Coming to the Internet: the ‘Dictionary of American Regional English’

One of the greatest lexicographic enterprises of the 20th century has now reached its goal, with publication of the sixth and final volume by Harvard University Press. It’s the Dictionary of American Regional English, recording the copious variety of words we use in the 50 United States.

The first five volumes cover regional vocabulary A-Z with some 50,000 entries. The sixth volume is lagniappe, with maps, index, questionnaire, bibliography, and more.

If you have the dictionary at hand, you can look up the meaning of words like these:

all-overs (South)
boodle (New England)
chankings (New England)
dipsy (Pennsylvania)
enty (South Carolina, Georgia coasts)
flummadiddle (New England)
gnat’s eyebrow (South Midland, West)
hincty (Black speakers)
ish (Minnesota, Wisconsin)
Johnboat (Mississippi and Ohio valleys)
knurl (New England)
lonesome waters (Kentucky)
Mormon tree (Utah)
Nantucket sleighride (New England)
oiled road (West, Northeast)
poke (Midlands)
quill pig (North)
road days (Georgia)
skitching (Northeast, Great Lakes)
toby (Pittsburgh)
uff-da (Minnesota, Wisconsin)
vog (Hawaii)
whang (South)
x-y-z (Northeast)
you-uns (Midlands)
zaguan (Southwest)

But that’s the problem. You can’t look these up unless you have the actual dictionary at hand, the ink-on-paper version that is so 20th century. Together the six 8½-by-11-inch volumes weigh about 30 pounds and take up more than a foot of shelf space. Who has time or space for that in our electronic era?

Fortunately, a 21st century online version is in the works, to be launched later this year. And you can be among the first to try it out. Free.

All you have to do is fill out an application to be a beta tester of the electronic version, available here.

That page tells about planned features of DARE Digital:

• State-of-the-art search
• Browsing by region as well as alphabetically
• Audio of original DARE field recordings
• Maps illustrating regional distribution
• Saved searches and entries for easy reference

And there may be more features, helped by suggestions from beta testers. The publisher explains:

“Successful completion of the form will serve as an application to be a DARE Digital beta tester and also as your subscription to receive periodic updates from Harvard University Press about the development and availability of DARE Digital. We will be reviewing all beta tester applications when we get nearer to the testing stage of development.”

So why wait? Apply now to take the new DARE for a free test drive on the information superhighway.

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