H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
words that come in visually, say through street-signs and the newspapers, are immediately overhauled and have thoroughly Americanized vowels and consonants thereafter. School-teachers have been trying to establish various pseudo-French pronunciations of vase for fifty years past, but it still rhymes with face in the vulgate. Vaudeville is vawd-vill; boulevard has three syllables and a hard d at the end; plaza has a flat a; the first syllable of menu rhymes with bee; the first of rathskeller with cats; fiancée is fy-ance-y; née rhymes with see; décolleté is de-coll-ty; hofbräu is huffbrow; the German w has lost its v-sound and becomes an American w. I have, in my day, heard proteege for protégé, habichoo for habitué, connisoor for connoisseur, shirtso for scherzo, premeer for première, dee tour for détour, eetood for étude and prelood for prélude. I once heard a burlesque show manager, in announcing a French dancing act, pronounce M. and Mlle. as Em and Milly. Divorcée is divorcey, and has all the rakishness of the adjectives in -y. The first syllable of mayonnaise rhymes with hay. Crème de menthe is cream de mint. Schweizer is swite-ser. Roquefort is roke-fort. I have heard début with the last syllable rhyming with nut. I have heard minoot for minuet. I have heard tchefdoover for chef-dceuvre. And who doesnt remember
As I walked along the Boys Boo-long
With an independent air
Say aw re-vore,
But not good-by!
Charles James Fox, it is said, called the red wine of France Bordox to the end of his days. He had an American heart; his great speeches for the revolting colonies were more than mere oratory. John Bright, another kind friend in troubled days, had one too. He always said Bordox and Calass.