Printable Version
Pronunciation: po-dêngk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A small, backward, insignificant town, lacking normal amenities. 2. [Adjective] Small and small-town, insignificant, as a podunk college or podunk restaurant.

Notes: We can argue over whether Native Americans kidnapped European kids in the past as we often see in the movies but there is no question that English kidnapped thousands of Native American words: muskrat, woodchuck, squash, and today's Good Word are not even the tip of the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Podunk's origin (see History) explains why it is a lexical orphan, without any paronyms.

In Play: Keep in mind that a podunk is not only small but technologically retarded: "I'll tell you why I didn't answer your e-mail: we spent the night in some podunk where they think microchips are found in the bottom of potato chip bags." It is difficult to tell whether this Good Word is also an adjective or just a noun used in attributive position: "Anita Job went to some podunk college where the professors took turns serving in the cafeteria."

Word History: In 1846 the Daily National Pilot of Buffalo, NY asked the question ?Where in the world is Podunk?? This may have been the question that set the stage for the assumption that Podunk is a small and insignificant place. The word originates with the Podunk Indians, an Algonquian tribe that once lived on the land where Hartford, Connecticut now stands. Algonquian pautunke means "where you sink in mire", that is, a bog. It may be onomatopoetic, imitating the sound of a frog jumping into water (like kerplunk). In any event, it was given as a name to various boggy areas in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, which may explain why the towns built in such places tend not to grow. (We are happy that Lyn Laboriel didn't get so bogged down as to have no time to recommend today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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