Daily Archives: March 16, 2009

hinterland

This word will immediately remind many Canadians of Hinterland Who’s Who, which peppered our younger years with brief televised vignettes about fauna in the great backyard of our vast land, accompanied by a cheery little flute tune. In fact, it’s still active – see www.hww.ca (they’ve jazzed up the tune a bit, but the flute’s whiff of the ’70s is still discernible). Those not so primed may be influenced by the hint or inter (with that h that can add a haunting or hairy breath coming up as a gust from the hinterland of the vocal tract, while the remaining consonants are voiced – except for the t – and at the front of the mouth). One might hear echoes of winter or hinder. But speakers of German will know that hinter is “behind.” OK, but behind what? Well, the coast, originally, and the doctrine of the hinterland assigns as territory to a port those inland areas that supply it. But now coasts aren’t the only centres of commerce or primary points of encounter; some rather large inland cities don’t seem as “hinter” as all that. So hinterland now refers more to the boondocks, the backwoods, the bush, the sticks – a place where the only people who go around dressed in black all the time are the Amish. Ironically, a word often seen near – though not abutting – hinterland is city, for the contrast. The adjective you’re perhaps most likely to see with hinterland, however, is vast.