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.

11 Words You Might Not Realize Come From “Love”

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

1. BELIEVE

In Old English, believe was geliefan, which traces back to the Germanic galaubjan, where laub is the root for “dear” (so “believe” is “to hold dear”). Laub goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root for “love,” leubh.

2. FURLOUGH

We got furlough from the Dutch verlof, which traces back to the same Germanic laub root as in believe. It is also related to the sense of leave meaning "allowance" or "permission" (“get leave,” “go on leave”). The “leave” in a furlough is given with pleasure, or approval, which is how it connects back to love.

3. FRIDAY

Old English Frigedæg was named for Frigg, the Germanic goddess of love (and counterpart to the Roman Venus). According to the OED, frīg was also a noun for “strong feminine” love.

4. VENOM

Venom comes from the Latin venenum, which shares a root with the love goddess Venus, and originally referred to a love potion.

5. AMATEUR

The root of amateur is Latin amare, “to love.” An amateur practices a craft simply because they love it.

6. CHARITY

The Latin caritas, which ended up as charity in English, was a different kind of love than amor, implying high esteem and piety, rather than romance and passion. It was used to translate the Ancient Greek agape, the word used in the New Testament to express godly love.

7. PHILOSOPHY

Greek had another word for love, philia, that—in contrast to agape and eros (sexual love)—meant brotherly or friendly love. It’s used in many classical compounds to signify general fondness or predilection for things. Philosophy is the love of sophos, wisdom.

8. PHILANTHROPY

This one means love of anthropos, humanity.

9. PHILADELPHIA

You might know it as the “city of brotherly love,” but you might not know that the tagline is right there in the name. It’s love for adelphos, brother.

10. PHILIP

The name Philip comes from the compound phil- + hippos, love of horses.

11. ACIDOPHILUS

Have you been taking acidophilus probiotic supplements for digestive health? It’s made from acid-loving bacteria, i.e., bacteria that easily take up an acid dye for viewing under the microscope.

This list originally ran in 2015.

7 Words That Came About From People Getting Them Wrong

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iStock.com/maelrenault

People didn't always say pea or newt. These seven words initially started as other words entirely.

1. Pea

Originally the word was pease, and it was singular. ("The Scottish or tufted Pease ... is a good white Pease fit to be eaten.") The sound on the end was reanalyzed as a plural s marker, and at the end of the 17th century people started talking about one pea. The older form lives on in the nursery rhyme "Pease-porridge hot, pease-porridge cold …"

2. Cherry

The same thing happened to cherise or cheris, which came from Old French cherise and was reanalyzed as a plural. So the singular cherry was born.

3. Apron

Apron also came into English from Old French and was originally napron. ("With hir napron feir .. She wypid sofft hir eyen.") But "a napron" was misheard often enough as "an apron" that by the 1600s the n was dropped.

4. Umpire

Umpire lost its n from the same sort of confusion. It came to English from the Middle French nonper, meaning "without peer; peerless." ("Maked I not a louedaye bytwene god and mankynde, and chese a mayde to be nompere, to put the quarel at ende?") A nompere or an ompere? The n-less form won out.

5. Newt

The confusion about which word the n belonged to could end up swinging the other way too. A newt was originally an ewt ("The carcases of snakes, ewts, and other serpents" is mentioned in 1584's The Discoverie of Witchcraft), but "an ewt" could easily be misheard as "a newt," and in this case, the n left the "an" and stuck to the the newt.

6. Nickname

The n also traveled over from the "an" to stick to nickname, which was originally ekename, meaning "added name."

7. Alligator

Alligator came to English from the Spanish explorers who first encountered el lagarto ("lizard") in the New World. While the big lizards were for a time referred to as lagartos, the el accompanied often enough that it became an inseparable part of the English word.

All example quotes come from the Oxford English Dictionary.

This list first ran in 2013.

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