Introduction to Contrastive Maps

I. Geographic Contrasts

Although it is possible to compare the distributions of regional synonyms by looking at the maps in the five volumes of DARE text, it is much easier to see complementary and contrastive geographic patterns when the maps are arrayed together, as they are here. This is the eponymous “Map Section” to which readers have been referred throughout the text. Readers have also been referred to the Map Section when words have been found to occur disproportionately frequently among members of DARE’s five social categories of age, sex, race, amount of education, and community type. These “social” maps follow the contrastive geographic maps, and begin on p. 282. An index to all the terms included on the maps may be found beginning on p. 339.

The arrangement of maps below follows the organization of the sections of the DARE Questionnaire. Topics start with neutral subjects such as time, weather, and topography, moving through quotidian subjects such as houses, furniture, foods, farming, transportation, plants and animals, and then moving to more abstract topics such as family relationships, health and disease, religion and beliefs, emotional states and attitudes, etc.

The basic topics are indicated by the running heads, with each set of maps grouped by a particular concept. The concept is identified in italic before each set, with the word or phrase illustrated on each map specified in the caption above the map. In the map legend, “+ var” or “+ varr” means that the map includes one or more variants of the headword or phrase. The legend also itemizes the DARE questions that elicited the mapped response(s). Readers who would like to know how those questions were phrased can look up any question in the section titled “The DARE Questionnaire” on pp. 645–675. For a listing of all the variants on the map as well as a full understanding of the word and its history, readers are encouraged to consult the text of the Dictionary.

In the early volumes of DARE, the policy was not to include maps if there were very small numbers of Informants. The assumption was that people reading the entry would recognize the regionality of a term by noting the clustering of Informants in the DARE quote. The force of a map, however, even with a small number of dots, is so compelling that in this volume we have included many maps that did not appear in the five volumes of text.

Most of the map sets function as lexical synonymies, because the “concepts” are easily identifiable objects or actions. In some cases, such as the set of responses to a question about bat-and-ball games played with just a few players, the rules and method of play will doubtless differ even though the names of the games were offered as answers to the same question. In still other cases, there were “open” questions, in which a wide variety of answers was expected. Queries such as “What other ways of fishing do you have around here besides the ordinary hook and line?” and “Names used around here for fancy rolls and pastries” yielded many distinctly regional words and phrases; in this volume they are displayed together not as synonyms for one another, but as members of a class of related terms. As such, they function as a cultural atlas, illustrating habits, preferences, and cultural backgrounds of Americans as well as the words they use.

Contemporary readers will be struck by the maps illustrating terms that have disappeared from the modern lexicon, especially as a result of changes in agricultural technology. While fifty years ago a majority of people either lived in rural or semi-rural communities or had personal knowledge of farm life, few people today have words for the plows, wagons, harnesses, and other agricultural implements that were still remembered then. Maps for such terms as swingletree, whippletree, Georgia stock, kaiser blade, and middlebuster, for example, evoke a very different era. They succeed in reflecting cultural, agricultural, and linguistic history at the same time.

II. Social Contrasts

Analysis of the social characteristics of Informants on DARE maps usually reveals a fairly close correspondence between those speakers and those in the full sample. There can be, however, somewhat surprising distributions of words and phrases. It is no revelation to find that names for old-fashioned agricultural implements are most common among older Informants and in rural communities. Nor is it unusual that responses to grammatical questions reflect differences in amounts of formal education. But sometimes there is no transparent reason that a word should be going out of use or that it should be used heavily by one group rather than another. We have included below examples of some unexpected social contrasts as well as other interesting ones, illustrating the many ways that our language and our society interact. This section includes those maps referenced in the text by “See Map Section,” but it includes many additional ones as well.

The five social categories illustrated by the maps, with their subcategorizations, are listed below:


Old: 60 or over at the time of the interview

Middle: 40–59

Young: 39 or younger


M: Male

F: Female


W: White

B: Black

I: American Indian

A: Asian


X: Unknown

L: Some schooling (less than grade 5)

G: Grade school (at least grade 5)

H: High school (at least 2 years of high school)

C: College (at least 2 years of college or vocational school)

Community Type

1. Urban (a section within a metropolis of 1,000,000 or more)

2. Large city (large non-metropolitan city having a population in the 100,000s)

3. Small city (small independent city having a population in the 10,000s)

4. Village (independent town or village in a rural area, with a population in the 1,000s)

5. Rural (rural area, with unconcentrated population in the 100s)

The maps in this volume provide a good sample of the kinds of regional and social variation in American English elicited by the DARE fieldwork between 1965 and 1970. They illustrate disparate geographic distributions, varied social patterns, and wide-ranging subject matter. They are far from the whole picture, however! Many more maps may be found throughout the dictionary entries and can be generated using the DARE Survey data.