I recently moved back to New England from Virginia and realized that I have forgotten how to speak the language.
When I was ordering lunch the other day, I asked the server for a tuna “sub.” She looked at me blankly. “You mean a grinder?”
Yes! A grinder! How could I forget? Just when I think I’m settling in, some little detail like that pops up to remind me that I am not in Virginia any more.
I started thinking about these differences in regional dialect and discovered a great resource for writers who want to make sure their characters are talking like natives.
The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) http://dare.wisc.edu has been in the works since 1962. It was the brainchild of the American Dialect Society and the English Department at the University of Washington-Madison. Staff at the university has toiled for fifty years to compile a dictionary of all the regionalisms that make people from different states incomprehensible to each other.
DARE’s website is fun to play with, and is a valuable resource for writers. There are dropdown menus that make it easy for you to choose your state and explore some of the lingo that your potential characters may speak.
So if your hero is hungry, he can order a hero in New York City, or a po’boy in New Orleans, or a hoagie in Pennsylvania. Who knew that in southeastern New York, such a sandwich is called a “wedge?” When he is done eating a peach, depending on where he is from, he will toss away the seed, pit, stone, or kernel.
The dictionary is fun to browse. Most of us know that soda and pop mean the same thing, but who knew that a dust bunny is called a “dust dolly” in New Jersey?
Are there any regionalisms that only folks in your neck of the woods use?