Books: Words

THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE: SUPPLEMENT Two (933 pp.)—H. L. Mencken—Knopf ($7.50).

With this fourth & final volume, H. L. Mencken has had his say on the peculiarities of U.S. speech. The final volume, like its predecessors, is a vast miscellany, ill-arranged, bulging at the seams with inconsequential information, festooned with footnotes in such profusion as to give it the appearance of a gigantic hoax. Its elaborate cross references sometimes seem soberly professorial, sometimes like parodies on scholarship. The whole work now runs to 2,880 pages. It is surely one of the great curiosities of literature.

It is saved by what Edmund Wilson calls Mencken's...

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