H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
table, if white and German, is not Rhine wine, but Hock. Yellow turnips, in England, are called Swedes, and are regarded as fit food for cattle only; when rations were short there, in 1916, the Saturday Review made a solemn effort to convince its readers that they were good enough to go upon the table. The English, of late, have learned to eat another vegetable formerly resigned to the lower fauna, to wit, American sweet corn. But they are still having some difficulty about its name, for plain corn in England, as we have seen, means all the grains used by man. Some time ago, in the Sketch, one C. J. Clive, a gentleman farmer of Worcestershire, was advertising sweet corn-cobs as the most delicious of all vegetables, and offering to sell them at 6s. 6d. a dozen, carriage-paid. Chicory is something else that the English are unfamiliar with; they always call it endive. By chicken they mean any fowl, however ancient. Broilers and friers are never heard of over there. Neither are crawfish, which are always crayfish.5 The classes which, in America, eat breakfast, dinner and supper, have breakfast, dinner and tea in England; supper always means a meal eaten late in the evening. No Englishman ever wears a frock-coat or Prince-Albert, or lives in a bungalow; he wears a morning-coat and lives in a villa or cottage. His wifes maid, if she has one, is not Ethel, or Maggie but Robinson, and the nurse-maid who looks after his children is not Lizzie but Nurse.6 So, by the way, is a trained nurse in a hospital, whose full style is not Miss Jones, but Nurse Jones or Sister. And the hospital itself, if private, is not a hospital at all, but a nursing-home, and its trained nurses are plain nurses, or hospital nurses, or maybe nursing sisters. And the white-clad young gentlemen who make love to them are not studying medicine but walking the hospitals. Similarly, an English law student does not study law, but reads the law.
If an English boy goes to a public school, it is not a sign that he is getting his education free, but that his father is paying a good round sum for it and is accepted as a gentleman. A public school
Note 5. The verb to crawfish, of course, is also unknown in England. [back]
Note 6. The differences between the nursery vocabulary in English and American deserve investigation, but are beyond the jurisdiction of a celibate inquirer. I have been told by an Englishman that English babies do not say choo-choo to designate a railroad train, but puff-puff. [back]