Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Regional English

Regional English

Wordsmiths may be interested in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). Here are two paragraphs from a 2012 article in the Smithsonian (here):

Those fluffy bits beneath the bed, for instance, are dust kitties (Northeast), dust bunnies (Midwest), house moss (South) or woolies (Pennsylvania). A potluck is a tureen dinner in upstate New York or, in the Midwest, a pitch-in or scramble dinner. Almost a whole page of DARE is dedicated to “wampus,” a Southern term for a variety of real creatures (such as a wild horse) and imagined ones, such as swamp wampuses and whistling wampuses.

Some DARE words hint at long-lost social occasions. At a “waistline party,” mentioned in African-American circles, the price of admission corresponded to a reveler’s girth; at a “toe social,” a mid-20th- century term, women draped in sheets were picked as partners on the basis of their feet. (Presumably they then danced together uninhibitedly, or “fooped.”) We can hear echoes of how men and women spoke to, or about, each other. In the 1950s, a man from the Ozarks might say his pregnant wife was “teemin’” or “with squirrel”—but not if she was around to hear him.

For more examples, be sure to read the comments following the article. Reminds me of the great 1941 movie, “Ball of Fire” with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper (highly recommended).


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