Pedal pushers and Clam Diggers and Capris, oh my!

My upbringing took place in Southwestern Ohio. I grew up in a town where Mabley and Carew, Shillito’s, and Pogue’s were my choice of department stores. My college education brought me up to Northern Ohio. I was surprised that different cities had different department stores. What is Halle’s? Who is Higbee’s? Having settled in Northern Ohio some of my expressions continue to surprise my friends. In Northern Ohio people who live back in the hills are called hillbillies. In my hometown hillbillies were referred to as “brier hoppers”, “hill jacks” or “ridge runners.” One of the most talked about terms as an adult has been the name for the strip of grass and trees between the sidewalk and curb. In Northern Ohio “tree lawn” is what I hear the most. The term in SW Ohio is “park strip.” Akron, Ohio refers to that space as a “devil strip.” There is a wonderful reference work that is called The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). The dictionary is based on face-to-face interviews with 2,777 people between 1960 and 1970 and a collection of print and electronic materials. The questionnaires are not designed to record standard American English. Instead the focus is on regional vocabulary that varies from one part of the country to another. Each volume of the dictionary has been published, not on a schedule but when it has been ready: Volume I (1985), Volume II (1991), Volume III (1996), Volume IV (2002), and Volume V (2012). The sixth volume will appear in early 2013, with an electronic edition following in the fall, and I can’t wait to see what other colloquialisms appear!

If somebody gives you a very sharp scolding you might say, “I certainly got a donkey barbecue for that.” (Volume 2)

Drag a lot of water means you are a person of consequence or importance. (Volume 2)

Fuddle-britches – a wisecracker or a smart aleck or a practical joker. (Volume 2)

The volumes of this dictionary are fascinating and a lot of fun. When I start looking at them the time flies. Hopefully you will “give them a whirl.”


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