The American Language - Study Guide Chapter 11.1 Summary & Analysis

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In his penultimate chapter, Mencken discusses American slang. He begins by noting that only one "extremely superficial" work exists on this part of language thus far; and he remarks that without studies of slang, American philology will "remain out of contact with the American language." The author then launches into an analysis of the social implications of slang. He quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes, who finds that the use of slang indicates "mental atrophy," and cites Ambrose Bierce's attitude toward slang users as those who "rob literary garbage cans on their way to the dumps."

The few efforts to study slang are made, he says, by those who attempt to define it. This is futile, for words once proper have been used as slang and words once considered slang have crossed over into everyday accepted use. Further, he claims, those...

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This section contains 659 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.