The most exciting potential prize of the recent limerick contest (aside from the free trip to England) was a full set of the Dictionary of American Regional English. I was hoping to get one. Alas, I did not.

But my husband surprised me with a consolation prize.

Wow! It’s the first volume of the DARE! My husband was disappointed by the condition of the book (it had more external wear and tear than the online book seller had disclosed), but it was in good shape inside. We decided to keep it.

Just to give you a taste of what’s in there, here are three of the entries (definitions slightly paraphrased by me).

Amish preaching soup: a bean soup that the Amish eat after or between religious services (from Amish areas, such as OH, PA, etc.)

Burnt-tail jinny: will-o’-the-wisp, “the feminine mate or counterpart of Jack-o’-Lantern” (from South Carolina)

cootie: 1. body louse, 2. bedbug, 3. game similar to hangman, 4. “drunk as a cootie.” (these four usages are from various areas). And there’s also cootie cage (a bed in crowded quarters) and cootie garage (human hair, especially arranged in a puffy hairdo).

I’m a big fan of soup, so perhaps I will look up a recipe for the Amish preaching soup someday. I’m also happy to add another will-o’-the-wisp term (“burnt-tail jinny”) to my vocabulary. Regarding cooties, I had always thought that they were invisible germs. This is not only my personal experience with the word, but I distinctly remember reading an article recently about cooties as an invisible disease that children accuse each other of having. But this is apparently not how most people use the word. My Random House Webster’s College Dictionary defines it as an informal term for a body louse. My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary similarly refers me to “body louse,” but also gives a potential derivation for the word (from a Malay word kutu).

All I can say is that you learn something (and sometimes three things) new every day.

Thanks to my hubby for this wonderful gift of words!

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1 Response to I DARE You

  1. sprite says:

    I had always assumed cooties were specifically lice, but had become more generalized when used as a childish slur. We aren’t especially far from Amish country here; I’ll have to ask Rudi if he’s ever had soup at any of the country stores he stops in on his bike rides out that way, although obviously he’s not attending church, so maybe it’d be different anyway.

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