The Dictionary of American Regional English has just been completed and is now available to the general public. Why would you need another dictionary, you may ask?
The Dictionary of American Regional English is not a normal dictionary at all. 50 years in the making, it is a compilation of all the different regional dialects that Americans use in daily conversation.
This book would be especially useful for anyone planning a road trip across the country, but it’s also just plain interesting to see how English has mutated in different regions of the country.
The difference in speech between regions goes far beyond “y’all” (a southern word that’s basically a shortened version of “you all” and is used when directly addressing more than one person) and “youse guys” (same thing, only up north).
The ContraCosta Times has a review of the book that excerpts some of the more interesting pieces of dialect. For example, did you know that in Utah, a sow bug is called a “tabernacle?” or that in some parts of Appalachia, a “stool” is an invitation to a party?
One can only imagine the confusion that would ensue if someone from another part of the country heard a group of mountain folk talking about “passing out stools.” In Oklahoma, a dust storm is rather poetically called “Oklahoma rain.”
Earlier versions of the dictionary have also been used to track down criminals based on the dialect used in their letters and to decipher the speech of former President Bill Clinton, whose “folksy” speech sometimes required interpretation for those not born in Arkansas.
The former president once left a roomful of reporters scratching their heads in confusion after he told them that an Air Force official didn’t know him “from Adam’s off ox.” In Arkansas, according to the book review, an “off ox” is “one of two oxen in a team.”