Ever Chipmunked a Belhoon or Spent Your Last Bucky on Skee? If You Spoke Boontling, You’d Know the Answer

It's English -- just barely... it's called boontling -- and it's probably like nothing you've ever heard before.

Mike Greenwoodby Mike Greenwood

In season 2 of "Breaking Bad," thinking he's a pushover, an underperforming student pleads to chemistry teacher/meth lord Walter White for leniency in regards to a failed test, claiming he studied "…really, really hard." Walt, not buying his empty appeal, replies, “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” However, if Heisenberg were living in Boonville, a farming town in Anderson Valley, Calif., he would have said, “Don’t booch a boocher” instead.

Walter White

Anderson Valley is home to one of the most fertile hop-growing regions in America and supplies the essential ingredient to breweries around the world. It was in those same fields towards the end of the 19th century that farmers and hop-pickers developed their own type of jargon.

While the true origin is slightly murky, some say it was created by the women which worked the fields so they could gossip openly without the girl they were gossiping about catching on. Some say it was the children of Boon that created it so their parents wouldn’t know what they were up to. Regardless of its etymology, it eventually worked its way into the lexicon of the entire town and became a secret weapon for keeping brewing recipes and techniques out of the ears of competing farmers.

But let’s be honest, only a man could devise a dialect with five different words for masturbation — bat, batter, beelch, bilch and bloocher (which, as you've undoubtedly noticed, has two meanings…).

Boontling technically can’t be classified as a language or a dialect. It uses the same grammatical structure as English and suffuses its strange regional phraseology with English words. Its archaic jargon is peppered with regional sobriquets, as many of its words owe their existence to specific individuals from Anderson Valley lore. A big fire is a “Jeffer”, named after a fire lovin’ hotel manager named Jeff. You put “Bill Nunn” on your pancakes, because Bill Nunn used to put syrup on everything. And you make a phone call on the “Walter” because Walter was the first person to have a phone installed.


What makes this “language” distinctly American is that, like the Creole dialects of the South, it is a melting pot of dialects and words from the early settlers in the region. Boontling borrows terms from Gaelic and Irish and some phrases from Spanish. It also is influenced by the increasingly rare Pomoan dialect of the Pomo Native American’s which occupied the Russian River Area of Northern California.

Despite a consistent presence, Boontling’s heyday has come and gone. There was an article by Myrtle Rawles, “Boontling: The Strange Boonville Language”, which brought it modest national attention in the late 60s and Bobby (Chipmunk) Glover, a regular on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," brought the strange “dialect” to the ears of America in the seventies. 



Since then, however, boontling is going the way of the Shakers. With less than 700 inhabitants in Boon now, it’s reverted back to its regional nature. Perhaps that’s best, since it’s almost completely incomprehensible — and that’s the point. Boontling was never meant to catch on.  It was meant to prevent you from catching on. For some parting advice, remember, don’t bring a barlow, to an equal fister and don’t gorm and horn all your higgs away and definitely try not to bilch a blue-tail. 

If you want to hear Chipmunk Glover speak this strange dialect, you can here him in these two audio tracks, which might have been used in a Wes Anderson film, and if they haven’t, they will.