Dictionary of American Regional English complete after 40 years - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dictionary of American Regional English complete after 40 years

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MADSION (WKOW) -- Some people want to go from "A" to "B", but Joan Houston Hall has been trying to reach "Z" for the last 30 years.

"Now, we've reached 'Z', but that's not the end," said Hall. 

Since 1975, Hall has been the chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English.

"We knew this was very large country with very different regional dialects," said Hall.

It compiles what people say and where they say it.

"Things like squeaky cheese," said Hall.  "You don't find that in many other places."

From Wisconsin words to stuff you don't hear outside of Pennsylvania.

"Doc? I've been riftin' and I have jags in my leaders," said Hall. "Jags are sharp pains and leaders are ligaments, particularly the ones in the neck."

And if someone came up to you and asked you if you wanted a wedgie, you might get offended, but if you were in West Chester County, New York, they are just asking if you want a sandwich.

"We know about the heroes and the hoagies and the subs," said Hall.

Researchers at UW-Madison have compiled more than 60,000 words, used from California to Tennessee, into a five volume dictionary. The last one was completed just this month.

"'Sl' to 'Z' is the one that is just coming out," said Hall.

But the last letter of the alphabet doesn't mark the end of Hall's life work.

"We used to say 'diesel' in the late 90s for something being pretty cool," said Colin Fitzpatrick, a native of Princeton, New Jersey.

That's because the English language is always changing and Hall says someone will be there to track it, from "A" to "Z" and all those words and phrases in between..

If you'd like a copy of the Dictionary of Regional American English, it's available through Harvard Press and many bookstores. Hall says the plan is to get the dictionary online by 2013.

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