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#6393 - 09/12/00 11:10 AM British v. American redux (part 17)
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10523
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...

http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/2/0,5716,129742,00.html


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#6394 - 09/12/00 11:58 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
william Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 07/12/00
Posts: 200
absolutely marvelous article, tsuwm, thankyou.


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#6395 - 09/12/00 03:54 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Max Quordlepleen Offline
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Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409
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.




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#6396 - 09/12/00 04:27 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
tsuwm Offline
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Posts: 10523
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max,

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."

--H.L. Mencken








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#6397 - 09/12/00 04:40 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Max Quordlepleen Offline
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max,
just a followup on the subject of Mencken himself. he was very much an iconoclast and a curmudgeon,


Thanks, that's chrestomathic.


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#6398 - 09/13/00 02:32 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
>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"
http://wordsmith.org/board/showthreaded.pl?Cat=&Board=miscellany&Number=1392&page=&view=&sb=&vc=1#Post1392
in Miscellany back in May and included this link:
http://www.uta.fi/FAST/US1/P1/ahonen.html

There is another (more trivial?) thread at:
http://wordsmith.org/board/showflat.pl?Cat=&Board=words&Number=1799&page=&view=&sb=&vc=1
for anyone who is starting to feel that they have "lost the plot"!



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#6399 - 09/13/00 02:38 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
johnjohn Offline
member

Registered: 07/05/00
Posts: 167
Loc: Australia
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!!!!


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#6400 - 09/13/00 04:37 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1026
Loc: Switzerland
>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..


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#6401 - 09/13/00 05:00 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Bridget Offline
addict

Registered: 06/27/00
Posts: 444
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?


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#6402 - 09/13/00 06:47 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1026
Loc: Switzerland
Hi Bridget,
>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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#6403 - 09/13/00 07:24 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Bridget Offline
addict

Registered: 06/27/00
Posts: 444
Loc: Sydney Australia
wsieber, wasn't it you who posted somewhere else about languages being like genepools and stray offshoots on isolated islands breeding weird and wonderful new words?

I confess I was thinking of that and of Max's wonderful rant in this thread (Max, I agree with it all! Difference and variety!) rather than about Mencken himself. Didn't specify - sorry!

And if Max / NZ English is to be considered a child of Br English and a sibling of Am English, from my knowledge of family dynamics, he might be an interested observer but I wouldn't guarantee he's neutral!


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#6404 - 09/13/00 08:52 AM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
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 most recently read that bit of history in "The Art of Spelling," a new book by Marilyn Vos Savant (great name!!), who is an American "agony aunt" for science and language questions:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393049035/o/qid=968852067/sr=2-1/103-8370088-0647806

In Chapter 10 of his "Mother Tongue," - which I happen to have at hand - Bill Bryson also makes mention of Noah Webster's deliberate attempt to differentiate American from British spelling, though he's not as categorical as Marilyn is: "All Webster's work was informed by a passionate patriotism..."


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#6405 - 09/13/00 03:07 PM Re: British v. American redux (part 17)
Max Quordlepleen Offline
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Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409
Thanks, Anna - I have always been struck by the wonderfully apt nature of Marilyn's surname, and I also enjoyed reading Bryson's "Notes from a small island." I think I searched for the wrong words in my hunt - looking for "Webster" in this board is like looking for "Chang" in a Hong Kong telephone directory!


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#6406 - 09/13/00 03:27 PM Re: Marilyn
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
...and thank you, Max, as I didn't until now know Marilyn was syndicated outside the US . Here we see her column in a weekly magazine insert in many local Sunday newspapers. Where do y'all read her?


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#6407 - 09/13/00 06:29 PM Re: Marilyn
Max Quordlepleen Offline
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Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409
Where do y'all read her

I have read a couple of her columns in an NZ paper that seems to get them sporadically, and I bought her book "Brain Power." Sadly, even reading her work didn't help this monkey bang out another Hamlet.


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#6408 - 09/14/00 07:17 AM Re: monkeys
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Max, I think your problem lies in the relative difficulty of amassing 999,999 other monkeys and keyboards (who authored that quote, anyway?)

... and speaking of quotes, who was it who said "The US and Great Britain are two countries separated by a single language"? I'm thinking it was either Mencken or Churchill (in which case the country order would naturally be reversed).


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#6409 - 09/14/00 09:03 AM Re: monkeys
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10523
Loc: this too shall pass
>separated by a single language

George Bernard Shaw, borrowed by Churchill?


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#6410 - 09/14/00 06:33 PM Re: monkeys
Max Quordlepleen Offline
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Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409
George Bernard Shaw, borrowed by Churchill?

I don't know whether my least favourite egomaniac borrowed the quote, but it's definitely from Shaw.


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#6411 - 09/15/00 12:43 AM coming unthreaded
Bingley Offline
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Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Am I the only who has trouble accessing past threads (i.e. those not on the first page of the list of threads) in flat mode? I can get the first page of the thread OK, but then when I click on the number 2, 3, or whatever or on show all, I could end up almost anywhere. Certainly not in the same thread anyway.

Bingley
_________________________
Bingley

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#6412 - 09/15/00 02:32 AM Re: coming unthreaded
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Yep - I've noticed it too. With most of the older threads you can only see the first page in flat mode. When you click "show all" or any other page you end up somewhere else entirely - "Viruses/Virii?" - seems a popular place to end up - hope that its not significant!


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#6413 - 09/15/00 07:06 AM Re: coming unthreaded
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1026
Loc: Switzerland
I also first get gibberish in such cases, but at the end (after much scrolling down) there is the thread chosen. If this is not so with you, have you switched "cookies on" in your browser? if not, try it. If it still doesn't work, it could be a memory issue (I have 128MB).


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#6414 - 09/15/00 09:36 PM Re: coming unthreaded
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Yep - I've noticed it too. With most of the older threads you can only see the first page in flat mode. When you click "show all" or any other page you end up somewhere else entirely - "Viruses/Virii?" - seems a popular place to end up - hope that its not significant!

I just hope it's not catching...


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#6415 - 09/15/00 09:39 PM Re: Shaw
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
George Bernard Shaw, borrowed by Churchill?

I dunno.... was hoping you would!

(BTW, "dunno" spell-checked as "dupe" ... gotta love Enigma)


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