itself is the credit-trade. Goods ordered by post (not mail) on which the dealer pays the cost of transportation are said to be sent, not postpaid or prepaid, but postfree or carriage-paid.
An Englishman does not wear suspenders, but braces. Suspenders are his wifes garters; his own are sock-suspenders. The family does not seek sustenance in a rare tenderloin but in an underdone undercut or fillet. It does not eat beets, but beet-roots. The wine on the
Note 2. However, the English send money-orders abroad. [back]
Note 3. It is possible that the American living-room was suggested by the German wohnzimmer. [back]