Get Geeky About Dialects With the Dictionary of American Regional English

Did the NYTimes’ dialect quiz get you interested in regionalisms? Then check out the Dictionary of American Regional English


Earlier in the year Joshua Katz, an intern with the New York Times' graphics team and a statistician at North Carolina State University, started an online survey looking at Americans' regional language quirks. By answering a series of questions—is it a pill bug, a potato bug, or a roly poly?—Katz's quiz would tell you which region's residents you speak most like. Last week, the Times published a slick version of the quiz, and the internet is currently obsessed with it.

For some people the quiz is crazy accurate:

For others, not so much.

If taking Katz's quiz has piqued your interest on the idiosyncrasies of American speech patterns, you're in luck. For the past 48 years, the Dictionary of American Regional English has been building a catalog Americans' language quirks, a record based on a wide-reaching series of surveys conducted back in the 1960s. Now, the whole dictionary has been put online. Not all of it is free, sadly, but the team did open up a few sample entries:

Photo: DARE

The Dictionary of American Regional English is like an academic Urban Dictionary, a catalog of idioms and slang—which is a fun insight into the diversity of English, but also a problem for such a long-running project. The New Republic:

By the time you capture terms like this between two covers, they are often obsolete. This is one reason why DARE, in all of its majesty, cannot help but qualify as an achievement more archival than lexicographic. Because of its regional focus, as well as the homogenization of American English, DARE’s long gestation has brought it to light in a world where we process language differently than people did in the "Mad Men" era that DARE was created in. Although DARE is supplemented with references to written sources from after 1970, the work is essentially a record of American regionalisms such as they were in Eisenhower-era America.

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