Anderson Valley

Will “Boontling” Become a Dead Language?

The Anderson Valley Brewing Company website uses the phrase “bahl hornin’” to describe its products. That means “good drinking” in Boontling, the distinctive dialect spoken in the valley since before the Civil War. Its several thousand residents coined some 1,500 words–some derived from people’s names, others from twisting English nouns–and created a language that was unintelligible to outsiders.

Sadly, Boontling is on the verge of dying. The valley’s remaining speakers are getting on in years, and younger residents haven’t learned it. Its demise will leave the Anderson Valley culturally poorer. As one local resident put it, “One day it will be like if you looked out there and saw there were no more lilies, or no more oak trees.”

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