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Help Save Dying American Words!

The Dictionary of American Regional English has been traversing the country since 1965. It has held thousands of face to face interviews in order to capture and record the diversity of American dialects. After a little over 50 years of research, the organization has compiled a list of 50 American words and phrases from all over the states that are at risk of dying out from our lexicon.

In an effort to save these words and phrases, the likes of which include “to fleech” (to coax) and “frog strangler” (heavy rain), DARE has asked the producers and presenters at the podcast platform Acast to adopt a word and use it on their shows.

Thomas Daly’s American Biography is the first of these podcasts to take on the challenge. Daly said the following:

“I’m happy to be part of this project, and hope to help preserve and revitalise these cultural heirlooms of America’s great and varied regional vernaculars… American Biography is a show about contextualising America’s past and building bridges with its present, and language plays a crucial role.”

List of 50 Endangered American Words and Phrases

Barn burner: a wooden match that can be struck on any surface. Chiefly Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Maryland.

Bat hide: a dollar bill. Chiefly south-west.

Be on one’s beanwater: to be in high spirits, feel frisky. Chiefly New England.

Bonnyclabber: thick, sour milk. Chiefly north Atlantic.

Counterpin: a bedspread. 

Croker sack: a burlap bag. Chiefly Gulf states, south Atlantic.

Cuddy: a small room, closet, or cupboard.

Cup towel: a dish towel. Chiefly Texas, inland south region.

Daddock: rotten wood, a rotten log. Chiefly New England.

Dish wiper: a dish towel. Chiefly New England.

Dozy: of wood, decaying. Chiefly north-east, especially Maine.

Dropped egg: a poached egg. Chiefly New England.

Ear screw: an earring. Chiefly Gulf States, lower Mississippi Valley.

Emptins: homemade yeast used as starter in bread. Chiefly New England, upstate New York.

Farmer match: a wooden match than can be struck on any surface. Chiefly upper midwest, Great Lakes region, New York, West Virginia.

Fleech: to coax, wheedle, flatter. South Atlantic.

Fogo: An offensive smell. Chiefly New England.

Frog strangler: a heavy rain. Chiefly south, south midland.

Goose drownder: a heavy rain. Chiefly midland.

I vum: I swear, I declare. Chiefly New England.

Larbo: a type of candy made of maple syrup on snow. New Hampshire.

Last button on Gabe’s coat: the last bit of food. Chiefly south, south midland.

Leader: a downspout or roof gutter. Chiefly New York, New Jersey.

Nasty-neat: overly tidy. Scattered usage, but especially north-east.

Parrot-toed: pigeon-toed. Chiefly mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic.

Pin-toed: pigeon-toed. Especially Delaware, Maryland, Virginia.

Popskull: cheap or illegal whiskey. Chiefly southern Appalachians.

Pot cheese: cottage cheese. Chiefly New York, New Jersey, northern Pennsylvania, Connecticut.

Racket store: a variety store. Particularly Texas.

Sewing needle: a dragonfly. Especially Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts.

Shat: a pine needle. Chiefly Delaware, Maryland, Virginia.

Shivering owl: a screech owl. Chiefly south Atlantic, Gulf states.

Skillpot: a turtle. Chiefly District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia.

Sonsy: cute, charming, lively. Scattered.

Spill: a pine needle. Chiefly Maine.

Spin street yarn: to gossip. Especially New England.

Spouty: of ground: soggy, spongy. Scattered.

Suppawn: corn meal mush. Chiefly New York.

Supple-sawney: a homemade jointed doll that can be made to “dance”. Scattered.

Tacker: a child, especially a little boy. Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania.

Tag: a pine needle. Chiefly Virginia.

To bag school: to play hooky. Chiefly Pennsylvania, New Jersey.

Tow sack: a burlap bag. Chiefly south, south midland, Texas, Oklahoma.

Trash mover: a heavy rain. Chiefly mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic, lower Mississippi Valley.

Tumbleset: a somersault. Chiefly south-east, Gulf states; also north-east.

Wamus: a men’s work jacket. Chiefly north-central, Pennsylvania.

Whistle pig: a groundhog, also known as woodchuck. Chiefly Appalachians.

Winkle-hawk: a three-cornered tear in cloth. Chiefly Hudson Valley, New York.

Work brittle: eager to work. Chiefly midland, especially Indiana.

Zephyr: a light scarf. Scattered.

 

 

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