The American Language - Chapter 4.5 Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 4.5 Summary

Here Mencken studies the differences and derivations of expletives and forbidden words. He opens with a discussion of different terms the Americans and English have for illness, explaining that English remains plain and more "proper," while American is undaunted in descriptiveness. For example, he writes, Americans will say they were sick at the stomach last night, but the English will not discuss their stomachs in the "presence of ladies," so will rely on such euphemisms as Little Mary for discussing past ills.

The author describes what contributed to the use of euphemisms to replace improper words. First, he notes that ladies and gentlemen of higher echelons decided on degrees of propriety and therefore on what words were and were not acceptable. Next, he reports that bans placed on specific words lent themselves to newspapermen changing other terms, accordingly. Finally, he explains how the...

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This section contains 937 words
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The American Language from Nonfiction Classics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.