Joan Houston Hall, Senior Editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English "Who Says What?"
Dr. Hall told us about the Dictionary of Regional English, DARE, on March 15. This ambitious project, to record words and expressions used in different parts of the US, began under Fred Cassidy in 1975. After Cassidy's death in 2000, Joan Hall became the head of the project. A huge survey was undertaken, interviewing people throughout the US and identifying terms used regionally. These were linked with maps to show their distribution. One example given was the different names for a milkshake in Boston, Rhode Island, Maine and here in Wisconsin. They were, respectively, frappe, cabinet, velvet and milkshake. Dr. Hall recalled coming to Madison in 1975 and hearing that there would be "Brats on the Terrace" Little unruly kids? And what was a terrace? She gave examples of Georgian speech, the singular phrase "Golden Birthday," also some expressions used in Wisconsin that are direct translations from German. Dr Hall insisted that language isn't homogeneous in the US. DARE is still collecting regional usages and differences.

There now are four large volumes with the fifth and final one expected soon. The staff is committed to the serious task of making DARE electronic. It will be possible to find words on line by region of use as well as sorted by other criteria.

Joan Hall concluded her remarks by telling who uses the dictionary. Librarians, yes, but also forensic psychiatrists, eg Unabomber profiler, and physicians seeking to understand symptoms their patients describe. She has spotted harmful failures to recognize variations in words, as in a test for aphasia that marks as incorrect alternative names for common objects, like "Tommy Walkers" for stilts.