[Ads-l] Question about "dow" and "jearse" - emphatic "no" and "yes"

Stephen HOWE showe at FUKUOKA-U.AC.JP
Sun Oct 11 09:14:40 UTC 2015

Dear American Dialect Society,

I am researching special words for "no" and "yes" in Northeastern
American English and wonder whether ADS mailing list members know or
use these words? I teach at a university in Japan but grew up in

"Ayuh" is quite well known, but colonists from Eastern England may
have brought "dow" and possibly "jearse" to New England in the
seventeenth century. Four hundred years later, this distinctive
feature of Eastern English - emphatic "no" and "yes" - still survives
in England and America.

Gerald E. Lewis gives an example of "daow" in "How to Talk Yankee":

"Did you get your deer yet?"
"Daow, I can’t even see one."

And John Gould, author of "Maine Lingo," tells the apocryphal story of
some Maine lobstermen in federal court for price fixing. Washington
lawyers asked a witness a foolish question, to which the witness
replied, "Daow!" The court recessed so that the lawyers could find out
what "daow" meant, and how to spell it.

In the East of England, where I grew up, we still use "dow" and
"jearse" today. However, they are not recorded in the Oxford English
Dictionary, the Survey of English Dialects or Wright's Dialect
Dictionary. Nor were they recorded by the Linguistic Atlas of New
England; but the Dictionary of American Regional English cites "daow"
or "dow" in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and possibly New York State.
I have not found "jearse" in Digital DARE.

I was recently a guest on BBC radio in the U.K., talking about
"jearse" and "dow." To read a short article about my research on
BBC.com, click here:

As a result of the radio survey, I have found that today "jearse" and
"dow" are used or remembered across the East of England, from the
Stour to the Humber, in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and

I would like to find out how widespread "dow" and "jearse" are in
America, and how people use them. My suggested etymology is from "dear
yes" and "dear no," and probably at least 400 years old given "dow" in
both Eastern England and New England.

As is well known, New England migrants and their descendants spread
out from Massachusetts to southern New England, eastern New Jersey and
northern New York, later migrating east and north to Maine and Canada,
and west to the Pacific, founding many cities (Fischer). So I wonder
also whether "dow" or "jearse" are used or remembered in other regions
of the U.S. outside the Northeast?

I am writing a book chapter on "jearse" and "dow" ("Emphatic yes and
no in Eastern English: jearse and dow", in Southern English Varieties:
Then and Now, ed. by Laura Wright, de Gruyter Mouton) and would very
much like to hear from ADS mailing list members about "dow" and
"jearse" in American dialect.

I have more information about my research plus a survey that people
can fill in online at http://stephenhowe.info/dow/

I would be most grateful for any information you might have.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Howe


Dr Stephen Howe, associate professor
Department of English, Fukuoka University
526 Humanities and Social Sciences Center
8-19-1 Nanakuma, Jonan-ku
814-0180 FUKUOKA

Email: showe at fukuoka-u.ac.jp
Phone: + 81 (0)92 871 6631, ext. 3526
Website: http://stephenhowe.info/


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list