A new, completely revised and much extended edition of H. L. Mencken's well-known work first issued in a limited edition as a "preliminary inquiry" in 1919, this book is the most comprehensive treatise on the American dialect ever attempted. It almost exhausts the subject. It is a genuine "magnus opus" of over 500 pages, with extensive bibliographies and a word and phrase index of 12,000 entries. Avoiding the typical dullness of such books about language, Mencken created a thoroughly entertaining read.
The bulk of the previous research and writing on the American Language, according to Mencken in the Preface to the First Edition, had been dedicated "to absurd efforts to prove that no such thing as an American variety of English existed - that the differences I constantly encountered in English and that my English friends encountered in American were chiefly imaginary."
THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE was nothing less than a declaration of linguistic independence. No more would America suffer the oppression of literary colonialism. A new day had dawned on American literature. "American writers were finally able to take flight from the old tree and to trust for the first time their own dialect," Edmund Wilson observed. "Mencken showed the positive value of our own Vulgate heritage."