DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN REGIONAL ENGLISH, VOL. I by Frederick G.--Ed. Cassidy
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DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN REGIONAL ENGLISH, VOL. I

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What does a man from Washington expect when he orders a platter of belly pads? Why would a girl from New Hampshire wince when her parents mention a chiseling?. The answers to these questions and millions more can be found in this monumental reference work, 20 years in the making. Finally all those quaint folk expressions used by grandma, grandpa, and the old gents at the general store have been gathered into the first comprehensive Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). DARE was prepared with the tactical ingenuity and manpower support of a military campaign. Eighty-two fieldworkers spread across the US from 1965 to 1970, administering a week-long questionnaire of 1847 items (""What do you call a sudden, very heavy rain?""; ""Do you have any other names around here for turnips?"") to 1368 men and 1409 women in 1002 communities. Only people born in or near the community they inhabited were questioned, ensuring regional authenticity in the responses. Sixty-six percent of the respondents were at least 60 years old--elderly people being the traditional repository of oral folk knowledge. The investigators logged a staggering two and a half million responses which were then coded and computer-processed into dictionary format. In its final form, DARE includes only 1), ""any word or phrase whose form or meaning is not used generally throughout the US but only in part (or parts) of it"" (that is, no universal slang terms appear); and 2), ""any word or phrase whose form or meaning is distinctively a folk usage"" (in other words, language learned in the home or community rather than in school or through books). The first volume of the dictionary covers A-C, Aaron's Rod (""Any of several plants with tall, often yellow-flowering stems. . ."") to czarnina (""A kind of duck's blood soup""). In between lies a stunning landscape of idiosyncratic tongue-twisters, witty turns of phrase, and coarse epithets. Computer-generated maps accompanying many of the definitions graphically illustrate the regional distribution of words and phrases. In addition to the dictionary proper, ample prefatory matter includes a general introduction; essays on the database maps and on the laws of language change in America; the complete text of the questionnaire; and a list of all informants, providing community, age, educational level, occupation, and other demographic information. A Herculean project carried out in style.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1985
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press