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Many Language Log readers are no doubt familiar with the Dictionary of American Regional English, which I hailed in a Boston Globe column last year as "a great project on how Americans speak — make that the great project on how Americans speak." At the time, I was previewing DARE's fifth volume, which completed the alphabetical run all the way to zydeco.  Since then, a sixth volume of supplemental materials has also been published, and plans are underway to launch the digital version of DARE, which would serve as an online home for future expansions and revisions. But now DARE editor Joan Hall passes along some troubling news about the dictionary's financial fate.

Joan writes:

On the heels of our recent triumphs, DARE is experiencing a serious financial crisis. The situation is the result of a number of factors: we were not awarded federal and private grants we had anticipated receiving; private gifts have declined precipitously; a major foundation that has provided a large gift annually for twenty years has decided it must move on to other worthy projects; the UW has endured grave reductions in state support, and the College of Letters and Science is unable to provide assistance.

This leaves us in a very distressing situation, in which I have been obligated by University personnel rules to send layoff notices to the whole staff as of July 1, 2013. (My own position is in layoff status as of January 1, 2014, because I have a slightly different classification.)

I have spent most of my time in recent weeks writing appeals to former DARE supporters—foundation and individual—as well as potential new contributors. No luck yet.

What I hope that you will do is to help publicize our plight and let language mavens and fans of DARE know that if they’d like to help us, it’s easy to do. The home page of the DARE website ( has a “Donate” button. It will take readers to a secure University of Wisconsin Foundation site through which tax-deductible gifts can be given to DARE.

We’re on the verge of publishing the digital edition, and we can’t fail now!

Please do consider giving what you can to help DARE survive, and spread the word among those who care about its continued existence. (John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun, a longtime friend of DARE, has made a similar appeal.)


  1. Rubrick said,

    April 7, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

    Is there any possibility of Kickstarting such a thing, or would university bureaucracy make that completely infeasible? I find the rise of Kickstarter and its kin to be one of the most inspiring developments in recent years, and I suspect there are a lot of folks who would be interested in funding a project such as this who aren't necessarily keen to donate to the U of W (and probably dooming themselves to a lifetime of subsequent solicitation therefrom).

    In fact, if a crowdfunding entity aimed specifically at research projects, bypassing or supplementing the grant system, doesn't exist yet, it should.

  2. BlueLoom said,

    April 8, 2013 @ 8:23 am

    @ Rubrick:

    Too true! My son follows a different religion from the one I (don't really) follow. The cathedral of the religion he follows suffered serious damage in an earthquake a couple of years ago. As a birthday gift to him, I gave $100 "in his honor" to the earthquake reconstruction fund. Now I can't turn off the almost weekly mailings (yes, real and expensive letters, envelopes, and postage) I receive from the the cathedral.

  3. Doctor Science said,

    April 8, 2013 @ 8:23 am


    That was exactly what I was thinking. There are a number of crowdfunding sites for science:

    and I believe DARE could qualify as social science.

  4. Timothy Chow said,

    April 13, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

    How much money exactly is DARE asking for? Do they want enough for the salaries and benefits in perpetuity for the positions that are currently on the chopping block? Or do they just need a fixed one-time sum to get the digital version published? Whether or not they go the crowd-funding route, it would help to be clear about exactly how much money would accomplish what goal(s).

  5. Val Dumond said,

    April 15, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    Novelists who want their characters to "get it right" in dialog need this marvelous resource. I would hope that writers and our organizations would put out the call to support DARE in its dire need.

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