A Book of Modern Essays

By Bruce Welker McCullough; Edwin Berry Burgum | Go to book overview

THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE*

PAUL SHOREY

(The question comes up for discussion nowadays whether we do not possess an American language which has become essentially different from the standard English of British usage. Mr. Mencken believes we do. Out of our slang, he thinks, have grown new idioms that are being sanctioned in our written language, but are not being adopted in England. Professor Shorey, however, in this article, disagrees. He admits the influence of slang. But he points out that there is a British slang as well as an American, that in both countries though some of this slang gets into the written language most of it is ephemeral and wholly oral, that owing to the widespread use of books to-day, the wholly oral language counts for less, when we come to write, than the language we find in books, and that the changes in written English which are going on in either Great Britain or the United States do not make for the growth of separate languages since they are known in both countries and consequently tend to be practised on both sides of the Atlantic.

Professor Shorey is professor of Greek at the University of Chicago, and with Dean West of Princeton a leading advocate of the humanizing influence of classical studies. As a humanist he is careful to make it clear that the well-spring of our language is not slang, but our historical English literature and its own source in the classical languages. Slang only nibbles at this inherited literary language, adding the little of its own in compensation for the little that it takes away, and is not itself its foundation or its substance. Professor Shorey's essay is replete

____________________
*
From Academy Papers. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.

-297-

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A Book of Modern Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents ix
  • "Highbrow" and "Lowbrow" 1
  • What is a Puritan? 17
  • Portrait of a Family 45
  • The Norwegian Migration to America 63
  • The West and American Ideals 79
  • The Once Open Road 101
  • Sentimental America 113
  • Louisiana: (Madame de la Louisiane) 127
  • Fez 141
  • The Rhythm of Life 147
  • Summer 153
  • On an Unknown Country 161
  • Ideals and Day-Dreams 169
  • Castles in Spain 187
  • Science and the Faith of the Modern 201
  • On Friendship 219
  • A Relic 225
  • The Cheerful Breakfast Table 235
  • Conversation 249
  • Trivia 259
  • On Jargon 265
  • Names Practical and Poetic 285
  • The American Language 297
  • What the American Rhodes Scholar Gets from Oxford 321
  • Literary Taste 339
  • Dickens 347
  • The Vicar of Wakefield 365
  • Don Quixote 373
  • The Novel Démeublé 389
  • The Politics of Martha and of Mary 397
  • Autumn Tints in Chivalry 419
  • Index of Authors 431
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