Diary in America: With Remarks on Its Institutions

By Frederick Marryat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIV
Language

The Americans boldly assert that they speak better English than we do. . . . What I believe the Americans would imply by the above assertion is that you may travel through all the United States and find less difficulty in understanding or being understood than in some of the counties of England, such as Cornwall, Devonshire, Lancashire, and Suffolk. So far they are correct; but it is remarkable how very debased the language has become in a short period in America. There are few provincial dialects in England much less intelligible than the following. A Yankee girl, who wished to hire herself out, was asked if she had any followers or sweethearts. After a little hesitation, she replied: "Well, now, can't exactly say; I bees a sorter courted and a sorter not; reckon more a sorter yes than a sorter no." In many points the Americans have to a certain degree obtained that equality which they profess; and, as respects their language, it certainly is the case. If their lower classes are more intelligible than ours, it is equally true that the higher classes do not speak the language so purely or so classically as it is spoken among the well- educated English. The peculiar dialect of the English counties is kept up because we are a settled country; the people who are born in a county live in it, and die in it, transmit-

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