This morning I was on my beanwater until I got a schnibble of flannel cake caught in my goozle. I should’ve pungled for that larrupin' kolacky instead.
Say what now?
Here it is again: This morning I was feeling lively until I got a small piece of pancake caught in my throat. I should’ve shelled out for that delicious sweet-toppinged pastry instead.
To understand that patchwork of linguistic curiosities up top you’d have to be versed in the dialects of New England, the Appalachians, the upper Midwest, Texas, German settlement areas, and the West. Or, you could just follow the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) on twitter. All those gems up there have helped to make @darewords one of my favorite follows in just the two months that it’s been active.
Offline, the Dictionary of American Regional English exists as a highly esteemed multi-volume reference work that documents words, phrases, and pronunciations as they vary from place to place across the United States. The books are the result of face-to-face interviews carried out in all 50 states, and of analysis of a comprehensive collection of written materials like diaries, letters, novels, newspapers, histories, and government documents that cover our history from the colonial period to the present.
The first volume, covering A through C, was released in 1985. The fifth and final, for which Joan Houston Hall is again the Chief Editor, takes us from Si through Z and is due in 2012. These books are the end result of a process that began way back in 1889 with the founding of the American Dialect Society, as explained in this history on the DARE website. Despite being reference works, though, these books aren’t meant to collect flug in the rumpelkammer. They’re the toast of any gathering of American linguists, sure, but the DARE books have also proven extremely useful to librarians, teachers, historians, journalists, playwrights, detectives, physicians, psychologists, and dialect coaches, among others. So you can understand the excitement over the approaching fifth volume, which will finally complete this presentation of American Regional English from A to izzard.
Until that time, though, follow the @darewords twitter feed for a word a day. And do so in the knowledge that your very presence on twitter is helping to both document and propagate regional slang. As reported earlier this month by the Chronicle of Higher Education, researchers at Carnegie Mellon have developed a computer program to analyze the language of tweets, through which they can determine the location of a Twitter user in the United States with a median error of roughly 300 miles. Regional English, alive and well.
(UPDATE: DARE Volume V is now available!)