American Regionalisms Redux

Travel Blog  •  Jenna Schnuer  •  04.10.09 | 1:33 PM ET

We know that loads of you take notice of regional speak as you do your state-to-state wandering. So you’ll definitely want to know about this. But even if you don’t normally listen up for regionalisms and English is your first language, you’re still not off the hook when it comes to Frank Bures’ recommendation that travelers tote along a dictionary on trips.

No, thanks to several decades of work by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there’s a nearly-complete multivolume dictionary that will help you understand what’s going on when you get invited to a “pitch-in” in Indiana or which “scrimptions” you should save down South.

The first volume (A-C) of the Dictionary of American Regional English was released in 1985 and Volume V (Sl-Z) will make its way into the world later this year. A volume of maps and other end matter will follow later.

Beware, you best have room on your credit card and a strong back (or a huge extra wheelie suitcase or giant car trunk) if you’re going to take this dictionary on—it’s as far from pocket-sized as a dictionary can be. (Oh, so it doesn’t bug you: a pitch-in is a potluck dinner and scrimptions are scraps.)


Jenna Schnuer

Freelancer Jenna Schnuer writes about travel, food, culture, books, and life's quirky bits (and bites) for publications including American Way, National Geographic Traveler, Southern Living, and many others. She also co-writes Flyover America, a site filled with quieter stories from around the U.S. Send Jenna an email or, if you're so inclined, follow her on Twitter.


6 Comments for American Regionalisms Redux

IndyMo 04.11.09 | 1:03 PM ET

Also, it matters greatly which part of a State one is from, as well. I was raised in a Metropolitan Indiana area, (the end of a strip-city reaching from East Chicago thru South-Bend/Mishawaka/Elkhart) but had relatives who were farmers further South in Indiana who used to crack us up with their” you-un’s and we-un’s”, their constuction terms of “chimbleys, two-b-fours and two-b-sixes, and some other funny “Hoosier-isms”. And when one is down within two counties of the Ohio river, one really needs a map to tell him for sure that he is NOT in the “hollers” of Kentucky, because it will surely sound that way! IndyMo

Jenna Schnuer 04.11.09 | 3:39 PM ET

So true IndyMo (and, may I add, I really do like the name IndyMo - it rolls off the tongue quite well). And, though I was raised in the Garden State, I very well might have to start calling those smoke-belching things “chimbleys.”

Did you say anything that cracked your farmer relatives up? Or was the giggling a one way street?

Madison 04.11.09 | 9:52 PM ET

Being a Yankee (Michigan) living in North Carolina, I have learned a whole new set of words, terms, and phrases from the people here. I always tease my friends and co-workers here in NC that I am now fluent in two languages; English and Southern. ;)

Jenna Schnuer 04.11.09 | 10:24 PM ET

Love it Madison. So, of all the phrases/words/terms you’ve picked up, which ones have you put into practice in your own life? And are there any that would just sound wrong wrong wrong coming out of your Yankee mouth?

chuck 04.12.09 | 8:59 PM ET

being a traveler my beef is when southeners complain about New Yorkers and the other beef applies to those in New York and the Northeast who create stereotypes of the south. Especially those who never left either region to see how each live. Case in point I hear it frequently on the local am radio show about how rude new yorkers are. One thing that travel has tought me is not form stereotypes, By the way I have travel guide book on New York City. But my message to Yankee and Southern alike stop what I call regional stereotyping. Why? you’re showing your predjuices.

Darrin DuFord 04.15.09 | 1:42 PM ET

Existing words being used differently, rather than totally new words or expressions, tend to stick out in my mind.  I still can’t get my Yankee tongue to refer to stuffing as dressing, as is done in New Orleans.  And dumplings, to me, are always submerged, not something that looks like a biscuit placed on the top of a pot pie, sort of forming the top crust.  But it all still tastes good, doesn’t it?

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