Dictionary of american regional english dare
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Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). DARE. A reference tool. Not to prescribe or even describe how Americans speak. To record the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the US.

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  • A reference tool.

  • Not to prescribe or even describe how Americans speak.

  • To record the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the US.

  • Words, pronunciations, and phrases that vary regionally, that we learn at home and not in school, and that are part of our oral culture.

  • First four volumes covering A- through Sk- have been published.


  • Sponsored by the American Dialect Society (ADS) founded in 1889.

  • “…the investigation of the English Dialects of America with regard to pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, phraseology, and geographical distribution.”

  • Goal was to make a thorough dictionary of American English.

  • First publication of the ADS called Dialect Notes (1890).

  • Published mainly word lists.


  • 1962: the project gained needed financial support and a plan was formed.

  • Frederic G. Cassidy (1907-2000):

    professor at University of Wisconsin.

    • Chief editor and promoter of DARE.

    • Preliminary work on the dialects of

      Wisconsin (Wisconsin English Language

      Survey WELS) proved that this type of project was


    • 50 Wisconsin natives filled out a questionnaire that revealed differences in local dialects.

    • Questionnaire became the basis for DARE.

The project
The Project

  • Decided that one thousand communities were to be investigated.

    • Community: “any group of people living fairly close to each other and sharing the same commercial facilities, social organizations, and the like.”

  • 5 types of community categories:

    • Urban

    • Large city

    • Small city

    • Village

    • Rural

The project1
The Project

  • Data gatherers sent to each community to find people and get them to answer the questionnaire.

  • Gathered between 1965 and 1970.

  • Each person given a personal identifying number and every response coded.

  • Biographical information collected on informants: name, address, social factors (sex, race, age, education), amount of travel, chief occupations, family background on both sides, and attitudes toward language.

The questionnaire
The Questionnaire

  • Questions try to establish the regional or local name for a single object/idea.

  • Ex: one question describes a dragonfly and asks for its name.

    • 79 different replies were given: snake feeder (N and S Midl) snake doctor (Midl, Sth) mosquito hawk (Sth) spindle (coastal NJ) ear-cutter (NH, WI)

The questionnaire1
The Questionnaire

  • Ex: What different kinds of oak trees grow around here?

    • Pin, post, Spanish, chinquapin, overcup, shim, chair bark oak. Over 130 given.

  • Ex: To feel depressed or in a gloomy mood: He has the _____ today.

  • Ex: If a person’s lower jaw sticks out prominently, you say he’s _____.

Dare maps

  • Maps are included in the dictionary to show where specific words were found.

  • Based on settlement history and population density as of the 1960s.

  • States with low population like Nevada have only two interviews while states like New York have over 80.

  • Size of the states is skewed, location is maintained geographically.

Dare maps2

  • Shows positions of the informants if they all gave the same answer.

Some entries
Some Entries

  • Above one’s bend also above one’s huckleberry:

    1) beyond one’s abilities (esp Sth, Wst)

  • Boonie familiarized form of boondock:

    • The backwoods

    • An outdoor toilet: widely used in Tidewater Virginia for privy.

    • Something very good: “Say that’s a boonie!” (KY)

Some entries1
Some Entries

  • Bundle also in Sth, S Midl bun’le:

    • A sheaf of grain, widespread except in wMD, sPA, WV.

    • A woman; one’s wife.

      Question: Joking names for a man’s wife…“I have to go down and pick up my _____.” (SC)

      3) To share a bed with a person of the opposite sex while fully clothed (or with some other impediment to sexual intercourse); chiefly NEast.

      4) To court, woo.

      5) To make an err in judgment… “He usually handles things well, but this time he certainly _____.” (KY)

Some entries2
Some Entries

  • Crispied:

    1) slightly burnt around the edges. (cTX)

  • Pinkletink also pinkwink, tinky: only Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket MA

    1) a spring peeper or young frog.

  • Pogonip: mainly NV, some say from the Paiute Indians.

    1) a dense, icy fog; formerly also a snowstorm.

Some entries3
Some Entries

  • Potlatch: Pacific NW, AK

    1) to give or loan; rarely, to borrow.

    Question: “I need five dollars before Saturday, will you ____ it to me?”

  • Potluck meal:

    1) Indiana: pitch-in

    2) nILL: scramble

  • Hopscotch:

    1) Manhattan: potsy

    2) Chicago: sky blue


  • In O’Neill

    Reference PE 2843.D52 1985

  • http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/dare/dare.html