They are on the precipice of extinction. Without decisive action, all fifty of them will be gone, only to appear as footnotes in the textbooks of the future. Saving them is going to take concerted effort. You can play a part in giving new life to these endangered specimen, beginning today.
Understandably, you might not be on your beanwater about your fitness to the task. If you care more than a bat hide about the mission, even if you are little more than a tacker, you can raise your hand and say, “I vum I am work brittle, even if the progress moves like a skillpot and costs me the last button on Gabe’s coat.” With that attitude, you can fleece your friends. Your combined efforts will gather like raindrops and result in a genuine goose drownder and frog strangler.
The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) has been chronicling differences in regional dialects throughout the United States since 1965. Recently, DARE issued a call to arms, warning of the danger of losing many of the words and phrases in regional vernacular. Words and expressions such as “bonnyclabber” (thick, sour milk), “sonsy” (cute or charming), and “sewing needle” (a dragonfly) made the list of 50 Endangered Words and Phrases.
The campaign to save these words has led DARE to encourage everyone — particularly bloggers and podcasters — to “adopt” a word or phrase from the list for regular use. Renewed regular use of these words when we converse and
gossip spin street yarn will light a match barn burner in the campaign to stop society from viewing them as foul-smelling fogo but rather as sweet as candy larbo.
“Although language change is inevitable, it’s too bad to see some of our most colourful expressions going out of use,” said Joan Hall, former editor of DARE. “It would be fun to see them revitalised.”
The 50 Endangered 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. Chiefly south and south midland.
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.
My father was born in New Jersey. He worked as a carpenter, and he always used the word “leader”
instead of “downspout.” Come to think of it, so do I!
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