H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
its analogues got in. The American actors, having no court to imitate, content themselves by imitating their English colleagues. Thus an American of fashionable pretensions, say in Altoona, Pa., or Athens, Ga., shakes hands, eats soup, greets his friends, enters a drawing-room and pronounces the words path, secretary, melancholy and necessarily in a manner that is an imitation of some American actors imitation of an English actors imitation of what is done in Mayfairin brief, an imitation in the fourth degree. No wonder it is sometimes rather crude. This crudity is especially visible in speech habits. The American actor does his best to imitate the pronunciation and intonation of the English, but inasmuch as his name, before he became Gerald Cecil, was probably Rudolph Goetz or Terence Googan, he frequently runs aground upon laryngeal impossibilities. Here we have an explanation of the awful fist that society folk in Des Moines and Little Rock make of pronouncing the test words in the authentic English manner. All such words are filtered through Gaelic or Teutonic or Semitic gullets before they reach the ultimate consumer.
The influence of the Protestant Episcopal Church is also to be taken into account. It was the center of Loyalism during the Revolution, and it has fostered a passionate and often excessive Anglomania ever since. In the larger American cities entrance into it is the aim of all social pushersincluding, of late, even the Jews22and once they get in they adopt, in so far as they are able, the terminology of its clergy, whose eagerness to appear English is traditional. The fashionable preparatory schools for boys and finishing schools for girls, many of which are directly controlled by this sect, are also very active centers of Anglomania, and have firmly established such Briticisms as headmaster, varsity, chapel (for the service as well as the building), house-master, old boy, monitor, honors, prefect and form, at least in fashionable circles. The late Woodrow Wilson, during his term as president of Princeton, gave currency to various other English academic terms, including preceptor and
Note 22. Jews desiring to abandon Moses formerly embraced Christian Science, but of late the more wealthy of them have been taking bold headers into the Anglican communion, especially in New York. I am informed that one of the most fashionable Episcopal churches there has several Jews in its vestry. When I asked for a list of its vestrymen the rector refused it. [back]