Out in the Boondocks?

The other day, I was working on my fiction series and had one of my characters refer to the “boondocks.” My editor brain got to wondering whether I was using the best word to mean “a remote, unsophisticated rural area.”

So I looked up synonyms, expecting a list of other southern-fried words. I mean, you can just hear the drawl: “Buh-oon-dawks.”

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the word comes from the Tagalog word “bundok,” meaning “mountain.”


I’d heard of the language, but all I knew was that it ain’t from around here. So I had to follow that rabbit trail engage in further research.

Turns out that Tagalog is spoken in the Philippine Islands. The language originated from Luzon, the largest island.

Luzon… that name rang a bell.

Because my dad was there during World War II.

Dad’s old telegraph key, which I keep on my desk.
Trust me–it isn’t connected to anything.

Dad served in the Merchant Marine as a radio operator on one of the “Liberty Ships.” I’d written up his experiences as he told me about them, and entered the story in the Creative Non-Fiction category of my university’s writing contest. Click here for the portion where he “visited” Luzon. It was kinda funny.

As for “boondocks,” the term migrated to the US over a century ago, with Marines who’d fought in the Philippines. It was re-introduced here during World War II, by people like my own dad.

This odd moment of connection felt a little nostalgic. I wish I could’ve called Dad to tell him what I’d learned.

Anyway, from now on I’ll treat the word “boondocks” with more respect, y’all.

Thanks for reading,

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
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6 Responses to Out in the Boondocks?

  1. Steve Miller says:

    Yup, from the Philippines. But I have an unfair advantage. I’ve been there.
    Here’s another one for you: Where is “bikini” from?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I seem to recall hearing that the swimsuit is named after a place… maybe an atoll or something? in Hawaii?


      • Steve Miller says:

        Close. The swimsuit was named after the atoll where the nuclear bomb was tested in 1946. The suit was thought by the designer to have an explosive affect. But I know a linguistics professor who thinks the word “pikinini” (for child in Melanesian Pidgin) came from the same word, meaning “small”.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. DONNA PRICE says:

    We support missionaries who are in the Philippines so I am aware of the Tagalog language.


  3. dtills says:

    Quite interesting! Never really thought about that one before, thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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