At the recent conference of British and American professors of English Dr. Heary Van Dyke again brought up the old question of the so-called "American language". As usual be denounces the idea. He begins his statement with the proposition that "the native language of these United States is English", and goes on to show that most Americans are causing the language to degenerate rapidly by their solvenly pronunciation. But, in his second sentence, he states that "Our forefathers ... brought it (the English language) with them to this new land in pretty good condition".
There is no doubt that to incorporate a separate American dialect would be absurd, and that language deteriorates from careless use. But when they very exponent of perfect English speech himself employs the Americanism "pretty-good" in almost his first words, it is rather hard to see how Americanisms can be escaped. For although Dr. Van Dyke may pronounce his words perfectly, he unconsciously used the language of the people with whom he comes in contact. As he says, "English was kept alive and propagated as the hereditary language of this country by vocal use".
This is, after all, not a bad thing. Any language must be alive, and must keep its vitality, even at the expense of losing some of its "literary" quality. Such slovenly usage as is to be found in the weakening of the words "pretty", "nice", "fine", and their like is distinctly "bum", but new words--even such plebeian ones as "bum"--often add color to the language. The beauty of English is that it can easily assimilates such new words and phrases, and can sift out the slang which it finds worthy of keeping.