"American as she is spoke" has gradually become a different language from the "English wot the Tommies speak", and together the have taken up hundreds of slang expression in rebellion against literary English. This tendency has gone so far that when the novel "Babbitt" was introduced to England it was found necessary to print a glossary of "Americanisms" in the back; and recently a book on "The American Language" was published by Henry Louis Mencken, giving a host of slang terms that have come into use in this country. But it is to the advantage of everyone from American cabdriver to British cockney, that the two countries should speak the same language, differing in dialect as little as possible; and with this end in view a committee of scholars from the two nations has been brought together.
Although this group has not even a name as yet, it has mapped out a general program which promises to bring good results. Its very list of members gives an assurance of success for it includes such names as Lord Balfour, Robert Bridges, and Henry Newbold in England; and those of many prominent professors and men of letters in this country, including Professors Grandgent and Lowes of the University. At present all that has been done is to consider methods of organization and cooperation between the two branches; but soon the groups hope to begin definite work.
The task which they have set themselves is one which might have stumped even the redoubtable Dr. Johnson, for his arbitrary inclusion of this and exclusion of that is far from the intention of the board. No opposition from indignant professors, no acceptance and support from the compilers of a dictionary can bar a word from speech and writing nor incorporate another in its place. "It is me" has thrived on learned antagonism. "I'll make a ghost of him that lets me" sounds ridiculous to the average ear. In Shakspere's day such usage was taken for granted; today it survives in the technicalities of law and tennis.
Fortunately the men chosen are well acquainted with such verbal vagaries, and would be the last to attempt any such dictation. Their service must by limited to the spreading of he more conservative idioms in the hopes of creating a clearer and wider comprehension of them and to considering the more radical with an idea of submitting the more important to the acid test of popular use. In such a way it may be possible to influence the advance of language; to direct it is impossible. But if this group finds itself capable of promoting the unity of English speaking nations and extending the general acquaintance with their modes of thought, then more power to their pens.