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February 04, 2008  |  DARE to speak English  |  604 hit(s)

I was reading wishydig's entry on the phrase ready for the fox-farm, which indirectly led to me look up the Dictionary of American Regional English aka DARE. DARE is an ongoing project -- they're up thru the volume IV (P-Sk) -- with the last alphabetical volume due in 2009. The dictionary's Web site describes it this way:
[I]t seeks to document the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the United States--those words, pronunciations, and phrases that vary from one region to another, that we learn at home rather than at school, or that are part of our oral rather than our written culture. Although American English is remarkably homogeneous considering the tremendous size of the country, there are still many thousands of differences that characterize the various dialect regions of the United States. It is these differences that DARE records.
This isn't the type of dictionary that you keep on hand at home, unless you have an unusually keen interest in dialectology. It's mostly a tool for linguists or others who have some need to track down differences in what people say in American English.

Still, the kinds of things that the dictionary records are familiar to all of us -- do you say bucket or pail, casserole or hotdish, ... like that, times many thousands.

Even if you're not going to run out and buy the dictionary, there's fun stuff on the Web site, including the following:
  • Sample entries. Have a look at Adam's housecat, flannel cake, lagniappe, pinkwink, and a bunch more.
  • Quiz. How well do you know regionalisms?
  • Tape segments. Hear speakers of all ages and from all over the country talking in their local dialects. (Recorded in the 1960s.)
I love stuff like this, of course, which is the heart of descriptive lexicography: what do people actually say?