'Zamzawed' – food that has been spoiled by overcooking
June 21, 2018 6:00 AM   Subscribe

How we speak can reveal where we are from: not just our accent, but the language we use. Words and phrases particular to a city, region, or country are a distinctive part of English, and we at the OED are asking you to help us identify and record them.
The Oxford English Dictionary (previously) has put out an appeal to help find and define regionally distinctive English words around the world. The official hashtag (added June 2014) is #WordsWhereYouAre.

The early response has been "phenomenal", including words and phrases like frog downer (American English – a torrential downpour), dookers (Scottish English – swimming trunks) and brick (New Jersey and New York – very cold).

The OED is updated continuously with new words and updated meanings, which can be found in the quartely release notes. Some of the most recent additions include acquihire, precariat and Zenned-out.
posted by Vesihiisi (12 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Where I grew up, the heavy rain was a "frog strangler." The earliest I remember hearing it was on an Andy Griffith comedy record: "and it rained and it rained and it rained, and it weren't no ordinary rain, it were a frog strangler." It was his retelling of the Noah story. I think it was on the same album with "What It Was, Was Football" which I can still recite almost verbatim (1953?).
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:06 AM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

The challenge is knowing what perfectly ordinary words you use in your everyday life are actually "regionally distinctive words".

Pencil Crayons
Hydro bill
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:13 AM on June 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

The 2003 Dialect Study found that in a sample of over ten thousand people, two hundred of them refer to a firefly as a "peenie wallie" and I've been trying to use that terminology ever since
posted by nicodine at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

My wife did a big research paper back in school on the proper use and history of the Southern US word "tump", sort of a portmanteau of "tip" and "dump". I expect she'll be all over this.

(This definition is pretty good, but it doesn't quite capture the full feel. When something tumps, it doesn't just dump over. There's a moment of precariousness, in which you hope desperately that the object in mid-tump might right itself and settle back down, but nope, nope, over it goes. Also, there's a really weird unspoken context that matters. Boats capsize; canoes tump. Tricycles can tump, but bicycles cannot.)
posted by middleclasstool at 7:20 AM on June 21, 2018 [7 favorites]

Thanks for the link to the dialect study, nicodine. I'm glad to finally see the Mary=marry vs merry split represented :P

"Pencil crayon" feels like a calque. I was about to say that jokingly, but maybe it actually is a calque?
posted by inconstant at 7:36 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, they have a quiz about regional terms. I only got 4/10.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2018

Sort of a calque, maybe? I've heard "pencil crayon" attributed to bilingual Canadian product packaging, where "Coloured Pencils" would be immediately followed by "Crayon de Couleurs". Throw that packaging through the filter of young English-speaking Canadian children learning to read, and you can imagine pretty easily how it could become Coloured Pencil Crayons, shortened to Pencil Crayons in everyday use ( "Please pass me the red pencil crayon").
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's some info on "pencil crayon" in the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. Apparently it's also used in Australia!
posted by Vesihiisi at 8:33 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some of the most recent additions include acquihire, precariat and Zenned-out.

Some other recent additions: cromulent and embiggen (!). Also, dildonics.
posted by mhum at 10:48 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

dildonics, n. With singular concord. The use of computers to mediate sexual interaction; (in later use sometimes) spec. = teledildonics n.

The oldest quotation is from Computer Lib (1974.)
posted by Vesihiisi at 11:30 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think someone just wanted to win a triple-double-letter trivia question.
posted by traveler_ at 6:06 PM on June 21, 2018

Where I'm from, in Texas, it's a frog strangler. And on several times after big storms, I've seen exactly how the term came to be as I've come across (sadly enough) dead frogs entangled in flood-strewn debris.
posted by SA456 at 10:14 PM on June 21, 2018

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