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American Spoken Here (1940)

A look at American slang. The origins of a number of familiar expressions are explored, including "mind your Ps and Qs", "kick the bucket", "I don't give a damn" (which started as 'dam'), and "pin money".





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Cast overview:
John Nesbitt ...

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An off-screen narrator tells us that English is two languages, standard and slang. We watch several quick conversations spoken entirely in slang. Then, in reenactments of scenes from the past, actors illustrate the origins of some common expressions while the narrator explains them: minding one's P's and Q's, kicking the bucket, pin money, doing a Brodie, and, in a lengthy concluding segment, the derivation of "fink." Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Release Date:

30 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Passing Parade No. 19: American Spoken Here  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


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User Reviews

Just 'Cause you're Charming, Don't Make You Right
26 September 2004 | by (Minneapolis, Mn) – See all my reviews

I rather liked this short, as it explores the origins of several American slang phrases, using small scenes to explicate the stories. It zips along quite nicely, and dramatizes well. BUT...the conclusions are not to be trusted!

There is doubt about at least one of their solutions: "mind your Ps and Qs" has several different explanations than the one presented in this film. The one I most clearly recall is that it comes from a warning to apprentice printers, back when they had to lay the type by hand (and thus look at it backwards): Ps and Qs were easy to confuse. Thus the admonition.

Neither story is open to confirmation of course, like many of these things.

But that is beside the point perhaps: the little film is charming and cleanly presented, and - at the very least - shows an interest, if not in absolute accuracy, in the origins of language. A pleasant watch.

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