Theodore Roosevelt 2

Theodore Roosevelt 2

Theodore Roosevelt 2 (2014)
Digital print
20" x 24"

2 lists of Dictionary of American Regional English headwords were used for analysis of Theodore Roosevelt's 1885 book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, to contrast the regional vocabulary of North Dakota and New England. The longer you look, the more you will see—eastern and western images, words, and phrases all layered over the DARE map of corral.

Carrie: Layers, overlap, complexity, frameworks, lenses and perspectives—the influence of language and an author's decisions regarding appropriate descriptors and writing for a specific audience are inherently messy and rich.

Julie: What can be gleaned from examining the same text through two different “lenses”? Naturally, more western words are shown, simply because the geography and subject matter of the text skewed the vocabulary in that direction. It was wonderful, then, to discover that Roosevelt still used some eastern geographical terms as well: gully, gorge, corner, and brook. Sometimes he recognized regional differences, such as when he wrote of the western mountain lion but defined it to his eastern audience who knew it as either a panther or a painter. Other times, he seemed to be using eastern regionalisms, in a way that we at DARE call, "in the wild," such as his use of the words smart, clever, and ugly. Using these words, he may be subtly betraying his roots as he travels the Wild West, or he may be consciously speaking to an eastern audience. Who can say? Who is the intended audience? Which Roosevelt is speaking? Does his language betray (or confirm) how he sees himself? This piece raises many questions that can’t be answered, but are fascinating nonetheless. Further questions arise from the expressions that float outside the two lenses of DARE headwords. They are not yet found in the dictionary but are phrases that beg for further research. They also convey that looking at any text through one—or even two lenses—is never enough. When it comes to language, there are always new frontiers to explore.