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.