Imatges de pÓgina
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OF

SUPPOSED AMERICANISMS.

COLLECTED BY

ALFRED L. ELWYN, M.D.

PHILADELPHIA:

J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.

1859.

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PREFACE.

This little work was undertaken to show how much there yet remains, in this country, of language and customs directly brought from our remotest ancestry. It has been the assumed privilege of English travelers and authors to twit us upon the supposed peculiarity and oddity in our use of words and phrases. An examination of the language of their own country has convinced us that this satire was the result of ignorance: those who made it were unacquainted with the language and early literature of their own people, and thence very naturally supposed that what they heard here was affected, coined, or barbarons. The simple truth is, that almost without exception all those words or phrases that we have been ridiculed for using, are good old English; many of them are of Anglo-Saxon origin, and nearly all to be heard at this day in England: a difference of circumstances may have altered a little their application, but still not enough to render our mode of employing them at all absurd. It is, indeed, remarkable that we have made no violent or outrageous alterations. It is another testimony to the almost inflexible tenacity with which people hold to their language

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and their habits. In our case it is, no doubt, owing to our remote situation that has prevented us feeling all those fluctuations that come in the progress of an improving civilization and the questionable innovations of fashion; and it is perhaps not far from the fact, that if one wished to know how English was spoken two hundred years ago, in England, he would find it out sooner by a visit to New than by any attempts at discovery in Old England. The Yankees, or New Englanders, preserve, to a great extent, the mode of speaking of their pilgrim parents; while in the land of their fathers that has sunk into the obsolete, or subsided among the dialects and provincialisms. This remark will not be true much longer. The general spread of education, and the frequent intercourse between all parts of the country and all portions of society, is rapidly cutting away all peculiarities, and producing a gradual assimilation in all directions. We have none of those secluded spots, so common in England even now, where, as if by a Chinese wall, the outward progress of improvement is stayed, and a barricade is reared against the irruption of new feelings or new fashions. These are the strongholds of antiquity; but we have none of them: a few years will erase every trace of the manner of speaking that has spread from Plymouth Rock over an empire. The peculiarities to which we have alluded are almost exclusively confined to New England. Her origin is purely English ; the small amount of Irish or Scotch will not detract from the truth of this assertion; and it is among her people that we are to look for those peculiar modes of speaking which distinguish her from her sister States, and as the true descendants

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