from sea to shining sea

According to its editors, The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)  aims not to prescribe how Americans should speak, or even to describe the language we use generally, (often called the "standard" language). Instead, it seeks to document the varieties of English that are not found everywhere in the United States - those words, pronunciations, and phrases that vary from one region to another, that we learn at home rather than at school, or that are part of our oral rather than our written culture. Although American English is in many ways remarkably homogeneous considering the size of the United States, there are still many thousands of differences that characterize the various dialect regions. It is these differences that  DARE records.

Depending on where we live, our conversation may include such  terms as si-fog (Arkansas), pirok (Alaska), or pestle-tail (North Carolina); if we're invited to a potluck dinner in Indiana, we're likely to call it a pitch-in.  But in northern Illinois it's a scramble. If we have a scrap or small piece of something, it's a scrid in New England, but in the South and South Midland it's a scrimption; if our youngsters play hopscotch, they may call it potsy in Manhattan, but sky blue in Chicago.

The language of our everyday lives is captured in DARE, along with expressions our grandparents used but our children will never know. Based on thousands of interviews across the country, The Dictionary of American Regional English is four volumes long, and has more than sixty-five hundred entries. Volume I, ( A-C), was published in 1985; Volume II (D-H) in 1991; Volume III (I-O) in 1996; and  Volume IV in 2002.  

The Dictionary of American Regional English is published by Harvard University Press. The regional word quizzes were devised by DARE editor, Joan Houston Hall.
Learn more about the four volumes of DARE by visiting the dictionary's homepage:

Joan Houston Hall, Chief Editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English (familiarly known as DARE), is uniquely suited to her work as a chronicler of American dialects: she was born in Ohio, grew up in California, went to college in Idaho, and to graduate school in Georgia. From there she moved to Oregon, thence to Maine, and ultimately to Wisconsin, where she has worked with DARE since 1975. Ms. Hall's Ph.D. is from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where she had the opportunity to interview people for the Dialect Survey of Rural Georgia. That linguistic fieldwork was very much like that done for the DARE project, though on a smaller scale. In addition to editing four volumes of the Dictionary (Volume I, A-C, 1985; II, D-H, 1991; III, I-O, 1996; IV, P-Sk, 2002), she has written widely about the project. She has served as President of the Dictionary Society of North America and is currently President of the American Dialect Society.

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Sponsored by:

National Endowment for the Humanities Hewlett Foundation Ford Foundation   Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Carnegie Corporation

National Endowment
for the Humanities

William and Flora Hewlett


Rosalind P.

Arthur Vining
Davis Foundations

Corporation of New York