“Bubbler,” “golden birthday” and “Sheepshead” are all colloquialisms familiar to Wisconsinites.
The University of Wisconsin is currently reviving the Dictionary of American Regional English, an institution working to compile a complete dictionary on the unique way Americans speak.
The original project took place from 1965-1970, when field workers from UW went out across the United States and recorded how citizens from different regions of the world spoke, Project Assistant Erin Leary said. They recorded telephone conversations in which participants would engage in free conversation, read from a list of words, or read a story called “Arthur the Rat,” Leary said.
People from different regions of the world all have different dialects and pronounce words such as “choice” or “bag” a certain way, Leary said. DARE was different than other dictionaries because it displayed how words were learned from family members and communities, rather than books, she said.
The newly-revamped edition of the dictionary will be launched in Wisconsin and will have words and phrases relevant to our time, Chief Editor Joan Houston Hall said.
“We’ve deleted obsolete words and phrases and added new ones,” Hall said. “Like that cardboard object around your morning coffee or those bumps on the side of the highway — things that weren’t around 30 years ago.”
DARE will use recorded telephone calls and an online survey to reach out to people, Hall said.
People will be asked questions on words and pronunciation of words ranging from time and weather to clothing and religion, Hall said. The survey aims to study subjects’ daily lives and everyday conversations in order to find patterns where words are spoken and the origin of these words, she said.
The survey will be open for six months in Wisconsin, both in the small region of Algoma and the large region of Madison, Hall said. DARE plans to expand it across different regions based on funding in the future, she said.
DARE is important because it represents who people are and highlights although people may all seem the same and may all speak the same language, their origins and ancestors still have an everyday influence.
“It’s fun to look at, but it’s also important to recognize the many years of research and work put into this,” Leary said.