The Founding Fathers upset England by inventing American English
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of America, coined the words “election” and “unelectable.” John Adams (No. 2) came up with “The Gathering”. James Madison (No. 4) was the first to use the word “squatter” when referring to someone occupying property or land that they did not own.
As they set out to build a new nation, America’s Founding Fathers were determined to give the fledgling republic its identity and culture by creating new words that were unique to the American experience.
This was thought by many of the first presidents – Jefferson and Adams [George] “Washington and others—they were doing something important,” says Paul Dixon, author of Words from the White House: Words and Phrases Coined or Popularized by America’s Presidents. “It was this belief that we were separating ourselves from the British.”
The practice of making up new words outraged British fundamentalists, some of whom viewed Americans as languageless people who had stolen England’s mother tongue.
Some of the first words that the British really went crazy with were the words “Congress” and “Presidential”. Dixon said. “But those were words we needed. George Washington, one of the words he coined—and again, this helped identify us—spoke of his ‘administration.’ That word was not there by name to describe the body of people who ruled with you in your government.”
In some cases, the chiefs did not come up with words and phrases. Some were created by speechwriters, assistants, and other acquaintances and then circulated by the president. For example, John Jay, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Washington, is said to have coined the term “Americanization”.
A key non-presidential figure who helped codify these new American tendencies was Noah Webster, publishing his first dictionary in 1806. Webster fought in the Revolutionary War, which secured America’s independence from England. While touring a military camp in New York full of veterans, he saw the need for a uniquely American language.
He could hear the voices of the indigenous people. He was hearing Irish people. He was hearing all kinds of different languages, different kinds of speech and a very accent,” Dixon says. And he realized that this country was going to be a huge mix of different people, different interests, and that he needed a new language. He needed something called “American Language,” a term he coined … Noah Webster actually said that creating a new language was a challenge.”
While future presidents coined new words, Dixon says the founders were particularly prolific. Jefferson alone is credited with coining more than 100 words, including “underestimate,” “pedicure,” “monotonous,” and “ottoman.” [footstool]. Conveniently, he also invented the verb “neologize,” the practice of coining new words or expressions.
Instead of saying “within the doors,” Washington coined the word “within.” The first boss also came up with “average” [medium sum or quantity] and “The New Yorker”.
Adams borrowed from the classic Spanish novel “Don Quixote” to create the adjective “imaginative.” [unrealistic schemes]. First Recorded Uses of “Hustle” [to move rapidly] and “long” [long, protracted] It came from Adams’ journal entries.
Although the practice was initiated by early American leaders, renewal eventually became something of a presidential tradition.
There were some chiefs who had a knack for this, and some were conscientious. “Some of it was semi-conscious,” Dixon says. “It’s become, sort of, the American way.”
Despite inventing many memorable words and phrases, America’s early leaders failed to coin a term to describe themselves–the extraordinary group of men who founded the United States and created the framework of its government. It didn’t happen until a century later.
In the 1920s, President Warren Harding called them the “Founding Fathers,” and in doing so, created one of the most memorable and iconic American movements of them all.
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