In 1985, to much acclaim, Harvard University Press published an ABC of American English — the first volume of the monumental Dictionary of American Regional English, edited by Frederic G. Cassidy and covering the first three letters of the alphabet.
That was more than 30 years ago. And the fieldwork on which much of the dictionary was based (it also made extensive use of other studies and examples) took place in the 1960s, half a century ago. So what has happened since?
The last volume of the completed DARE, edited by Joan Hall, was published in 2013. In a previous century, that would have been that — six volumes in print, perhaps to be reviewed and updated at some time in the future. But we’re in the 21st century, where dictionaries live on after print publication and remain rejuvenated in the cloud of cyberspace.
Now, instead of those hefty volumes taking up more than a foot of shelf space, you can subscribe to the entire DARE, complete with tools that make possible instant search results that would take forever using paper.
Since then there have been two more, provided by the new Chief Editor George Goebel, and they are still free to all. The full dictionary requires a subscription, but you can see all of the updates without charge at the All Updated Entries page on DARE’s website.
Each update has more than 50 entries, both revisions and new ones. Update 3 continues emphasis on the letter B with new entries like bean breaking, a Kentucky term for “a social gathering at which bean pods are broken into short lengths for drying or canning,” earliest attestation 1969; beetle organ, an Arkansas term for a juke box, earliest example 1938; bendoe, an old-fashioned New England term for thin ice and the game of bendoes where you venture out on that ice, documented as early as 1860.
And to show that there are new regional distinctions too, there’s parking ramp, in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the name for a multistory parking structure, with the earliest example from 1933.
The fourth update covers everything from belly flower (a California wildflower) to briggity (in the southern Appalachians, restless or aggressive), but it pays special attention to the many terms for slingshot, among then beaner, bean shooter, bean flipper, beany, and rubber flipper.
And by the way, are you fit to carry guts to a bear? See for yourself.
Correction (5/20/2016, 12:04 a.m.) An earlier version of this post misspelled the first name of DARE’s first editor. He was Frederic G. Cassidy. The post has been updated to reflect that.Return to Top