Twentieth-century English

by John Ayto.

John Ayto is a lexicographer and writer on language. His books include Twentieth-Century Words, the Oxford Dictionary of Slang, and the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Word Origins. He edited the seventeenth edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.


At the dawn of the twentieth century, English was still recognizably a single homogeneous language, albeit one with a major distinctive variety, in North America, whose speakers now outnumbered those of its British parent. By the time the century came to an end, it had proliferated and diversified to such an extent that it was no longer realistic to talk of ‘the English language’. There are now many Englishes.

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