Thursday, October 13, 2011


We left Mendocino late in the day with plans to have a beer at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. I had never visited the small town of Booneville, but I had tasted their awesome beers. As in most craft breweries, they have offerings you cannot buy bottled at your local store.  The place was ten deep at the bar and Jim impatient to move on. (He isn’t a fan of craft brews.)
I believe this is the only North American town that has its own folk language called Boontling. Since he had never heard of Boontling, I thought maybe some of you may not have. The beer labels have this to say in Boontling:  “It’s bahl hornin’”   Which means, it’s good drinking.
An explanation of Boontling  from the Boonville Historical Society:


A Little Boont

Boontling has received worldwide interest as a linguistic phenomenon. A few of the words you might see or hear while in Anderson Valley include: bahl gorms (good food), buckey walter (pay phone), pike (to walk or travel), rookie-to (quail), harp (to talk or speak), horn of zeese (cup of coffee) and Boont (Boonville).
Around the turn of the century, Anderson Valley was a very isolated farming and logging community. To pass the time (and have a little fun at it), the locals began to use self-developed terms. The language originated with the women and children workers in the hop fields and eventually spread to become the spoken word for most valley residents. Today, with most fluent “boonters” in their elder years, the Boonting Club, Historical Society and many local businesses work to keep the language alive. Listed below are some common Boontling Terms:
  • Aplenty Bahl Steinber Horn: Really great beer.
  • Apple Head: A girl friend.
  • Bahlest: excellent or great
  • Bahl Hornin’: good drinking
  • Barney Flats: Hendy Woods National Forest. A spectacular forest of virgin redwoods, located in Anderson Valley.
  • Belk Region: Bell Valley. A scenic valley located just beyond the baldies, northeast of Boonville. It was here in the hop fields, during the turn of the century, that the language of Boontling originated.
  • Boont: Boonville. The largest community and focal center of Anderson Valley. The town where the language of Boontling originated. Now famous for its local brewery.
  • Bucky: A nickel (A politically incorrect reference to the Indian head).
  • Bucky Walter: A telephone
  • Charlie Ball: To embarrass (A local indian of this name was easily embarrassed).
  • Deep Enders: Residents of the town of Navarro, located due west of Anderson Valley and bordering the Pacific Coast.
  • Heelch: A large quantity.
  • High Rollers: Residents of the town of Yorkville, the smallest town in Anderson Valley. Located 10 miles east of Boonville.
  • Horn: A drink; to drink. (Dialectal.)
  • Jeffer: A large fire. (A Boonter named Jeff built large fires in his fireplace.)
  • Shoveltooth: A doctor; an M.D. (A local doctor was so nicknamed because he had protruding teeth.)
  • It’s not just shy sluggin’ gorms neemer: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.
  • It’s a slow lope’n a beeson tree: Literally a comfortable pace on a horse, while sitting on a very comfortable saddle. Commonly referred to mean “a mellow ride.”
  • Pike: A hike or stroll
  • Poleeko: Philo. The second largest town in Anderson Valley, located 6 miles west of Boonville.
  • Rudy nebs: pristine, mineral rich, well water.
  • Tidrik: A party; a social gathering. (Probably from “tea drink,” a dialectal expression meaning the same thing.)
  • Zeese: Coffee. (A local hunter-camp cook nicknamed Zeese, from his initials Z.C., made bitterly strong coffee.
At one time, people would stop at a Booneville Cafe, or the gas station, and hear this strange language  and wonder if the town’s people were  a bit daft. While they are quite comfortable among themselves with their lingo,  some folks admitted  to “putting  it on”  a bit for the tourists.  It must have helped. The lingo put Boonville forever in the history books as a unique place.
I’ve read of instances of children forming their own personal language. And folk languages are fairly common in other countries, Australia, and Germany,  to name two.  When Jim and I traveled last year through southern Louisiana, the Cajun French is  clearly an adapted form of French, English and German, a living language particular to that region. Living language changes within our lifetimes and it makes me wonder about the proclivities of texting, and computer short-speak.  How will it affect our language?  Pity the French. They have a language minister whose job it is to protect the language from being bastardized. A losing battle in my opinion.

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