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. According to Mencken, how do the Americans consider the precise English use of the indefinite pronoun ("one")?

2. What does Mencken state is neglected by those who are professional trained to investigate it?

3. What event does Mencken credit with strengthening the obfuscation of distinction between American and British English?

4. According to Mencken at the beginning of Chapter 1.3, what do the novelists and newspapermen on either side of the Atlantic ocean delight in?

5. Who "tries" a legal case in England?

Short Essay Questions

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

2. To what does Mencken ascribe the withdrawal of the National Education Association from the simplified spelling campaign?

3. Characterize the intentions and effects of the renaming done by the Geographical Board, according to Mencken.

4. What style of writing does Mencken advocate concerning euphemisms in Chapter 4.4?

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

6. 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?

7. What influence does Mencken credit the Protestant Episcopal Church with about American adoption of Briticisms?

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 a word move from legitimate vocabulary to slang vocabulary, according to Mencken?

10. In general, what is the relationship between foreign names for locations and American pronunciations?

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

In describing the ways in which American became a distinct dialect, Mencken ascribes great power to the development of a national literature. Examine the relationship between a national literature and a distinct national dialect. What effect does literature have on its readership? What effect does local speech have on authors? How do authors and the literature they write influence a whole nation? How do they help to make the speech of the whole nation distinct from other nations? What, in particular, emerges from the works of popular authors? What is the overall significance of the relationship between a national literature and a national dialect?

Essay Topic 3

Of all the various ways in which the American and British dialects are divergent, perhaps the most obvious is the distinct spellings of words. Analyze the significance of this distinction and put forth an argument in support of one or the other spelling paradigm. How do the two dialects go about determining the spelling of a word? What are the principles that ought to be at work in the conventional acceptance of a word's spelling? Which of these principles is the most important? To which principles does each dialect adhere? What is the greater significance of this adherence?

(see the answer keys)

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