Dept. of Word Lists

Are You "Nebby" about Regional English?

After half a century of research, the monumental Dictionary of American Regional English is nearing completion. DARE chief editor Joan H. Hall recently talked to National Public Radio about the long, arduous journey of the dictionary, which will see its fifth and final volume published next year. As a "rantum scoot" into peculiar American speech, here are some sample regionalisms culled from DARE.

elbedritsch (n) An imaginary creature which, as a practical joke, a greenhorn is sent to hunt or capture. (Usage: Southeast Pennsylvania)

flannel cake (n) A pancake. (Usage: Appalachians)

flea in one's ear (n) A hint, warning, disquieting disclosure; a rebuke. (Usage: chiefly the Northeast)

hell-for-leather (adv) At top speed, in great haste. (Usage: scattered, but especially the West Coast)

honeyfuggle (v) To swindle or dupe; to intend to cheat or trick. (Usage: scattered)

hookem-snivey (adj) Deceitful, sneaky. (Usage: scattered)

Lucy Bowles (n) Diarrhea; loose bowels. (Usage: scattered, but especially Pennsylvania, New Jersey and southeast New York)

mulligrubs (n) A condition of despondency or ill temper; a vague or imaginary unwellness. (Usage: scattered, but especially the South)

nebby (adj) Snoopy, inquisitive. (Usage: chiefly Pennsylvania)

pungle (v) To shell out; to plunk down (money); to pay up. (Usage: chiefly West)

rantum scoot (n) An outing with no definite destination (Usage: scattered)

roller bird (n) blue jay (Usage: In the vicinity of Dothan, Ala., bluejays are often called "roller birds" because when chinaberries are ripe, the birds sit in the trees and gorge themselves until they grow drunk. Then they tumble out of the trees and roll on the ground, and the cats creep out and eat them.)

say-so (n) An ice-cream cone. (Usage: scattered)

DARE is published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. The above definitions were adapted from the University of Wisconsin's DARE Web site.

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