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Hanging with My Bobbasheelies: A Few Minutes with the Dictionary of American Regional English

By Jennifer Nemec


Tags: words, dictionary,

A photo of Jenn NemecThe editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) are nearing the end of their long road. According to the publisher (Harvard UP), this soon-to-be five volume work (the fifth volume, "S to Z" is due out next year) "captures the language spoken on America's main streets and country roads, words and phrases passed along within homes and communities, from east to west, north to south, childhood to old age." The dictionary has been in progress since 1965, and it is built on interviews recorded in 1,000 cities across the United States.

It's no secret that language fascinates me. My first article to appear in GRIT, "The Soft Drink Debate," explored just some of the regional differences that this dictionary is out to capture. 

Dictionary pageOne of the things that struck me as I read the AP story on this "Quirky Regional Dictionary" was how many of the regional words cited were rural in nature. Joan Houston Hall, who took over as editor for the dictionary when its originator Frederic Cassidy passed away, spoke of a quotation from president and Arkansan Bill Clinton that someone didn't know him "from Adam's off ox." Also mentioned were a "stone toter" (a kind of fish), and several versions of that great rural tradition a "potluck" (called a "pitch-in" in Indiana and a "scramble dinner" in northern Illinois).

Hall says that bobbasheely – a Gulf Coast word meaning "a good friend" or "to hang around with a friend" is her favorite word in the dictionary.

On the DARE website you can find a few more entries from the dictionary. Many, many children's games made that grouping. I was also excited to see some of my own dialectal/ethnic phrases – kolaches, kitty-corner, schnickelfritz – and a phrase from Caleb's most recent blog that was new to me "noodling" (catching fish with your bare hands).

You should definitely check it out. Meanwhile, I'll be over here hanging with my bobbasheelies on the punee looking for a schnibble and trying not to get honeyfuggled.

Photo by adotjdotsmith, licensed under Creative Commons.