Trivia Teaser

Which word is closest in meaning to 'salacious'?


Far, far away


By Miranda

How far do you have to travel to be in the boondocks? And how far has the word 'boondocks' travelled to become a part of the English language?

I was quite surprised to find that Oxford dates its arrival from the 1940s - I was so sure I'd heard this in black-and-white Westerns seen either in childhood or, more likely, while I was 'studying' at uni (oh, and there's an abbreviation that's unheard of outside Australia and, I think, New Zealand, those people in other lands attempting this particular sort of further education attending either an uncondensed university or a college, apparently).

Where was I? In the 'boondocks', which derives from the word 'bundok' in the Tagalog language of the Philippines in which it means a mountain. And if you've ever tried walking through forested mountain terrain in or close to the tropics, you'll know why the word came to be associated with the back of beyond and places inaccessible, undeveloped and, probably, sparsely populated, with or without the few metres of annual rainfall the Philippines mountains might have had.

To my relief, Merriam-Webster set the 'boondocks' even further back in time. Well, all right, a decade further back to the 1930s. So my Westerns boondocks may still be possible, though both the dictionaries agree that the word reached North America by way of successive US Army activities in the Philippines which might mean the use emerged in the war genre rather than the cowboy one.

These days it might be appropriate to think of the 'boondocks' as being remote in the sense of lack of communication, that is, those areas where there's no mobile or cell phone coverage. Roll on (or out) the national broadband system, I say (this is another Australian reference - given where you're reading this you're more likely than some to appreciate the advantages of this medium for people in distant regions, of which Australia has many).

So I'm heading for the boondocks, yes, with genuine mountains and rainforest, for a few days of walking, staying where there's definitely no TV and probably no telephone. Bliss! I'll keep an ear cocked for new language usages and, in the meantime, I discern a gap in the English language for a word describing the notion, 'this path is a seething mass of leeches and I should prefer not to continue along it'. Printable submissions, please.



8 Responses to

Far, far away

no1llama said:
November 04, 2011 at 2:22 PM

You've come in from the boonies, hey it's the country hicks, what's it like living in the past, come to see how the people of the future live?, it must be interesting being unsophisticated, Oh, it's the country mice, Look out, is that a bit of straw in your hair; these are all comments one of my 'city uncles' used to throw our way. He lived an equal distance from the center of Melbourne, just on the opposite side. We are certainly not the boonies these days, well, not to our minds anyway! But, I can tell you that they are a nice place to live-or visit! As for the means of describing your notion, there are several that are printable, and I am sure you know enough of the unprintable options to call upon them if these fail. You could try: Not a chance: Get over yourself, I'm not doing that: You first (after which you can choose to continue, or turn around and go back): NO (emphatically): I think I've twisted my ankle, I might have to wait here: I left the compass behind, I'll just have to go back and get it. Don't worry if you get lost, once I have the compass, I will be able to come back and find you... Personally, I think I would just take a book and say "See you when you get back, take lots of photos, ok!" Good luck, and enjoy your break from technology.

November 04, 2011 at 4:41 PM

In the mid 1950's I spent a year and a half living on a farm in Mooroopna/Toolamba (can't remember exactly which, it stood almost exactly between the two. The irrigation channel ran !!!across the back of it, and we used to swim in it in the hot weather. One day I got out with the longest, fattest leech I ever saw, or have seen since, attached to my body. UGH!!!! I still loathe leeches. Why can't they stay in the tripics where they belong?

hdted4 said:
November 05, 2011 at 7:48 AM

I have a friend attending university in Austria and she calls it 'uni' (she pronounces it 'oonee' in Austrian). I don't know if it's something she picked up from chatting to me (via IM) or if it's something she's always said. What makes me think that they've always said the abbreviation is that just down the street from the university is a pizza shop called Uni Pizzaria.

November 05, 2011 at 9:21 AM

German pronunciation of university is effectively "oonivairsitate" and I must confess, that in my old age, I have forgotten how to actually spell it.

tasteach said:
November 05, 2011 at 1:08 PM

I have just visited a town called Boondocks near Deadwood in South Dakota. It is set up as a town with retro 50's diner, cars, petrol station. Asked for a strawberry shake - thinking milk with a bit of icecream - no virtually all icecream blended smoothly. Here is link if you want to check it out

November 05, 2011 at 1:56 PM

We hadn't heard of the Boondocks where I grew up in country South Australia. It was the Black Stump there. Beyond the Black Stump!

louigi said:
November 06, 2011 at 10:05 PM

Where I live in the US, the idea of boondocks, or "boonies" conjures up the image of run-down shacks or mobile homes, maybe an old car rusting in a field, or an old fridge sitting in the back yard. Yes, and no cell phone reception!

Jf said:
November 07, 2011 at 3:42 AM

'Uni' is pretty much standard in the UK.