"Old gappy" is an entry in the Dictionary of American Regional English. Art: R. Bishop

"Pumpkin head" is an entry in the Dictionary of American Regional English. Art: R. Bishop

"Boneless cat" is an entry in the Dictionary of American Regional English. Art: R. Bishop

DARE You!

Posted: September 1, 2015

Are you a beeler or a budger? Could you be both? The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) will tell you. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, a beeler is a child who causes mischief. In Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, a budger is someone who cuts in line. Of course, if you keep reading this dictionary past the “b” section, you’ll be there for quite a while. It has six volumes!

DARE keeps track of words and phrases used around the United States. Its maps show where each speech habit comes from. The dictionary’s creators interviewed people all over America. They also studied writings from the past. They read books and newspapers from as far back as the colonial times.

Their research shows that not all Americans speak the same. In fact, every area’s language differs in thousands of ways. What a discovery! People from Wisconsin might call it a whoopensocker. To them, that means “something extraordinary.”

DARE’s creators weren’t interested in “correct” words. They didn’t want to know what English teachers taught. They weren’t curious about how words ought to be pronounced. Instead, they wanted to learn about what people said in their everyday talk. They asked: How do words change from place to place?

But words don’t just change from place to place. They also change from time to time. New inventions need new names. Plus, people tend to borrow words from other languages. Sometimes, people just make new words up. That means DARE still has work to do. Its creators have to catch new words and phrases. Then they add the new words to their website. After all, everyday talk changes every day.