How Americans speak

Back in 1962, Fred Cassidy was named chief editor of an American dialect dictionary project.

He envisioned the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) would be complete by 1976; the first volume was not published until 1985, and covered A to C. The final volume, V, is published in March.

DARE stands alone as the most exhaustive record of regional speech in America, each page bursting with geographically nuanced information about the country’s diverse lexicon. It’s a joy to page through: Where else would you learn that snuff for chewing is called snoose in the Pacific Northwest, and also goes by the name Swedish condition powder?

Though DARE is finally done, with Volume V officially publishing in March, the varied language of Americans marches on. How can DARE avoid becoming a relic? It’s a substantial challenge of capturing something as dynamic as American dialects: No single historical snapshot can really do it justice, especially one trapped on the printed page.

To address these concerns, Harvard University Press is planning an online interactive edition of the dictionary, slated to launch next year. And if Hall has her way, the work of DARE will continue, with a return to the communities that the fieldworkers visited with their Word Wagons. (Source: Boston.com)

DARE is an incredible accomplishment, let’s hope the Harvard University Press project adds to it.


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