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From N.H. to La.: ‘Dictionary of American Regional English’ Update No. 6

5827-dare-mapWhat do bob house, boo-hag, and bullnozer have to do with each other?

In case you’re not familiar with these terms, a bob house is what people in New Hampshire, some of them at least, call an ice-fishing shanty.  A boo-hag, in South Carolina, is a kind of ghost, by one account a “witchy  woman … who can unzip her corporeal body and hang it up like a coat.” And a bullnozer, in the Appalachians and vicinity, is just another name for bulldozer.

But what do they have in common? Maybe a story of a boo-hag who went fishing in a bob house till the municipal authorities had it bullnozed?

Don’t give yourself blare eye trying to unravel that riddle. (Blare eye, in places in the West like Utah and New Mexico, is another name for insomnia.) The correct answer is — all those words, and some 40 others, are in the newly published sixth Quarterly Update of the Dictionary of American Regional English.

The six-volume DARE, nearly a half century in the making, was finished on paper a couple of years ago. But like other dictionaries worth their salt nowadays, rather than sitting inert on library shelves, it has an internet presence too. The updates are freely accessible, but you do have to pay a subscription fee (or get your library to do so) to access the whole 50,000 entries online.

This new collection focuses almost entirely on the letter B, since Volume 1 of DARE, published in 1985, is the most in need of updating. So there are new or revised entries for blankie-lie-low, a children’s game found in northern states ranging from New York to Wisconsin; baby face, another name for the Jersualem cricket found in western deserts, so called because “its markings, with imagination, can be seen to resemble a smiling face”; boot, the British name for the trunk of a car, now somewhat rare in the United States but formerly scattered in the South and “especially Ohio”; buckwheat pine, a Michigan term, perhaps obsolete, for a pine “with limbs nearly to the ground”; and bull grape or bullet grape, a term along the South Atlantic coast for what is elsewhere known as muscadine.

For dessert, Editor George Goebel serves up a Louisiana French treat from the last part of the alphabet: a say-so. What’s so delicious about that? Excuse me while I get  one; you’ll have to look it up for yourself.

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