“On to Z”–the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)

Making headlines this week–the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is complete. What began 50 years and 5 volumes ago with “Adam’s housecat” finished this week with “Zydeco.” Frederic G. Cassidy, the founder, was known for signing his letters, “on to Z.”

Reported in “Inside Madison,” the e-newsletter of the UW-Madison Campus:

After nearly five decades of work at UW-Madison, the fifth and final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English, covering Sl to Z, is now available from Harvard University Press. The completion of the dictionary is a landmark of scholarship, recording the words, phrases and pronunciations that vary from one part of the country to another.

When I first heard about the DARE project and their use of reel-to-reel recording to capture dialect speakers around the nation, my imagination caught fire. What was ON those tapes? While the volunteer transcribers listened for the odd turn of phrase, the “whoopensocker” of Wisconsin or the Tenessee “tush hog,” what stories were tumbling out?

As it turns out, some audio samples from those recordings are available on DARE’s website. Listen here.

How I’d love to spend about a month just marinating in the sound of these voices.


About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to “On to Z”–the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)

  1. p.s. At the bottom of that “Listen” page I found this link to more recorded voices online–


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