Identified as the first of five volumes in this "series," the next four to cover other parts of the country. An introductory essay is followed by some 2,000 brief entries defining and using in context such words as hoicked and pizzlesprung and such phrases as play the dozens and pleased as a basketful of possum-heads. No bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This is volume 1 of the projected five-volume Facts On File Dictionary of American Regional Expressions series. The next volume, covering the West, is due to be published at the end of 1993. The compiler is a free-lance writer whose earlier works include "The Facts On File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" (1987) and "American Literary Anecdotes" (1990)
Hendrickson traveled "from Baltimore to Key West, from Charleston to Houston" over a period of seven years to gather material for this book. The terms come from fiction, scholarly works, newspapers, magazines, and Southern correspondents. The lengthy introduction is a solid overview of the dialects that make up "South Mouth": Mountain (or Hill), Virginia Tidewater, South Carolina Low Country, General Southern Lowland, East Texas, Charleston, Baltimore, New Orleans, Cajun, Creole, Gumbo, Conch, and Gullah. The alphabetically arranged entries that follow include examples from each. The definitions and word histories range from one to several sentences
A disturbing feature is the unevenness of documentation. Many entries have none--such as "fallacy", which is listed as a Southern term for mistake or error with no allusion to any peculiarly Southern usage. Some sources are cited, but not enough for the serious researcher or the reference librarian. "Afromobile" is accurately defined as an early 1900s Palm Beach vehicle consisting of a two-seated wicker chair in the front and a bicycle in the back pedaled by a black man; the entry includes the assertion that this was "the only vehicle permitted in the city." Cassidy's "Dictionary of American Regional English" (1985- ) states that only bicycles and afromobiles were permitted in the city and provides four sources for the material. "Heroes of America" is defined as a "secret organization, also called the Red Strings, formed in North and South Carolina after the Civil War." It actually flourished in the Carolinas and Virginia as early as 1863 and supported the Union. More consistent pronunciation guidance would be helpful. "Zouave" and "unaker" are two Southern words not used by us-all
Hendrickson's stated goal, however, was to create "a book for the general reader that is fun to read yet reliable." He has produced an entertaining and educational work that has humor (the definition of Southern gentleman is worth the price of the book), some bawdiness (see "boody", "easy rider", and "horsing"), and the ability to stimulate thought and discussion. How many of us know that drawing out the word "bad" to "baaad" to describe someone or something good dates from eighteenth-century slavery? Or that "Land of Abstractions" is a nineteenth-century nickname for the state of Virginia due to its abundance of political thinkers? One could spend "the whole enduring day" looking for descriptive phrases better than "he couldn't hit the ground if he fell," "she could talk a cat down out of a tree," and "courting fool.
Libraries will want this volume for amateur philologists and students of Southern culture. Only the first two volumes (covering through "H") of Cassidy's "Dictionary of American Regional English" have been published. That much more scholarly work has maps that show the distribution of terms. In spite of its protracted publishing schedule, academic and large public libraries will also want to have it on hand to answer the questions "Whistlin' Dixie" will raise.