Boontling is a folk language spoken only in Boonville in Northern California.

History and description of Boontling

Although based on English, Boontling's unusual words are unique to Boonville, California. Scottish Gaelic and Irish, and some Pomoan and Spanish, also influenced the vocabulary of the language. [Haddock, Vicki. [ "Hamlet's Dying Lingo"] in "San Francisco Chronicle", February 5, 2001.] Boontling was invented in the late 1800s and had quite a following at the turn of the century. It is now mostly spoken only by aging counter-culturists and native Anderson Valley residents. Because the town of Boonville only has a little over 700 residents, Boontling is an extremely esoteric dialect, and is quickly becoming archaic. It has over a thousand unique words and phrases.

Origins of Boontling

The Anderson Valley, of which Boonville is the largest town, was an isolated farming, ranching, and logging community during the late nineteenth century. There are several differing versions as to the origin of Boontling. Some assert that the dialect was created by the women, children, and young men in the hop fields and sheep shearing sheds as a means of recreation, and that it spread through the community as the children continued using it when they grew up. [ [ "A Little Boont"] at the Anderson Valley Museum] Myrtle R. Rawles explains that Boontling was started by the children of Boonville as a language game which enabled them to speak freely in front of elders without being understood. [Rawles, Myrtle R. (1967); "Boontling: The Strange Boonville Language". Mendocino Historical Society, p.3] It is believed that the language originated from Ed (Squirrel) Clement and Lank McGimsey, in or about the year 1890.

Documenting the lingo

Based on interviews of family and neighbors, Rawles wrote an article, "Boontling, or the strange Boonville language," which was published by the California Folklore Society in "Western Folklore", volume 25, in 1966, and again by the Mendocino County Historical Society in 1967. [ [ "Boontling, or the strange Boonville language"] at] Researcher Charles C. Adams studied the lingo in the 1960s and wrote a doctoral dissertation based on his research. In 1971 University of Texas Press published his book, "Boontling: an American lingo", which included an extensive dictionary. ["Hamlet's Dying Lingo" in "San Francisco Chronicle"] Boontling briefly enjoyed a national audience in the mid-1970s when a Boontling speaker name Bobby (Chipmunk) Glover was a regular guest on the well-known "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" on the NBC television network.Because Boontling is a spoken language, rather than a written one, spellings of words vary greatly. Most spellings were not formalized until the 1970s, primarily by the writings of Boontling historian Jacky June.


*Abaloneyite or Abber - a resident of Albion on the seacoast where abalone abounded.
*abe - to butt or crowd in so as to push a person out of line and take his or her place.
*airtight - a sawmill.
*applehead - a young girl; girlfriend or wife.
*ark - to wreck something: an anagram, probably from "wreck".


*back-dated chuck - a person who is ignorant or behind the times
*breggo - sheep
*briny - the coast
*bucky walter - a payphone


*teebow - deaf.
*tuddies - crazy.
*tuffer - a sheep hard to shear; a tough one.
*tweed - a child; a teen-ager.


*walter - a telephone. Named after Walter Levi, the first person in town to have one installed.
*weese - a small child; an infant
*Wes - a harmless fish.
*Wheeler - a fit; a tantrum.
*wilk - a wild cat.


*zeese - coffee: Zachariah Clifton "Z.C." or Zeese Blevens was a coffee drinker.

See also

*Californian English
*Speech community


Rawles, Myrtle R. (1966); "Boontling: The Strange Boonville Language". California Folklore Society.


Further reading

* "Boontling: An American Lingo," by Charles Adams, ISBN 0-939665-05-0.
* "A Slib of Lorey" (translation: A bit of folklore) by Edna Sanders, no ISBN.
* "English to Boontling" by Judy Belshe-Toernblom. Published by ISBN 978-0-9655530-2-5

External links

* [ A basic history of Boontling]
* [ More Boontling...]
* [ Boontling: An American Lingo]
* [] History of Boontling at the Anderson Valley Museum
* [ Mendocino Middle School Boontling Dictionary]
*Haddock, Vicki. [ "Hamlet's Dying Lingo"] in "San Francisco Chronicle", February 5, 2001.
* [ Voices of The Valley (Anderson Valley): Bobby Glover]

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