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Mendocino County dialect close to extinction

Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.

BOONVILLE — A Mendocino County dialect that is one of just two homegrown languages in the United States may soon go extinct.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Tuesday ( that there are only about a dozen speakers of Boontling left.

The dialect from the area around the small Mendocino County town of Boonville consists of more than 1,500 words, many of them drawn from local names. The Chronicle says a phone booth, for example, is a 'buckey walter,' because a century ago someone named Walter had the first phone in the area and charged a nickel — then called a buckeye — to use it.

Other words are variations of existing nouns. The exact origins of Boontling are not known.

But linguistics experts say only Appalachian English in the Southeastern United States is similar in scope.

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