H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
particularly of the sort currently heard in the West End of London. The small stores in the vicinity of Fifth avenue, for some years past, have all been turning themselves into shops. Shoes for the persons who shop in that region are no longer shoes, but boots, and they are sold by bootmakers in bootshops. One encounters, too, in Fifth avenue and the streets adjacent, a multitude of gift-shops, tea-shops, haberdashery-shops, book-shops, luggage-shops, hat-shops and print-shops. Every apartment-house in New York has a trades-mens entrance.To Let signs have become almost as common, at least in the East, as For Rent signs. Railway has begun to displace railroad.20Charwoman has been adopted all over the country, and we have begun to forget our native modification of char, to wit, chore. Long ago drawing-room was borrowed by the haut ton to take the place of parlor, and hired girls began to be maids.Whip for driver, stick for cane, top-hat for high-hat, and to tub for to bathe came in long ago, and guard has been making a struggle against conductor in New York for years. In August, 1917, signs appeared in the New York surface cars in which the conductors were referred to as guards; all of them are guards on the elevated lines and in the subways save the forward men, who remain conductors officially. In Charles street in Baltimore, some time ago, the proprietor of a fashionable stationery store directed me, not to the elevator but to the lift. During the war even the government seemed inclined to substitute the English hoarding for the American billboard.21 In the Federal Reserve Act it actually borrowed the English governor to designate the head of a bank.
The influence of the stage is largely responsible for the introduction and propagation of such Briticisms. Of plays dealing with fashionable life, most of those seen in the United States are of English origin, and many of them are played by English companies. Thus the social aspirants of the towns become familiar with the standard English pronunciation of the moment and with the current English phrases. It was by this route, I suppose, that old top and
Note 20. Evacustes A. Phipson, an Englishman, says in Dialect Notes, vol. i, p. 432, that railway appears to be a concession to Anglomania. [back]
Note 21. See p. 58 of The United States at War, a pamphlet issued by the Library of Congress, 1917. The compiler of this pamphlet was a savant bearing the fine old British name of Herman H. B. Meyer. [back]