Read an Excerpt
m AMERICAN ENGLISH AND BRITISH ENGLISH AMERICAN ENGLISH AND BRITISH ENGLISH MRS. MALAPROP was not alone in her anxiety about her "parts of speech" and in her sensitiveness when aspersions were cast upon her "nice derangement of epitaphs." To most of us the language we have in our mouths and at the end of our pens is always interesting even if our attention is directed to it only occasionally and only when we are suddenly surprised to discover that somebody else does not use words exactly as we do. We are all inclined to accept our own vocabulary and our own usages as standards by which to judge the vocabulary and the usages of everybody else; and we are often not a little shocked and even grieved when we find that others do not always accept our ways of speaking and writing as necessarily right and proper. When we take the trouble to analyze our own standards we cannot help seeing that they are first of all personal; secondly, local and sectional; and thirdly, national. I know that I employ certain words in certain meanings and that I pronounce them in a certain fashion, first because I am the son of a Massachusetts father and of a Virginian mother; second, because I have been for now three-score years a New Yorker by residence; and thirdly, because I am an American by citizenship and not a British subject. And perhaps the more significant of my individualities of speech are not personal or sectional so much as they are national. I use either autumn or fall, whereas my cousins in England employ only the former word, their forefathers having allowed the latter to fall into : f "innocuous desuetude. I wear a tuxedo, whereas 'I "J my friends in London don dinner-jackets. And thesedivergencies of the everyday vocabulary of the United States from that of Great Britain s...