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How One Podcasting Network is Trying to Save America's Regional Slang

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The United States was once a country of many dialects, but the spread of broadcasting media over the last century has taken a toll on regional speech: As radio hosts and TV newscasters started talking to the nation, the nation started to mimic them, abandoning local accents and dialects for a more standardized mode of speech. But now, one podcasting network is trying to help bring back America’s disappearing regional slang.

The Atlantic reports that Acast podcasting network has teamed up with the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to revive 50 of the most endangered local words and phrases from across the United States. Acast is providing its podcasters—which include BuzzFeed, Ikea, and Financial Times—with a list of near-forgotten regional slang compiled by DARE, and encouraging them to incorporate slang terms into their podcasts. The idea is to help preserve endangered slang, and to get people interested in America’s rich linguistic heritage.

Acast Stories USA founder Karl Rosander tells The Guardian he hopes Acast’s popular podcasts can help combat the linguistic homogeneity of the airwaves. "This popularity should help bring these endangered words back into public discourse, with our podcast hosts using, pronouncing correctly and contextualising the DARE words and phrases in an organic and replicable way," he explains. "As they say in New England, 'I vum' that this project should help restore these words and phrases to their former glory."

Check out Acast and DARE’s list of endangered slang below:

Barn burner: a wooden match that can be struck on any surface. Chiefly Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Maryland

Bat hide: a dollar bill. Chiefly Southwest

Be on one’s beanwater: to be in high spirits, feel frisky. Chiefly New England

Bonnyclabber: thick, sour milk. Chiefly North Atlantic

Counterpin: a bedspread. Chiefly South, South Midland

Croker sack: a burlap bag. Chiefly Gulf States, South Atlantic

Cuddy: a small room, closet, or cupboard.

Cup towel: a dish towel. Chiefly Texas, Inland South

Daddock: rotten wood, a rotten log. Chiefly New England

Dish wiper: a dish towel. Chiefly New England

Dozy of wood: decaying. Chiefly Northeast, especially Maine

Dropped egg: a poached egg. Chiefly New England

Ear screw: an earring. Chiefly Gulf States, Lower Mississippi Valley

Emptins: homemade yeast used as starter. Chiefly New England, Upstate New York

Farmer match: a wooden match than can be struck on any surface. Chiefly Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, New York, West Virginia

Fleech: to coax, wheedle, flatter. South Atlantic

Fogo: An offensive smell. Chiefly New England

Frog strangler: a heavy rain. Chiefly South, South Midland

Goose drownder: a heavy rain. Chiefly Midland

I vum: I swear, I declare. Chiefly New England

Larbo: a type of candy made of maple syrup on snow. New Hampshire

Last button on Gabe’s coat: the last bit of food. Chiefly South, South Midland

Leader: a downspout or roof gutter. Chiefly New York, New Jersey

Nasty-neat: overly tidy. Scattered, but especially Northeast

Parrot-toed: pigeon-toed. Chiefly Mid Atlantic, South Atlantic

Pin-toed: pigeon-toed. Especially Delaware, Maryland, Virginia

Popskull: cheap or illegal whiskey. Chiefly Southern Appalachians

Pot cheese: cottage cheese. Chiefly New York, New Jersey, northern Pennsylvania, Connecticut

Racket store: a variety store. Especially Texas

Sewing needle: a dragonfly. Especially Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts [Folk lore says that it would sew up one’s eyes and mouth (or fingers and toes) if one fell asleep outside.]

Shat: a pine needle. Chiefly Delaware, Maryland, Virginia

Shivering owl: a screech owl. Chiefly South Atlantic, Gulf States [Its cry is said to portend a death in the family or other ill omen.]

Skillpot: a turtle. Chiefly District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia

Sonsy: cute, charming, lively. Scattered

Spill: a pine needle. Chiefly Maine

Spin street yarn: to gossip. Especially New England

Spouty: of ground: soggy, spongy. Scattered

Suppawn: corn meal mush. Chiefly New York

Supple-sawney: a homemade jointed doll that can be made to “dance.” Scattered

Tacker: a child, especially a little boy. Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania

Tag: a pine needle. Chiefly Virginia

To bag school: to play hooky. Chiefly Pennsylvania, New Jersey

Tow sack: a burlap bag. Chiefly South, South Midland, Texas, Oklahoma

Trash mover: a heavy rain. Chiefly Mid Atlantic, South Atlantic, Lower Mississippi Valley

Tumbleset: a somersault. Chiefly Southeast, Gulf States; also Northeast

Wamus: a men’s work jacket. Chiefly North Central, Pennsylvania

Whistle pig: a groundhog (also known as woodchuck). Chiefly Appalachians

Winkle-hawk: a three-cornered tear in cloth. Chiefly Hudson Valley, New York

Work brittle: eager to work. Chiefly Midland, especially Indiana

Zephyr: a light scarf. Scattered

[h/t The Atlantic]

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From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
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There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
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New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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