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Reviews1 25 The Dictionary ofAmerican Regional English, Volume HI, I-O. Frederic G. Cassidy (chief editor), Joan Houston Hall (associate editor). Cambridge , MA, and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 1996. Pp. xv + 927. $78.00 (cloth). Introduction and overview Certainly, the arrival of the newest member of the Dictionary ofAmerican RegionalEnglish family has not gone unheralded since Volume III, I-O, appeared on the scene in 1996. However, given the scope and quality of this volume and its predecessors, additional praise is warranted. I for one was especially pleased to hear of the publication of Volume III: At last I would have a chance to look up a puzzling regional term whose distribution and definition had long eluded me: mosquito hawk. I grew up on the Delmarva Peninsula, where my father, born in upper Delaware, introduced me to the term gallinipper , used to refer to the crane fly, an insect that looks like a large mosquito. When I started school, I was surprised to learn that the other children called the same insect a mosquito hawk, or one of its variant forms, skeeter hawk or skeeter eater. However, I gradually became accustomed to the new word, and it became part of my vocabulary. Imagine my surprise when I began studying American English dialects and was introduced to the DARE map showing variants of mosquito hawk (e.g., Volume I, xxvii), not as a term for 'crane fly', but for 'dragonfly'! Further, once I began teaching, mosquito hawk always generated controversy, and sometimes, quite heated debate. Some students, mostly from North Carolina, were convinced that mosquito hawk meant 'dragonfly', while others remained as sharply committed as I was to the 'crane fly' definition. So I eagerly cracked open my copy of DARE III to review the evidence for myself, at last. Surely there had to be pockets of speakers on Delmarva and in North Carolina who used mosquito hawk for 'crane fly', and surely 'crane fly' would emerge as the most common (hence, "right") definition! Sadly, my hopes were dashed. The 'dragonfly' definition won primacy of place: it's listed as sense 2.a, 'any of several insects', while 'crane fly' is sense 2.b. Further, the evidence from quotations in which the form appears, and from participants in the DARE survey, a nationwide survey of dialect words conducted in 1965-70, suggests that, even in the Delmarva area, the 'dragonfly' definition wins out. For example, evidence indicates that mosquito hawk means 'dragonfly' in the Chesapeake Bay area (Nixon 1946, 30), while Kurath's 1949 Word Geography states that mosquito hawk for 'dragonfly' is "the usual expression in all of Delmarvia [sic] and the Virginia Tidewater, in the southeastern half of North Carolina, and in the greater part of South Carolina " (qtd. in DARE III, 664). In addition, while the 'crane fly' definition is found in such widely scattered areas as central western Wisconsin, California, Massachusetts, and Florida, there are only two mentions in Virginia — about as close as I could come to the Delmarva Peninsula. Alas, then, my initial foray 126Reviews into DARE III did not yield quite the results I had hoped. My only hope now is that as new dialect survey data are gathered, the 'crane fly' definition will be shown to have gained currency on Delmarva and in North Carolina and will one day emerge as Sense l.a. Despite my disappointment over the failure of the evidence to support my beliefs, I am by no means disappointed in DARE III, any more than I am in the first two volumes. In fact, my experience with mosquito hawk illustrates what a wonderful reference tool DARE is: entries consist not only of terms and definitions but of lists of sources in which the terms, in their various senses, are attested. Responses to DARE survey questions are included as well and can be traced back to the exact question that elicited the response. In addition, each individually listed informant can be identified in terms of regional and social characteristics (though we will have to wait for Volume VI for a list of all responses to all questions). Hence, researchers and other interested readers are able...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 125-135
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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