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A Bite of DARE

So what can the newly electrified cloud-based version of the Dictionary of American Regional English do that its paper antecedent can’t? If you’re lucky enough to have your own set of six volumes on your shelf, or have a nearby library that houses the print volumes that you can consult free, why would you pay $150 for a year’s subscription to the electronic version? Or why, in these times of tight budgets, should you ask your favorite library to subscribe for $1,200 a year?

The answer is simple. The paper DARE is essentially a reference work. The online version adds features that make it a tool for research as well as reference.

Here’s an example. Volume VI of the print edition lists the various answers given to each of the 1,002 survey questions, in order from most frequent to least. For some of the variants, quite a few in fact, the print dictionary provides maps. But the electronic version can create a map for every single response.

Question H5 asks, “What do you call a small amount of food eaten between regular meals?” There are more than 50 responses to that interview question, 18 of them with 3 or more respondents. The most frequent response is “snack” (843), and a glance at that map shows it’s nationwide. There are 174 responses of “lunch,” especially in the central states. “Piece” has 40 instances, especially from Pennsylvania west to central Illinois. “Bite” (32) is especially in the South. “Piecing” (10) is in the Midwest and West. “Knickknack” (7) is most often in Georgia, “knickknacks” (6) in North Carolina and Illinois—and you can instantly create a map that combines the two. And so on, down to single responses like “afternoon tea” (California), “bite between meals” (North Carolina), and “jack bite” (West Virginia).

Many of these maps are in the print volumes, but by no means all. Many of these words are in the print volumes, but by no means all. You won’t find the noun “bite,” for example, in the print dictionary.

This additional material is the raw material from which the lexicographers created the dictionary, and from which you can conduct your own research.

And there’s more. For every single response there’s a chart showing its social distribution—by age, sex, race, education, and type of community (urban to rural). It shows the overall distribution of responses to the question and the distribution of a particular answer or combination of answers. So, for example, we learn that “snack” is distributed equitably among social categories, but “lunch” is especially prevalent among younger people, women, and urbanites, and “piece” among older interviewees, whites, and rural population. “Bite” went more with older men.

All that is from just one of the thousand questions. And I haven’t even mentioned the audio features. Yes, with Digital DARE you can hear some of the words pronounced, 5,000 of them to start with.

So let the handsome print volumes rest on the shelf, and give Digital DARE a try. Have your library ask for a 30-day trial, and see for yourself.

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