“Dialect words are those terrible marks of the beast to the truly genteel.” – Thomas Hardy
When I read The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, I learned that putting together a dictionary was no easy task. I recently read about another equally daunting project—Dictionary of American Regional English, also known as DARE.
I thought, aha, this is a book I’d like to own! Well, it’s not a book. DARE is books. And the last volume, S to Z, is not even out yet. According to an article on npr.org, “Regional Dictionary Tracks The Funny Things We Say,” the final project will be released next year.
The article went on to say that the man who started the project in the 1950s, linguist Frederic Cassidy, passed away before the end of the project. His tombstone reads, “On to Z!”
Also according to the article, Mr. Cassidy “…sent field workers out across the country in "word wagons" to interview people. Cassidy's catalogers talked to nearly 3,000 people over six years, making recordings along the way in order to capture pronunciations.”
“The DARE also helps capture obscure expressions before they fade away. Stephanie Grayson, the founder of CorporateSpeechTrainer.com, says in some ways, American language is becoming more uniform, and television and the Internet are giving us all a common vocabulary.
"We're living in a world of 140 characters or less on Twitter," Grayson says.
The article is not only interesting, it's also full of examples, including this one used by President Clinton at a news conference. “He doesn't know me from Adam's off ox." It means he doesn’t know me at all. I've heard of doesn't know me from Adam but never with the off ox added and I've lived in the South.
The use of ‘devil’s strip’ in a ransom note helped capture a kidnapper. Evidently the term is used only in a tiny section of Ohio. It means the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street.
Other terms I’d never heard of and found fascinating were:
mulligrubs (n) A condition of despondency or ill temper; a vague or imaginary unwellness. (Usage: scattered, but especially the South)
nebby (adj) Snoopy, inquisitive. (Usage: chiefly Pennsylvania)
pungle (v) To shell out; to plunk down (money); to pay up. (Usage: chiefly West)
rantum scoot (n) An outing with no definite destination (Usage: scattered)
say-so (n) An ice-cream cone. (Usage: scattered)
By the way, if you are interested in owning the four volumes currently available, you’ll find them on Amazon. Be prepared to pay over $400.00 though.
Do you or your characters use regional dialect? Do you have a favorite word or phrase that you only hear in a certain section of the country?
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Thomas Hardy, dialect, DARE, Cassidy, Amazon, Clinton, >, Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester,