H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
is possible we should wish to give an English pronunciation and spelling to useful foreign words, and we would attempt to restore to a good many words the old English forms which they once had, but which are now supplanted by the original foreign forms.45
A glance through any English weekly or review, or, indeed, any English newspaper of the slightest intellectual pretension will show how far this tendency has gone. All the foreign words that English must perforce employ for want of native terms of precisely the same import are carefully italicized and accented, e. g., matinèe, cafè, crêpe, dèbut, portiére, èclat, naïvetè, règime, rôle, soirèe, prècis, protègè, èlite, gemütlichkeit, mêlèe, tête-á-tête, porte-cochére, divorcèe, fiancèe, weltpolitik, weltschmerz, muzhik, ukase, dènouement. Even good old English words have been displaced by foreign analogues thought to be more elegant, e. g., repertory by rèpertoire, sheik by shaikh, czar by tsar, levee by levèe, moslem by muslim, khalifate by khilifat, said by seyd, crape by crêpe, supper by souper, Legion of Honor by Lègion dhonneur, gormand by gourmand, grip by la grippe, crown by krone. Proper names also yield to this new pedantry, and the London Times frequently delights the aluminados by suddenly making such substitutions as that of Serbia for Servia and that of Rumania for Roumania; in the course of time, if the warnings of the S. P. E. do not prevail, the English may be writing München, Kobenhavn, Napoli, Wien, Warszava, Bruxelles and sGravenhage; even today they commonly use Hannover, Habana and Leipzig. Nearly all the English papers are careful about the diacritical marks in proper names, e. g., Sévres, Zürich, Bülow, François, Frèdèric, Hèloise, Bogotà, Orlèans, Besançon, Rhône, CôtedOr, Württemberg. The English dictionaries seldom omit the accents from recent foreign words. Cassells leaves them off règime
Note 45. S. P. E. Tract No. 1, Preliminary Announcement and List of Members, Oct., 1919; Oxford, 1919, p. 7. The Literary Supplement of the London Times supported the Society in a leading article on Jan. 8, 1920. Of old, it said, we incorporated foreign words rapidly and altered their spelling ruthlessly. Today we take them in and go on spelling them and pronouncing them in a foreign way. Rendezvous is an example, règime is another. They have come to stay; the spelling of the first, and at least the pronunciation of the second, should be altered; and a powerful organization of schoolmasters and journalists could secure changes which the working classes are in process of securing with the words (more familiar to them) garridge and shover. See also A Few Practical Suggestions, by Logan Pearsall Smith, S. P. E. Tract No. 3; Oxford, 1920, especially sections i, ii and iii. [back]