Dr. Hall is the chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, and the article looks froward to next year’s completion of the last volume (Slab – Z) while highlighting the misconceptions about language that lead people to believe that regional variation is a thing of the past. Chief among them (1) the idea that regionalisms are disappearing wholesale from the American linguistic landscape and (2) the idea that teachers and books are primary linguistic influences.
DARE has a number of uses. Dr. Hall reminds us that forensic linguists, dialect coaches, and medical professionals have found important reasons to consult the dictionary. I have another use. It’s probably obvious to others in the field. (I know it’s listed on the DARE webpage.) But I’m going to plug it anyway. DARE is the perfect tool for language teachers to use to make students appreciate (and maybe even embrace) language variation.
My own experience in the classroom has shown me that no one can resist the stories of Frederick Cassidy and the Word Wagons. Even those (e.g. William Safire) who try to dictate other people’s language use find the project irresistible, which means there may one day be hope for making people appreciate more controversial areas of language variation. As language teachers work to address language prejudices, it’s worth remembering that DARE provides excellent examples of variation that people find non-threatening and entertaining. After more than 40 years of research, the DARE editorial staff is finally “on to Z!” What better way to honor this endeavor than to put this project to use for such a noble purpose?