A Dictionary of Varieties of English.

JC sent me a link to Raymond Hickey’s Dictionary of Varieties of English, saying “This is far more than the title suggests: it not only contains sketches of various Englishes, but is at the same time an actual lexicon of terms that are relevant to the study of English variation, like æ-tensing. I’m only about 10% through it, but it’s great and a fun read to boot.” Thanks, John!


  1. Your link seems to lead to an automatic download.

    It sounds like JC to “read” a dictionary! 🙂

  2. Oh, I read ’em too!

  3. Not cover to cover, by and large, though.

  4. I read dictionaries from cover to cover.

    One of the best ways to quickly acquire vocabulary in foreign language.

    For best results, the layout of a dictionary needs to be suitable – have lots of examples, all translated, formatting must be easy to read, no excessive use of tilde, etc.

    And of course, you have to set daily targets and percentages. Ideally, the dictionary has to be completed within reasonable time frame – say, in a week or ten days. Extending reading for longer than that risks loss of interest and abandonment.

  5. You must have a prodigious memory.

  6. I have average memory. The trick is you have to read (and read fast) and not attempt to memorize words.

    What happens is that the words which are encountered in examples over and over again (ie, the most frequently used words) will be memorized automatically. And words which are only encountered once or twice will be, of course, immediately forgotten.

    But that’s OK, because you’ll end up knowing lots and lots of words anyway. You don’t have to memorize everything at once.

    If the word is important, it will come up again sooner or later. If it isn’t, then who cares.

  7. Cool! I’ve already used it to see what it had to say about Nigerian Pidgin, which I just encountered earlier today in the form of a very unexpected (to me) BBC News sub-site:


    I tend to only read dictionaries straight through if they’re like this one – focused on a particular area. There are a few I’ve read multiple times, like Hobson-Jobson and the American Heritage Indo-European Roots one. I’m currently in the middle of falling asleep every night while reading the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism on my phone, although the long Pali/Sanskrit words and the way they transliterate the Tibetan terms make it rough on the eyes.

  8. If you remove “?auto=download” from the URL, it won’t download the book, but it’s painful to read it on academia.edu page by page.

  9. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    My understanding of what they speak in the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andrés was English with a Caribbean accent, not a creole as indicated in the dictionary. However, I’ve only met one person from there, and maybe it’s only educated people who speak as she did. Before I met her I was informed that she was Argentinian and that she was head of the chemistry department at the Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta. I was quite surprised to find that she was quite unlike any other Argentinian I’d ever met (tall and robust-looking, with a suggestion of a small component of African ancestry) and that she spoke very good English with what sounded to me like a Jamaican accent. It turned out that she was married to someone from Providencia or San Andrés and had learned her English there. I thought that that explained the Jamaican accent.

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    Looks quite good, though I was taken aback at turning to the entry on “Africa, West” (as one naturally does) to read

    Most of the countries of West Africa are former colonies of England

    which would come as news to the French (and perhaps also to the Scots, Welsh and Irish.) It certainly is true, however, that most West African people live in countries which were former colonies of Britain (with Nigeria as the enormous thumb on the scales.)

    I could pick a few other holes in areas which happen to be particular interests of mine, but that is hardly fair criticism of such an encyclopaedic effort. It looks pretty useful.

  11. FORTH & BARGY Archaic Irish dialect of English that died out in the early nineteenth century

    … and besides liking the name it’s interesting to me for a few second-syllable stresses in its pronunciation. The best commentary is here, Yola.

  12. John Cowan says

    they speak in the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andrés

    Probably a cline between Creole and English, with a lot of possibilities in between, much as in Jamaica or Scotland.

  13. Alon Lischinsky says

    unlike any other Argentinian I’d ever met (tall and robust-looking, with a suggestion of a small component of African ancestry)

    I can’t speak to height or robustness, but African ancestry is far from uncommon in Argentina

  14. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Yes, I was vaguely aware that Buenos Aires once had a very high proportion of inhabitants with African ancestry, but it’s not something you notice today, in contrast to what you see in, say, Montevideo, where there is a definite black population.

  15. Alon Lischinsky says

    Roughly 10% of the Uruguayan population has Black African origin, and most of them are clustered in Montevideo, so that would be as noticeable as the African-American population in Washington, DC

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