The American Language Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. What use of storage was added to the American meaning of the word "barn?"

2. Who proposed a generally accepted nomenclature for currency in 1785?

3. What "Anglomaniac affectation" did Noah Webster sneer at in 1789?

4. According to Mencken, which title is subject to the greatest divergence in usage?

5. In what language did the American derivative "coyote" originate?

Short Essay Questions

1. What is significant about the divergent styles of naming of streets in America and England?

2. In what does Mencken evidently delight concerning the speech of American, in Chapter 1.5?

3. For what reason did the early Americans wish to distinguish their language from that of the English?

4. What is indicated by dominance of American terms derived from German that are related to eating and drinking?

5. What principally causes the difficulty of the English people understanding the American speech as explained in Chapter 1.3?

6. What were some of the reasons that many immigrants changed their names upon arriving in America?

7. What two factors are discussed in Chapter 9.5 as contributing to Mencken's distress in the "movement toward the identity in form" and why?

8. What does Mencken intimate by the assertion that the "inner spirit of English" has inclined steadily towards saying "I have go" for a thousand years?

9. How does Mencken describe the distinction between colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions that are generally accepted and those that are not? What example does he use to explain this distinction?

10. What was the predominant attitude of philologists towards the study of American slang, at the time of Mencken's writing?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

An important distinction, which Mencken makes in discussing the nature of the American language, is between the proper speech of literate Americans and the common speech of what he calls the proletariat. Write an essay discussing this distinction and its ultimate significance. According to what Mencken has written, is there a genuine distinction between the two? Which of the two does Mencken appear to favor? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each, the proper and the improper, the formal and the informal? What arguments may be made in defense of each?

Essay Topic 2

Much of Mencken's The American Language is devoted to the study of expansion of the American vocabulary. Write an essay examining the various sources and means by which new words enter the American dialect, as well as the impact they have. From where do new words come? What prompts the admission of new words into the vocabulary? What languages have had the most influence on the American vocabulary? What does the American dialect do with its new words? What are the effects that new words can and do have on the American dialect? Be sure to use specific examples.

Essay Topic 3

Although American had changed drastically by the time Mencken wrote The American Language, in 1921, it has clearly changed drastically since then, as well. Examine, in an analytical essay, some of the more significant changes since then. What new words have come into popular usage? What then popular Americanisms have faded out almost altogether? Has the language changed as significantly since 1921 as it did between any other comparable span of time? If so, defend your answer with specific examples. Finally, what is the characteristic of the American language as revealed by comparing its present state with that it was characterized by Mencken as having when he wrote The American Language?

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