Hear the Interviews that Helped Build the Dictionary of American Regional English

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The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is chock-full of weird and wonderful words about just about everything under the sun, from heavy rain (it’s raining the devil and pitchforks in Florida) and doughnuts (also known as fettiglich in German-speaking communities in Missouri) to being mad (all horns and rattles in the West) and getting drunk (in Georgia, you're cork high and bottle deep). Now you can hear those idioms, sayings, and slang terms straight from the horses’ mouths.

Eighteen hundred field recordings from DARE are now freely available online. Hosted by the University of Wisconsin’s Digital Collections Center, the recordings consist of interviews conducted throughout the country between 1965 and 1970. Echoing “the diversity and personality of America,” as Dr. Robert H. Moore, founding member of DARE’s Board of Visitors, puts it, the recordings capture dialect variations, regional accents and pronunciations (through readings of a story called "Arthur the Rat"), some of which have disappeared, as well as an oral history of that time.

So why did it take so long to make the recordings available? Because of privacy. Since completing the print volumes of the dictionary, staff, students, and volunteers from DARE spent four years removing personal information from the recordings (hence, the occasional bleep).

But there’s still a lot to hear—more than 900 hours’ worth, to be exact. According to DARE’s press release, you can learn about everything from “home remedies to burial customs, scuba diving to square dancing, making moonshine to landing on the moon.” You’ll also hear honest discussions about religion, race, war, and politics.

The list of wide-ranging topics you can plug into the searchable database do not disappoint. There’s bootlegging and basketmaking. Cockroaches and cooking utensils. There’s the intriguing Dairy Queen competition. There are ghost stories and the history of pineapples. There’s making jam, making molasses, and whiskey making. There’s possum hunting and eating. There are subways, superstitions, supernatural powers, and much more.

Whether you’re a history buff, a trivia geek, a word nerd, or an accent connoisseur, the DARE field recordings have something for you.

Grocery Stores vs. Supermarkets: What’s the Difference?

gpointstudio/iStock via Getty Images
gpointstudio/iStock via Getty Images

These days, people across the country are constantly engaging in regional term debates like soda versus pop and fireflies versus lightning bugs. Since these inconsistencies are so common, you might have thought the only difference between a grocery store and a supermarket was whether the person who mentioned one was from Ohio or Texas. In reality, there are distinctions between the stores themselves.

To start, grocery stores have been around for much longer than supermarkets. Back when every town had a bakery, a butcher shop, a greengrocery, and more, the grocery store offered townspeople an efficient shopping experience with myriad food products in one place. John Stranger, vice president group supervisor of the food-related creative agency EvansHardy+Young, explained to Reader’s Digest that the grocer would usually collect the goods for the patron, too. This process might sound familiar if you’ve watched old films or television shows, in which characters often just hand over their shopping lists to the person behind the counter. While our grocery store runs may not be quite so personal today, the contents of grocery stores remain relatively similar: Food, drinks, and some household products.

Supermarkets, on the other hand, have taken the idea of a one-stop shop to another level, carrying a much more expansive array of foodstuffs as well as home goods, clothing, baby products, and even appliances. This is where it gets a little tricky—because supermarkets carry many of the same products as superstores, the next biggest fish in the food store chain, which are also sometimes referred to as hypermarkets.

According to The Houston Chronicle, supermarkets and superstores both order inventory in bulk and usually belong to large chains, whereas grocery stores order products on an as-needed basis and are often independently owned. Superstores, however, are significantly larger than either grocery stores or supermarkets, and they typically look more like warehouses. It’s not an exact science, and some people might have conflicting opinions about how to categorize specific stores. For example, Walmart has a line of Walmart Neighborhood Markets, which its website describes as “smaller-footprint option[s] for communities in need of a pharmacy, affordable groceries, and merchandise.” They’re not independently owned, but they do sound like grocery stores, especially compared to Walmart’s everything-under-the-sun superstore model.

Knowing the correct store terms might not always matter in casual conversation, but it could affect your credit card rewards earnings. American Express, for example, offers additional rewards on supermarket purchases, and it has a specific list of stores that qualify as supermarkets, including Gristedes, Shoprite, Stop & Shop, and Whole Foods. Target and Walmart, on the other hand, are both considered superstores, so you won’t earn bonuses on those purchases.

And, since grocery shopping at any type of store can sometimes seem like a competitive sport, here’s the ideal time to go.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

New Google Earth Feature Lets Users Listen to Endangered Indigenous Languages From Around the World

prabhjits/iStock via Getty Images
prabhjits/iStock via Getty Images

According to UNESCO, at least half of all languages spoken around the world are on track to disappear by the end of this century. Most of these languages are spoken by indigenous populations whose number of native speakers get smaller with each generation. New technology can help preserve these native tongues: A social media campaign launched in 2013 aimed to preserve the Sami language of northern Europe, and a 2016 interactive web game focused on the Marra language of aboriginal Australians. The latest of these efforts comes from Google Earth, and it promotes not one, but 50 threatened languages.

As Smithsonian reports, the Celebrating Indigenous Languages project allows Google Earth users to listen to audio clips of languages as spoken by their native speakers. Just head to the webpage and select one of the markers on the world map to hear people respond to different prompts.

Rahamatu Sali of Cameroon recites her favorite proverb in Fulfulde: "For who does not see what is happening today, cannot see what is going to happen tomorrow." Bivuti Chakma of Bangladesh tells listeners how to say mother in Chakma, and in Canada, Aluki Kotierk sings a traditional song in her native Inuktitut. The platform also includes brief descriptions of each language, including the level of threat it faces.

The languages sampled for the project are just a fraction of all the endangered languages spoken on Earth. Of the 7000 languages spoken today, roughly 4000 of them are limited to indigenous communities. Various efforts are being taken to preserve disappearing languages, but sharing them with a wide audience online is one simple way to raise awareness of the issue.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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