Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/328

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By Professor EDWIN W. BOWEN


IT is a recognized fact that there is a considerable variation in the English language as spoken by the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race. The English people differ from the American people in the use of our common speech not only in their characteristic mode of pronunciation and orthography, but they also differ from us in no less striking a manner in the use of certain idioms and household phrases, which constitute the small change of our every-day speech. This difference is the natural outgrowth of the separation of the two peoples by the estranging ocean, which is of necessity a great barrier to complete intercourse. To be sure, the fact that the English people and the American people have distinct national entities with the resulting difference, during the last hundred years, of national ideals and pursuits, has had the natural and inevitable effect of widening the breach between the speech of the two countries. No doubt the present variation will be accentuated more and more as the years go by, and the language of Great Britain and of America, far from becoming absolutely identical in pronunciation and idiom with the flight of centuries, will go on developing with an ever-increasing divergence from the common standard. If this be true—and certainly the facts as to the present tendency seem to warrant such a conclusion—the final result may be the unique linguistic phenomenon of two separate and distinct English tongues, if such a thing be not an impossibility.

Before pointing out the variations of our American English from British English, it may be interesting to note the source of our American vernacular, and the contributing causes of the chief variations from the authoritative standard of the mother country.

When our Saxon forefathers found their way to the shores of this western continent and here established their permanent abode, the settlers naturally brought with them the language of their native country. This was, of course, the noble tongue of Shakespeare and Milton. Our British cousins who criticize our English so freely and cast reproach upon it as if it were a mere jargon, a barbarous patois, evidently lose sight of the fact that it boasts the same high pedigree as their own much-vaunted Elizabethan speech. When the English language was first transplanted in American soil, it was identical in orthography, orthoepy and idiom with the speech of the mother