News

    Book Captures Uniquely American Lingo

    Dictionary of American Regional English offers taste of regional US

    The Dictionary of American Regional English contains more than 60,000 words and phrases from different parts of the United States.
    The Dictionary of American Regional English contains more than 60,000 words and phrases from different parts of the United States.
    June Simms

    Many words in American English, like honeyfuggle and pinkletink, don’t show up in standard dictionaries. But you can find them in the Dictionary of American Regional English. The fifth and final volume of the massive work has just been published.

    Work on the Dictionary of American Regional English - known by its acronym DARE - began in 1965 under Frederic Cassidy, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He and a team of 80 researchers traveled across the United States to document words used by Americans to describe their daily lives.

    Joan Houston Hall, the dictionary’s chief editor, says the final project is based on almost 2.5 million responses to more than 1600 questions.

    "The questionnaire dealt with all sorts of things that have to do with our daily lives - from time and weather and food and clothing and farming and plants and animals and religion, health, disease, honesty, dishonesty - all the parts of our lives that we have words for."

    DARE includes words, phrases, pronunciations and even bits of grammar and syntax that vary from one part of the country to another.

    "That strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street can be the parking strip, the parking, the parkway, the berm, the terrace, the tree lawn, the tree belt, the tree box, and the verge and the swale and other things, too," she says. "It’s amazing to see the tremendous variety of terms used for the same thing."

    The first volume, released in 1985, contains words beginning with the letters A to C. The fifth and final volume starts with slab, a concrete road, and ends with zydeco, a kind of music popular in Louisiana. Hall says these words can show where the people who use them are from.

    For example, in some parts of the country, a carbonated drink is a soda; in others, it’s called pop. Some Americans cook with a frying pan; others use a skillet. And a party where everyone brings food is either a potluck or a pitch-in.

    Linguist Ben Zimmer writes about language for the Boston Globe. He recalls the excitement at a January meeting of the American Dialect Society, when Joan Houston Hall gave delegates a preview of the final volume.

    "We all gathered together in the conference room, and Joan showed off volume five,"  Zimmer says. "And there were audible gasps in the room. I mean, it might as well have been accompanied by an angelic chorus. People just wanted to touch it like it was the holy relic or something."

    So, if you look up honeyfuggle in the Dictionary of American Regional English, you’ll discover that it means to cheat or trick. The earliest uses were in the 1800s hundreds in the South. Pinkletink is the name that people in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, have given to a kind of tree frog.

    These and almost 60,000 other colorful words and terms offer a linguistic tour all around the United States.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora