Volume I of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), published to wide acclaim in 1985, captured the wondrous variety and creativeness of American folk words and expressions and tickled the imagination of lovers of language around the world. Decades in preparation, the DARE corpus reflects the liveliness of English as it is spoken on America’s main streets and country roads—the regional metaphors and similes passed along within homes and communities.
Like its popular predecessor, Volume II is a treasury of vernacular Americanisms. In Virginia a goldfinch is a dandelion bird, in Missouri an insufficient rain shower a drizzle-fizzle. Gate was Louis Armstrong’s favorite sender (a verbal spur to a sidekick in a band), a usage that probably originated from the fact that gates swing. Readers will bedazzled by the wealth of entries—more than 11,000—contained in this second volume alone. The two and a half pages on “dirt” reveal that a small marble is a dirt pea in the South. To eat dried apples, a curious rural euphemism for becoming pregnant, appears in the five pages on “eat.” Seven pages on “horn” and related words take readers on a tour of the animal and nether worlds: horned lark, horned frog, horned pout (look that one up), and that horned fellow, the devil.
Initiated under the leadership of Frederic G. Cassidy, DARE represents an unprecedented attempt to document the living language of the entire country. The project’s primary tool was a carefully worded survey of 1,847 questions touching on most aspects of everyday life and human experience. Over a five-year period fieldworkers interviewed natives of 1,002 communities, a patchwork of the United States in all its diversity.
The result is a database of more than two and a half million items—a monument to the richness of American folk speech. Additionally, some 7,000 publications, including novels, diaries, and small-town newspapers, have yielded a bountiful harvest of local idioms. Computer-generated maps accompanying many of the entries illustrate the regional distribution of words and phrases.
The entries contained in Volume II—from the poetic and humorous to the witty and downright bawdy—will delight and inform readers.
DARE, as it is known, has the information you will need to bush around (discuss) the difference between bush-busters (hillbillies) and bush eels (rattlesnakes). One could make a sport out of guessing the meanings of DARE entries… Every page of DARE shows the absolute centrality of metaphor and other forms of verbal figuration to colloquial speech. Naming storms for the damage they do, or foods for what they do to your stomach, or foreigners for the strange traits they exhibit—these tendencies suggest just how much of reality is established after the fact, in conversations about shared experience by people with a common world of reference… Because of its reliance on and scrupulous recording of personal testimony, DARE is one of the most poignant reference books ever compiled, a great exploration of the far reaches and dark corners of American cultural memory… This massive cataract of language is enough to make one cry uncle, or calf rope, or barley out, or I want a crab apple—or a perennial favorite, never out of style for long: mama.
For the first time, in the nation of homogenized milk and golfheaded pifflespeakers, we have a definitive picture of who says what where when the TV is off. This picture, literally dotted out on helpful maps, provides a raucous hymn to linguistic diversity. Even more important, it serves as a sort of verbal game preserve where all manner of endangered species—from big hats to blind tigers—may linger a while longer.
A staggering work of collective scholarship… DARE is not only a reference treasure for the scholar and the general word lover, it’s a lode for raiding parties by specialists of all kinds… Most of all, DARE is evidence that American speech will never become stale and fusty, that the great linguistic homogenization of television is a myth.
DARE is a monumental and impressive work… For those studying American English or linguistics, this is a work that will be consulted again and again.
Because these volumes are the most complete lexical records we have of the American experience, much of the history and contemporary condition of American society can be found in their pages… We are very fortunate to have DARE; it is not a dictionary; it is a national treasure.
The most exciting linguistic project going on in the United States.
The long-awaited, definitive and fascinating Dictionary of American Regional English [DARE]…is all we had hoped for and more. It includes the regional and folk language, past and present, of the old and the young, men and women, white and black, the rural and the urban, from all walks of life. Although DARE will be one of the most scholarly, comprehensive, and detailed dictionaries ever completed…it will also be one of the easiest and most enjoyable to use or browse in… This is an exciting, lasting work of useful scholarship accomplished with excellence, a work that scholars and laypeople alike will study, use, and enjoy for generations.
To open its pages is to thrill at the exploration of the New World and to trace the course of American history through its language… Its editors, led by Professor Frederic G. Cassidy, have caught the native poetry of America on every page.
In its scope and thoroughness, Cassidy’s dictionary is unmatched as a kind of refuge for colloquialisms threatened with extinction… Writers, etymologists and other devotees of verbal arcana have never been given a richer browsing ground.
Proof that tourism, television and technological change haven’t rounded off all the gaudy and gracious edges of the way we talk.
- 1200 pages
- 8-1/2 x 11 inches
- Belknap Press
- Editor-in-chief Frederic G. Cassidy
- Associate editor Joan Houston Hall
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