: views from the Hill

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

DARE you?

DARE (The Dictionary of American Regional English) is put together by folks at University of Wisconsin, Madison. DARE needs your help.

DARE has a list of phrases on site and they'd like to know if you're familiar with any of them.

Latest questions include
  • Do you call the strip of grass and trees between the sidewalk and the curb boulevard, curb line, grass plot, parking (strip), parkway, terrace, or tree lawn, or do you have another term for it? Please e-mail Senior Editor Luanne von Schneidemesser [...]

  • The main responses to our question "Playground equipment with a long board for two children to sit on and go up and down in turn." were teeter-totter and seesaw. We also received variant forms of the former, such as teeter-tot, teeter-tooter, tee-totter, teeter(ing) board, tinter board, and just teeter, among others. If you use a variant form, could you tell us what the form is and how you pronounce it? Specifically, some of our examples of teeter-tooter may be typos for teeter-totter, but others appear to be legitimate. Or do you say ridy horse? We also need the standard info as well: your gender and age, where you learned the term (geographically), and where you grew up and have lived. Thanks.

  • And if you are familiar with any of the words or expressions below, please let us know. It is most helpful if you can give an example or examples of how it is (or was) used, and as much detail as possible about when, where (geographically speaking), and by whom (including gender and age of person). Other data, such as references to written works where the word appears, are very welcome, too, but please note that if it can be found with a Google search on the Web we have probably already seen it. E-mail Editor George Goebel your information (please put "NADS queries" in the subject line). Thank you.

Last week or so, I sent Goebel a note re the request for information on

make strange—"To act shy"; also, often with of, "to act surprised (at), feign ignorance (of)." For the first sense we have (relatively) recent evidence from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Canada, but we suspect it is more widespread. For the second there is plenty of early evidence, but little from the last century; we would like to know if it is still or was recently in use. If you know it, please give examples of use.

I told him that I didn't know "make strange," but ... in early 1982, when I was visiting relatives in New Hampshire with my seven-month old, my relatives complimented me on my son: "He's not strange at all!"

The phrase was translated for me as "He's not shy with strangers at all" -- six-months or so being the usual age when babies start being aware of "other" and begin being shy with strangers, crying when someone other than Mom, Dad, caregiver picks them up, &c.

Got a note back from Goebel this morning thanking me. Seems they've had two other people (one from NH, one from south-central PA) who attest to this use of "strange" in the sense "shy."

Strange (hah!) thing is, "the latest example in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1763, and we had no idea that it was still in use (except in the phrase "make strange") until we started getting these responses to our query."

Any help you can give the DARE folks would be appreciated. Check out their list of phrases and help them sort out the regionalisms.

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