Word of the Week (234): PODUNK (*new CSW15*) (probability 19546), by David Sutton

A PODUNK is a small, unimportant town: it takes its name from a river in Hartford County, Connecticut, which was also the name of a tribe of North American Indians who lived in that area.

It is a word that is probably very familiar to American readers, but I had never come across it. I cannot think of a standard British equivalent, though no doubt some will be eager to propound one.

Other derogatory names for places or regions include DULLSVILLE, another Americanism for a boring place where nothing happens. A SHANTYTOWN is a usually poor town or section of a town consisting mostly of shanties. A ROOKERY can be a place where rooks nest, but it can also refer to an area in a town occupied by the poor and often the haven of criminals.

A BOONDOCK is an isolated, usually wild region, normally used in the plural, which is itself often shortened to BOONIES. The word comes from the Tagalog bundok, meaning mountain. Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken in the Philippines.

Then we have BUNDU, a Bantu word for remote undeveloped country, and the South African BACKVELD, while Australia gives us GUMLANDS, infertile land from which the gum trees have been removed. Back in the US, SCABLAND is an area of bare, usually volcanic rock in the north-western US that has been deeply channelled by glacial meltwater, while BADLAND is simply a barren hilly area.


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