Slang depends entirely upon its adoption by the ignorant

american languageThe American Language
by H L Mencken

I have had some interesting conversations in recent weeks when I told people I was a reading a book from 1919 about American English. I know that it’s an odd choice of reading matter. It’s because I was looking for older titles from the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge on Project Gutenberg, which didn’t have either of the Mencken titles on the list but did have a dozen others, including this one. I didn’t expect to read more than the first chapter or so, but found it strangely enticing.

This is a difficult book to categorise. It’s part reference book, part textbook, part history, part sociology. Mencken combines his own knowledge of etymology and philology with a huge array of sources in order to cover the rather large question of how the American language evolved into its then-current state.

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