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Head cheese and wampus cats



The fifth and final volume (SI-Z) of the Dictionary of American Regional English will be published this month, 50 years after work began on what has been called "the nation's most ambitious dictionary of regional dialects." A noble undertaking; I'm glad somebody undertook it. I've consulted previous volumes of DARE at the main branch of the Central Arkansas Library System, and I'll consult the new one too, I'm sure. But there are always complaints about works like these. Some words attributed to a particular region turn out to be unknown to people who live in that region. Some words are properly located but improperly defined, according to those who use them.

Max Brantley jumped all over a DARE entry that was mentioned by the New York Times:

"They said head cheese and scrapple were regional variants for the same thing. I say they are totally wrong. Head cheese is just what it says, a spiced loaf made by boiling a hog's head with onion and seasonings so that edible parts cook off. The gelatin firms up into a loaf when cooked in a loaf pan. Scrapple, on the other hand, is an Eastern dish including lots of cornmeal or flour or cereal grain, with pig innards, that makes a loaf you slice and fry for breakfast, with eggs. Real scrapple is heart, liver and other offal extended."

I've long been interested in the Wampus Cat, said to live around Conway. DARE says that wampus is "1. a ferocious mythical cat creature 2. an offensive person 3. fried corn bread." I'd never heard of the last two.

A reader says people are referring to shirts that button down the front as "button-down shirts." He notes, correctly, that the original phrase was "button-down collar," and he says that only shirts with such a collar can properly be called "button-down." I agree, but the names for articles of clothing can change over time. I recently heard a man complimented on his "nice blazer." But it wasn't a blazer, at least not what I'd call a blazer. It was a standard sport coat — checked, as I recall. The traditional blazer is a solid-colored sports jacket, usually with metal buttons.

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