piece by Joan Hall, chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, on the progress of that wonderful (and almost complete) 45-year-old project.
DARE's research, wrote Hall, shows that despite popular belief, mass communication has not wiped out local varieties of English. However, she said, "Certain regional terms have been weakened by commercial influences, like Subway’s sub sandwich, which seems to be nibbling away at hero, hoagie, and grinder."
This reminded me of the "For Better or Worse" cartoon above, from June 13, in which John is given a honey-do list that includes "Clean eaves troughs." (I write it as one word, myself, but I see the spellchecker doesn't approve.) Eavestroughs was a common synonym for gutters when I was young, but like the regional names for submarine sandwiches, it seems to have been marginalized by national advertisers, who made gutters the generic term.
DARE's map shows eaves trough (also known as eave trough and eaves troth) widely disseminated across the Northern states and throughout California, though not in Eastern Massachusetts. The dictionary quotes a 1961 comment from the journal American Speech: "Eaves troughs and eaves … trail far behind the commercial term [=gutters]. Their markedly greater use by [older] informants suggests that both terms are on the way out."
Maybe, maybe not. Lynn Johnston, creator of "For Better or Worse," is Canadian, and thus not on DARE's map, but apparently she's been living in dialect regions where eaves trough continues to thrive.
*Thanks to Visual Thesaurus and to Mr. Verb for the link.