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#6393 - 09/12/00 11:10 AM British v. American redux (part 17)
Loc: this too shall pass
here is a very interesting excerpt from the 13th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1926), written by H. L. Mencken (who was born on this date in 1880), which gives a 75-year old perspective on our favorite topic...
#6394 - 09/12/00 11:58 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
absolutely marvelous article, tsuwm, thankyou.
#6395 - 09/12/00 03:54 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Thanks for the link, tsuwm, it was extremely interesting. It strikes me as sad that 75 years ago, an American linguist was already writing about the differences in combative terms, exalting the superiority of the American variety, and looking forward to the ultimate triumph of American English. While his vision of an all-conquering American English is looking ever more accurate, to me that is a cause for sadness, not a reason to gloat in victory. I notice that he made no mention of the orthographical differences. I tried doing a search for the post here which mentioned that these were apparently a deliberate attempt by Webster to differentiate American English from British English . It also seems to me that Mencken's personal feelings coloured his perceptions quite markedly. I quote:
"In the face of a new situation the American shows a far greater linguistic resourcefulness and daring than the Englishman. Movie is obviously better than cinema, just as cow-catcher is better than plough and job-holder is better than public-servant."
Surely that is a statement of personal opinion, subjective in the extreme. A phrase I heard on the BBC has stuck with me - "Coca-colanisation." This seems to be what Mencken mentioned, and it is a tragedy. The many different varieties of English add colour and spice to the tongue, and should be celebrated, and treated as of equal worth, not viewed as targets for conquest by one virulent strain. With the increasing dominance of American culture, the survival of other varieties of English is a refreshing tonic to the homogeneity being imposed on the global community. This is not an anti-American diatribe, rather an anti-assimilation diatribe. Vive la différence! Kia ora mai.
#6396 - 09/12/00 04:27 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Loc: this too shall pass
just a followup on the subject of Mencken himself. he was very much an iconoclast and a curmudgeon, but also quite a wit -- one never knows just quite where he was coming from.
it might help to remember that he was also an inveterate coiner of words himself, such as these:
bibliobibuli - people who read too much and so are generally oblivious to world around them
booboisie - 'boobs' as a class (in reference to the American masses)
ecdysiast - a strip teaser
the word 'menckenian' is now used as an allusion for one characterized by vitriolic social criticism
when Mencken used 'chrestomathy' in the title of his book "A Mencken
Chrestomathy", he claimed he did so in part to wrest it back from the
linguists. To critics who argued that the word would not be understood he
replied in splendid arrogance: "Thousands of excellent nouns, verbs and
adjectives that have stood in every decent dictionary for years are still
unfamiliar to such ignoramuses, and I do not solicit their patronage. Let
them continue to recreate themselves with whodunits, and leave my
vocabulary and me to my own customers, who have all been to school".
(thanx to Michael B Quinion @ World Wide Words)
"The satisfaction that a man gets out of conquering -- which is
to say, succumbing to -- a woman of noticeable pulchritude is
chiefly the rather banal one of parading her before other men.
He likes to show her off as he likes to show his expensive
automobile or his big door-knob factory."
#6397 - 09/12/00 04:40 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
just a followup on the subject of Mencken himself. he was very much an iconoclast and a curmudgeon,
Thanks, that's chrestomathic.
#6398 - 09/13/00 02:32 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
>I tried doing a search for the post here which mentioned that these were apparently a deliberate attempt by Webster to differentiate American English from British English.
I've tracked down some of the discussion you mentioned (I think) but I suspect that it is spread over a few threads. One started under the heading "decimate"
in Miscellany back in May and included this link:
There is another (more trivial?) thread at:
for anyone who is starting to feel that they have "lost the plot"!
#6399 - 09/13/00 02:38 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Obviously it's all a facet of globalisation and should be on the anti-globalisation agenda of the protesters who have been in Melbourne protesting at the World Economic Forum (and in Seattle, etc before that). To the barricades!!!!
#6400 - 09/13/00 04:37 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
>Obviously it's all a facet of globalisation <
I'd rather call it a classical mother-daughter relationship made more complicated by the age of the contestants..
#6401 - 09/13/00 05:00 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Loc: Sydney Australia
>I'd rather call it a classical mother-daughter relationship made more complicated by the age of the contestants<
Possibly in the case of British vs American. Max, if remember correctly, is a New Zealander. Sibling rivalry?
#6402 - 09/13/00 06:47 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
>Possibly in the case of British vs American. Max, if remember correctly, is a New Zealander<
Yes, but Mencken's grumbling was about the relationship between Britain and USA. Which makes Max a (nearly) neutral observer.
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