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Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume V: Sl-Z Hardcover – March 20, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0674047358 ISBN-10: 0674047354 Edition: 1st

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Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume V: Sl-Z + Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume VI: Contrastive Maps, Index to Entry Labels, Questionnaire, and Fieldwork Data + Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume IV: P-Sk
Price for all three: $325.75

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Product Details

  • Series: Dictionary of American Regional English (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 1296 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1 edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674047354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674047358
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.8 x 2.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A testimonial to the metaphor-making power of the American language at its most vigorous. (Newsweek)

The Dictionary of American Regional all we had hoped for and more. It includes the regional and folk language, past and present, of the old and the young, men and women, white and black, the rural and the urban, from all walks of life... This is an exciting, lasting work of useful scholarship accomplished with excellence, a work that scholars and laypeople alike will study, use and enjoy for generations. (Stuart B. Flexner, New York Times Book Review)

Unmatched as a kind of refuge for colloquialisms threatened with extinction...Writers, etymologists and other devotees of verbal arcana have never been given a richer browsing ground. (Ezra Bowden, Time)

The Dictionary will rank as one of the glories of contemporary American is endlessly rewarding to dip into, and if you look up a particular word or phrase you are in constant danger of being seduced to something else...It is a work to consult, and a work to savor—a work to last a lifetime. (John Gross, New York Times)

DARE is evidence that American speech will never become stale and fusty, that the great linguistic homogenization of television is a myth. (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun Times)

To open its pages is to thrill at the exploration of the New World and to trace the course of American history through its language... Its editors… have caught the native poetry of America on every page. (Smithsonian)

The Dictionary of American Regional English is an essential resource for the English language and its rich expression in America. From Mark Twain to William Faulkner, our great writers have anchored their work in regional English with its deep ties to the places in which Americans live. With the publication of this magnificent volume, we can now fully understand and embrace the voice of our nation. (William Ferris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

This is a monumental achievement, nothing less than a comprehensive account of the ever-expanding ways we talk to each other. Up above, Noah Webster and Mark Twain are smiling. (Joseph J. Ellis, Mount Holyoke College)

For scholars of American English, this volume and the series it completes are a hoard of riches, and also a work of heroic proportions for more than four decades...For the non-specialist reader...browsing is an endless delight...What strikes one repeatedly is the variety, the creativity, and the colorfulness of the American English. This final volume alone has more than 1,200 double-column pages, and every one I have looked at so far has some fresh piece of information (sushi has been known in American English since 1894) or evocative term (swing-dingle, a shoulder yoke for carrying two buckets). This volume, this project is more than a mere reference for looking up obscure terms. It is a repository of who we have been as a people, and who we are. (John McIntyre Baltimore Sun blog 2012-02-15)

The Dictionary of American Regional English, covers regional and local speech for the whole United States: It is the treasure-house for the all-American word hoard...Touring the Dictionary of American Regional English is a road trip of the mind from sea to shining sea...Its approach has been unusually adventurous. It speaks with authority about American regional speech and has also captured the popular imagination. It is a peerless resource for scholars, but at the same time delivers accurate information about regional vocabulary to laypersons who, until DARE, could not count on access to it. In the twentieth century, DARE was so far ahead of practices in both dialectology and lexicography that it sometimes seemed futuristic...DARE entries have a homespun texture, demanding more of a reader, who must reconcile various types of information in order to understand what DARE has to say about a word or phrase. But if they pay attention, readers come away marvelously informed...DARE is a bold synthesis of linguistic atlas and historical dictionary...Scholars of American language, history, and culture will rely on it, and they will enjoy it as much as lay readers. DARE teaches us about American regional speech, of course. It also teaches us to think big, put aside assumptions, draw on traditions when useful, and make things new. (Michael Adams Humanities 2011-09-01)

To scholars and language lovers [the Dictionary of American Regional English] is an invaluable guide to the way Americans not only speak but also live--a homegrown answer to the Oxford English Dictionary...From the beginning the dictionary was the product of cutting-edge lexicographical science and on-the-ground research of unprecedented scope...Over the years DARE has been consulted by Broadway dialect coaches, detectives analyzing ransom notes, scholars puzzling over a Eudora Welty reference to "piecing" (that is, snacking) and poets looking to mine its 170-plus synonyms for dust bunnies. (Jennifer Schuessler New York Times 2012-02-24)

If you're the kind of person who is delighted to stumble across one strange new word in a book, you may find reading this enormous volume to be an almost excessive pleasure...The Dictionary is a book you can actually sit down and read--not just for colorful words and quotations, but also for a tour of actions, objects, creatures and categories central to far-off or vanished pockets of American life...Without your own team of roaming lexicographers, there is probably no easier way to browse America's past ways of living and talking than to read its books. But Dictionary of American Regional English gathers all these terms into one place, together with samples of the voices and stories and songs that gave rise to them. It's the rare American book whose roots extend not just to one region but to all of them. (Amanda Katz 2012-03-13)

DARE devotes as little space as possible to standard words with standard meanings. It doesn't cover "technical, scientific, or other learned words or phrases." Nor does it take any particular interest in the kinds of words that appear in dictionaries of slang or on What's left? A vast, meticulously researched and organized compilation of the nonstandard words, spellings, and pronunciations that dictionaries generally leave out--American regional English... The DARE alphabet is at last complete. Now forensic linguists can look up zaguan ("A vestibule; a porch"). Environmental lawyers can look up zanjero ("The people who take care of or open the floodgates into the ditch"). And so can anyone who needs or wants a fuller picture of American English. (Barbara Wallraff American Scholar 2012-04-01)

Fifty years ago, scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison set out to document the regional speech of the United States. They interviewed people one-on-one. They read cookbooks, poems, newspapers and novels. This week, the fifth and last volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English was published, making it the most exhaustive record available of American speech. (Jacqueline Trescott Washington Post online 2012-03-21)

The true value of DARE is as a record of the down-home speech of Americans, reflecting quotidian concerns: children's games, plants and animals, good things to eat and ways to talk about our neighbors--the kinds of things too easily forgotten...Although we often assume that "country practices" have fallen by the wayside under the onslaught of pop culture, DARE provides evidence for many terms not only of past use but of continued currency. (Erin McKean Wall Street Journal 2012-03-16)

An important event in lexicography. (Joan Acocella New Yorker 2012-05-14)

"Aaron's rod" to "zydeco"--between these two verbal bookends lies an immense and largely hidden American vocabulary, one that surely, more than perhaps any other aspect of society, reveals the wonderfully chaotic pluribus out of which two centuries of commerce and convention have forged the duller reality of the unum...A monument, a memorial, a piece of work both magisterial and majestic that someone, somewhere, was one day bound to undertake. So to all who take pleasure from the complex mechanics of human communication: let us rejoice that someone did indeed undertake this gigantic task, and recorded so fascinating a morsel of American linguistic history. (Simon Winchester Lapham's Quarterly 2012-04-01)

The native words we know for things sound right when we hear them, reminding us who we are and where we come from. That is one more reason to celebrate the Dictionary of American Regional English, which reminds us that we have continued to name things long after Adam, and which lovingly and indefatigably catalogues the words that place us in the world. (John E. McIntyre Baltimore Sun 2012-03-27)

A reference tool of the finest kind. (Down East 2012-05-01)

DARE, as it is known, has the information you will need to bush around (discuss) the difference between bush-busters (hillbillies) and bush eels (rattlesnakes). One could make a sport out of guessing the meanings of DARE entries...Every page of DARE shows the absolute centrality of metaphor and other forms of verbal figuration to colloquial speech. Naming storms for the damage they do, or foods for what they do to your stomach, or foreigners for the strange traits they exhibit--these tendencies suggest just how much of reality is established after the fact, in conversations about shared experience by people with a common world of reference...Because of its reliance on and scrupulous recording of personal testimony, DARE is one of the most poignant reference books ever compiled, a great exploration of the far reaches and dark corners of American cultural memory...This massive cataract of language is enough to make one cry uncle, or calf rope, or barley out, or I want a crab apple-or a perennial favorite, never out of style for long: mama. (Dan Chiasson Harper’s 2012-11-01)

About the Author

Joan Houston Hall is Distinguished Scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joined the DARE staff in 1975, became Associate Editor in 1979, and was named Chief Editor in 2000.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Gregory H Kornbluh on February 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Harvard University Press is happy to offer new dust jackets to longtime DARE devotees who would like their older volumes to match the updated look of Volume V. You can email the press at for details.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By TwoTooth on February 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This reference book is for a very specialized audience; it will likely be purchased mainly by academic libraries. It's the final volume of a work that's been ongoing for decades (the first volume was published in 1985). Actually, there's another volume planned for back matter (bibliography, index, map appendixes), depending on funding.

I leave it to academics more qualified than I to comment on content and method. As a (mostly) amateur student of the English language, I find the DARE both informative and entertaining. But if you don't enjoy reading dictionaries or aren't a professional needing its information, this work isn't for you.

I have one quibble: The first four volumes have identical dust jackets; this one is markedly different, so volume 5 won't look like part of a set when it's shelved next to the others. The only justifiable reason for such a departure would be legal; otherwise, it's inexcusable. [See edit below]

Finally: Anyone questioning its hefty price doesn't understand the tremendous amount of time that goes into producing a volume like this AFTER it's actually been compiled and submitted to the publisher or the cost of printing each copy of what will no doubt be a relatively small press run. Believe me, the price is not out of line.

Edit: As someone commented on my review and as a representative of the publisher has noted, the publisher will ship (free of charge) dust jackets for the first four volumes with the new design. Mine just arrived, rolled in a mailing tube, in good condition.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Zack Adams on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the first three volumes hoping to get a grasp on the local talk for specific areas. This [WAS] useless for "writers, editors, authors" because there [WAS] absolutely no cross-reference available. No index for areas [NOW THERE IS, ONLINE]. If you already know a phrase or term and want to see where it's spoken, fine. But if you want to know how people speak in St. Louis or Virginia Beach or Portland, [AN INDEX IS NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE].

It's a shame the authors or publishers don't use the manuscript that they surely still retain and turn it into a searchable DVD.

UPDATE: An index is now available online, very helpful. I'm still hoping that the now-completed set, plus the index, will be put on DVD so that it can be searchable. With the index available a one-star rating becomes too harsh. As another commenter posted, the URL of the index: Index and Terms, [...]
Also online: "Regional Distributions"
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By ReadingFool on July 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Heard about this set on NPR and our adult children and I have purchased volumes on his birthday and Christmas. It's such great fun to just leaf through or look up specifics! Only 1 more volume to go!
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By phineasredux on February 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of course, this is a major, and successful, undertaking. The prior volumes have provided endless opportunities for browsing. Although it sounds like a quibble, I have to second the prior reviewer's comment about the dust jacket. On the shelf, Volume V is a jarring contrast to the other four volumes. Those of us who have cheerfully added each volume as it came out (over a period of 25+ years) deserved better.
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