DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 26 2009

The Dictionary of American Regional English

by Jesse M

dare-coverSometimes when you find yourself with a case of the mulligrubs early in the morning, the best thing is to put something larruping down your goozle.

If you had trouble deciphering the above sentence, you can look up the unfamiliar words in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE for short), which is available at the library.  “DARE is a reference tool meant to capture not the homogeneous whole of English found in conventional dictionaries, but the rich regional variety that has been spoken and written across America.” (Mattmiller 2009). As the DARE website explains, what makes DARE unique “is that it shows where people use the words that are included” (for example, it tells you what different regions of the country might call a sandwich on a lengthy bun: sub, hoagie, grinder, etc.)

Recently NPR did a story on The DARE project in anticipation of the publication of the final volume in the series (S-Z) next year. As the article relates, the project was initiated in the 1950s, when the founder, linguist Frederic Cassidy, sent field workers out in “Word Wagons” to all regions of the country, where they interviewed more than 3000 people over the course of six years. The first volume was published in 1975, with subsequent volumes following over the years. Sadly, Cassidy passed away before seeing the conclusion of the project, but even posthumously he displays his enthusiasm for the work; his tombstone declares “On to Z!”

It is important to note that the Dictionary of American Regional English is cataloged as a reference book, and thus it cannot be checked out of the branch where it resides. However, if you wish to save yourself a trip and examine it from the comfort of your home computer, you can view selected pages from all the volumes on Google Books.

However you access it, the Dictionary of Regional American English is an informative, entertaining resource, from A to Izzard. Check it out.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

joe m. June 27, 2009 at 10:50 AM

i love colloquialisms!

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