H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
caravan, wig from periwig, cab from cabriolet, brandy from brandy-wine (=brandewyn), pun from pundigrion, grog from grogram, curio from curiosity, canter from Canterbury, brig from brigantine, bus from omnibus, bant from Banting and fad from fadaise.43 In the colonies there was no such opposition to them as came from the purists of the English universities; save for a few feeble protests from Witherspoon and Boucher they went unchallenged. As a result they multiplied enormously. Rattler for rattle-snake, pike for turnpike, draw for drawbridge, coon for raccoon, possum for opossum, cuss for customer, cute for acute, squash for askutasquashthese American back-formations are already antique; Sabbaday for Sabbath-day has actually reached the dignity of an archaism, as has the far later chromo for chromolithograph. To this day they are formed in great numbers; scarcely a new substantive of more than two syllables comes in without bringing one in its wake. We have thus witnessed, within the past few years, the genesis of scores now in wide use and fast taking on respectability: phone for telephone, gas for gasoline, co-ed for co-educational, pop for populist, frat for fraternity, gym for gymnasium, movie for moving picture, plane for air-plane, prep-school for preparatory-school, auto for automobile, aero for aeroplane and aeronautical. Some linger on the edge of vulgarity: pep for pepper, flu for influenza, plute for plutocrat, vamp for vampire, pen for penitentiary, con for confidence (as in con-man, con-game and to con), convict and consumption, defi for defiance, beaut for beauty, rep for reputation, stenog for stenographer, ambish for ambition, vag for vagrant, champ for champion, pard for partner, coke for cocaine, simp for simpleton, diff for difference, grass for asparagus, mum for chrysanthemum, mutt for muttonhead,44wiz for wizard, rube for Reuben, hon for honey, barkeep for barkeeper, divvy for dividend or division, jit for jitney. Others are already in good usage: smoker for smoking-car, diner for dining-car, sleeper for sleeping-car, oleo for oleomar-garine,
Note 43. An interesting discussion of such words is in Otto Jespersens Growth and Structure of the English Language, 3rd ed.; Leipzig, 1919, pp. 170--2. See also Clipped Words, by Elisabeth Wittmann, Dialect Notes, vol. iv, pt. ii (1914), pp. 115 ff., and Stunts in Language, by Louise Pound, English Journal, vol. ix, no. 2 (Feb., 1920), pp. 88 ff. [back]
Note 44. This etymology for mutt is supported by Budd Fisher, creator of Mutt and Jeff. See Editor and Publisher, April 17, 1919, p. 21. [back]