By SCOTT BAUER
University of Wisconsin students and researchers set out in “word wagons” nearly 50 years ago to record the ways Americans spoke in various parts of the country.
Now, they’re doing it again, only virtually.
The dictionary, known as DARE, has more than 60,000 entries exposing variances in the words, phrases, pronunciations, and pieces of grammar and syntax used throughout the country. Linguists consider it a national treasure, and it has been used by everyone from a criminal investigator in the 1990s tracking down the Unabomber to Hollywood dialect coaches trying to be as authentic as possible.
The dictionary can help explain why skeezicks (an affectionate term for rascally children used mainly in the northern Mid-Atlantic region) play hopscotch in most places, except Manhattan where it may be called potsy or in Chicago where it’s known as sky blue.
Usually, when people each bring a dish to share it’s a potluck dinner. Except in Indiana, where it may be called a pitch-in. In northern Illinois it’s a scramble.
“Think of every language as being a country,” said Erin McKean, founder and leader of the online dictionary Wordnik and a past editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary. “DARE is the only map of American English that shows where the words live and how they’re used by whom.”
She called DARE one of the 10 most important dictionary projects ever undertaken.
Here is a sample of a DARE entry:
More information on DARE website – http://dare.wisc.edu/