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    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

THE BACKSIDE OF BEYOND, and other ways of describing nowhere

When you start wondering where a figure of speech came from, you sometimes find yourself on dark literary backroads, if not actually in BF Egypt.

It was during a search for the town of Waldo, New Mexico that my husband described our extremely rural surroundings as “BF Egypt.” And such is the nature of our car conversations on these occasions, I was shortly whipping out my iPhone in an effort to discover just why “B*** F*** Egypt” (to use the full (more or less) expression) should be a common idiom for the backside of beyond.

It was an entertaining search, during which we discovered that all kinds of cultures have an idiom that pretty much means, “Out in the sticks,” if not absolutely, “Farther away than nowhere.” The British do not use “BF Egypt,” which seemed odd in light of their expeditionary and exploratory history in the desert regions. Still, they do seem aware of their adventurous heritage: current British idiom is “in the bundu”—“bundu” being an African word (specific ethnicity unknown) meaning…well, BF Egypt.

Here (courtesy of Wikipedia and its many contributors) is a partial list of popular idioms meaning “a very remote (not to say culturally backward and/or with inhabitants given to deviant sexual practices) place”:

• Anytown, USA and Dullsville in the USA.

• Auchterturra in Scotland, and Glenboggin, which has its own official website.[30]

• Back o’ Bourke in Australia (unspecified remote place). Bourke, New South Wales was the terminus of the railway line from Sydney, thus the start of the real Outback.

• Bally-Go-Backwards in Ireland (unspecified remote small country town).

• Black Stump or also Albuquerque in Australia and New Zealand (“beyond the black stump” indicates an extremely remote location).

• Up the Boohai (approximately “boo-eye”) in New Zealand, occasionally given as, Up the Boohai hunting pukeko with a long handled shovel. The Boohai is a fictitious river. It is used to indicate that the answerer does not wish to respond to any question involving “where?”. Up the Boohai can also indicate that plans are apparently ruined or an item is extremely non-functional.

• The Boondocks (or the Boonies).

• BFE or Bumblefuck, Egypt (also Bumfuck, Egypt, Butt Fuck, Egypt, or Beyond Fucking Egypt) refers to an unspecified remote location or destination, assumed to be arduous to travel to, unpleasant to visit and/or far away from anything of interest to the speaker (e.g. “Man, you parked way the hell out in BFE”). In Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, this is often referred to as Japip or East Jabip/Jabib. In the Chicago metropolitan area, the term was coined to refer to the region in downstate Illinois known as “Little Egypt”, centered in Cairo, Illinois, for being the furthest from the urban center in both distance and way of life. Bumfuck is also military slang for a remote, hard to get to military base. Has been also rendered as Bumfuck, Iowa or Bumfuck, Wyoming or Bumfuck, Idaho. Bumblefuck, Missouri was popularized by the 1988 movie Rain Man.

• Buttcrack or Upper Buttcrack (usually a New England state).

• Crackerland and Jerkwater (from the 1982 film First Blood, small hometowns of typical US Army recruits).

• East Cupcake.

• East Jahunga.

• East Jesus.

• Four-Fifths of Fuck-All.

• Dog River, Armpit, or Moose Fuck in Canada.

• Hay and Hell and Booligal, an Australian colloquialism for anyplace hot and uncomfortable; made famous by Banjo Patterson’s humorous poem of that title. (Hay and Booligal are actual New South Wales communities in the Riverina.)

• Hickville is used to describe a small farming town. (Hick comes from hillbilly.)

• Loamshire for a rural county in England (and the Loamshires for a regiment based in that county).

• Outer Mongolia used to represent a far and distant land relatively unknown to the average person; also rendered as the imaginary country of Outer Congolia

• Peoria refers to provincial mainstream cities or towns in the US; typically used in expressions like “Will it play in Peoria?”

• Podunk in the USA.

• Sainte-Clotilde-de-Rubber-Boot in Quebec, Canada.

• The Sticks refers to a remote rural location (US + UK)

• Timbuktu is often used to refer to an unspecified but remote place.

• Tipperary can still be used to denote anywhere that is “a long way from home”.

• Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein used to refer to a typical South African small rural town.

• Ultima Thule can mean “beyond the borders of the known world” or a far-north island.

• Upper Rubber Boot in Ontario, Canada.

• Woop Woop, Upper Woop Woop, Oodnawoopwoop, or Wopwops in Australia and New Zealand (often “out Woop Woop” as in, “they live out Woop Woop somewhere”, and used when referring to people who live in a country area unfamiliar to the speaker).

• Waikikamukau (pronounced “Why kick a moo-cow”) in New Zealand.

Oh, Waldo, New Mexico? It’s way the heck out in BF Egypt. [g]*

*Actually, Waldo is even farther away than that. One of New Mexico’s small ghost-towns, the entire place was bought up by a salvager in the 1950’s and completely carted away. Nothin’ much left.

[This photo from www.ghosttowns.com, which has the complete story of Waldo.]

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115 Responses »

  1. Hicksville is an actual town on Long Island in NYS and very easy to get to by public transit. In NYC – whose residents consider themselves the center of the universe – I’ve heard people refer dismissively to “oh, on the mainland, where you need a passport”. They say this even though part of NYC, The Bronx, IS on the mainland! I’ve also heard New Yorkers refer to the South Bronx as “where dinosaurs still roam”, probably because the area was notorious for decades as a slum and ceneter of crime and arson (see “Fort Apache: The Bronx”).

  2. I have heard over yonder to refer to a place a fair distance away. For example, if you asked a local for directions, you may get told to go over yonder a hill or over yonder in a particular direction.

  3. Hey Diana, that was a fun post!
    I have a few spanish ones (from Argentina):

    - En el culo del mundo ( world’s butt)
    - Donde el diablo perdió el poncho (where the devil lost his poncho)
    - la loma del pedo (fart hill)
    - la loma del culo (butt hill)

    (we do seem to have an obsession with butts, right?)

  4. In New York (City), we always used “Bumfuck Georgia.” My sister has always referred to Sullivan County, NY, where she had her first teaching jobs, as the “armpit of the universe.” I now live in Arizona and am often convinced that I am driving in the “back of beyond,” especially when there isn’t another car in sight and a tumbleweed bigger than my car barrels across the road.

  5. Yay! As a lifelong Bumfuck Egyptite (in the literal sense, southern Illinoisan), I approve this message! And thanks, I truly didn’t know (but suspected) it had to do with good ol’ southern Illinois (a.k.a. Little Egypt).

  6. P.S. One of my favorite sites for this kind of word or phrase origin story is World Wide Words (www.worldwidewords.org). It did not, however, have BF Egypt…

  7. Those are great!! I grew up in New England and it was always “we’re in East Chapeepee somewhere”. I guess it was a nod to all our Native Americans here.

  8. All of these were great! Around here I have always heard BFE, the sticks, or the back forty. Although, in my family, I have also heard Hell’s half acre. I have never heard it said outside my family though. “Where have you been? We have looked all over Hell’s half acre for you!”

    • I’ve heard Hell’s Half Acre quite a few times, and have often used it to question my sanity while Christmas shopping. “Why, exactly, am I tramping over Hell’s Half Acre trying to find a pink and green Furbee?”

  9. Hence the title of a Nevil Shute novel: Beyond The Black Stump.

  10. This post reminded me of one my grandmother (a lifelong New Englander) has used as long as I can remember. If someone (usually my grandfather) went out on an errand and was gone for an unusually long time, by her estimation, she would sarcastically say, ” where’d you go? Jabrew?”. Or she would describe a remote location as being “way out in Jabrew”. I’ve never heard anyone else use this term and I carefully read through the comments to see if anyone else mentioned it because I’d love to know if she just made it up herself or if she got it from somewhere. It’s similar enough to Jabip, mentioned in your post, that I imagine it could be a bastardization of that same term.

  11. Unless I missed its inclusion above, when I lived in Nashville for a short period of time, others’ abbreviation/rebirth of BFE or East Bumf*ck turned into “East BuFu.” Which I use on a regular basis as my husband insists on parking there every time we go anywhere.

    Very interesting reading :)

  12. When I was growing up,,,as a cool teenager our hometown was “Nowheresville”

  13. Too funny – thanks for laughs Diana! I live in Colorado and we used BFE growing up. We also used
    “Kansas” to describe anything way east (within our city limits that is). As in “he lives way out in Kansas”. I suppose because the mountains describe everything to the west, we needed something to describe the east too!
    My favorite was four-fifths of fuck all :-)

  14. In Louisiana we say: your in Swampland. We also say “No man’s land “. I have also heard people call it the boonie’s or the sticks. BFE is common around here but I never heard BF Egypt before. Enjoyed all the comments this morning. Thanks!

  15. I’m reasonably certain that “boondocks” originated as a Fillipino word for rural areas. American soldiers picked it up because that’s where they fought Fillipino insurgents. This was about 100 years ago.

    I wouldn’t be surprized to find that there really was a place in Egypt (a port or military site most likely) that sounded a lot like “Bumfuck.”

  16. And then there’s Woody Guthrie’s wonderful lyrics of “Way over yonder in the minor key” – music by Billy Bragg. Definitely a catchy tune with words referring to being in BFE!

  17. I’m 69 and have used BFE for ever. Can’t believe no one mentioned one of my favorites – Forty miles outside of town and plum back in the sticks! With my family history that would have come from Kentucky or Oklahoma? It’s interesting that while there are references to the North Forty and the back forty again no one mentioned the South Forty which is the version I grew up with. Great stuff! Learned almost as much as I did in my Soc 101 class when we spent an entire class period listing all the derogatory names people use for other groups we could come up with. I learned a LOT that day!

  18. . . .and there is also “The middle of nowhere”

  19. I think honorable mention should be made of Shangri-La. It is, of course, a fictional “never-never land” described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. But, when FDR was asked where the Doolittle bombers had taken off from for their Tokyo raid in 1942, he answered, “Shangri-La.” Subsequently, an aircraft carrier was named “Shangri-La.”

  20. I loves the books’ series; but am a first time visitor to the website. Diana, you are such a hoot! It would be great fun just to hang out with you for a while!!! I am a veteran and have BEEN to BFE – several different times & places. There’s a piece of property I wanted to buy that my brother said “isn’t out in the middle of nowhere, but you can see the middle from there…”

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