Daily Archives: March 19, 2009

boondocks

I know, it’s not normal to cite a word in its plural form. And this isn’t a pseudo-plural, like kudos: the dictionary entry is boondock, from Tagalog (Filipino) bundok “mountain.” But ever since this word hit English (apparently during World War II), it’s been used in the plural as a rule, and with the (that regional the, which (the) Ukraine wishes to shed, and (the) Yukon is ambivalent about, matched with the hand-waving plural: the suburbs, the sticks). Lately its derivative form boonies has become rather popular (also with the). Readers of the comics may think of the comic strip The Boondocks about urban African-American kids living in white suburbs (now an animated series too). Lovers of 1960s music might remember Billy Joe Royal’s 1965 “Down in the Boondocks.” Down is not normally so common with this word, though; out is a more natural match. Perhaps Royal was too much influenced by the docks part of the word. At any rate, in his song, there’s no boon to being in them! The word itself has a sort of sound of a thunderclap – in reverse. It also shares features with sundog (and Moondog, another musical name) and boom box, and even goombah and poontang. There’s a sort of exotic quality to it, in that very rustic way in which ordinary things (boon and docks) can take on strangeness in a dilapidated shack in half-light (or in an Adrew Wyeth painting). That lowing nasal-influenced oo may be heard in moon but it’s also in doom and gloom, and the bookending b and d give it an added hollowness that reverberates voicelessly with the cks, like an echo off a rocky mountainside.