'Mountain boomer' = hillbilly (fwd)

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at NYU.EDU
Fri Apr 27 12:40:41 UTC 2001

I came across this same sense yesterday when looking quickly for "mountain
boomer." "Boomer" in the sense attested below means a temporary worker who
seeks employment in a place when there is a "boom," i.e., an economic
expansion, and then moves on when the boom ends. "Boom" in the sense of
"economic expansion" grows out of "boom" in the sense of a loud, echoing,
"expanding" noise. So "boomer" in the sense attested below is etymologically
related to the "boomer" in "mountain boomer," but the semantic relationship
of the two senses is not close. Given our struggles with the actual meaning
of the "boom" in "mountain boomer," your informant's construction of an
"origin" for "boomer = temp employee" is interesting.

BTW, doesn't the word "humorously" in one of the existing OED2 cites for
"mountain boomer" suggest that the word for the squirrel was the original,
serious use, and application of "mounain boomer" to hill dwellers was a
derived sense, a cute assimilation of putatively uncouth uplanders to
loud-mouth squirrels?

At 08:52 PM 4/26/2001 -0700, you wrote:
>This from one of my colleagues, who is a native of northern Alabama:
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 15:51:04 -0700
>From: Robert Houston <houston at u.arizona.edu>
>To: Rudolph C Troike <rtroike at U.Arizona.EDU>
>Subject: Re: 'Mountain boomer' = hillbilly
>Dear Rudy,
>         I haven't heard of a "mountain boomer."  We just called mountain
>folk hillbillies or ridge runners.  But there was a term used in Western
>hard-rock mining circles (e.g. Bisbee, eta al) for men who were basically
>tramp miners, going from mine to mine and working just long enough to get a
>stake to move on.  They were called "ten-day boomers," since 10 days was
>about as long as they'd ever stick around.  Whether that's by analogy to
>"mountain boomers" or visa versa I don't know, but I've always guessed that
>it had something to do with the metaphoric "big noise" they made when they
>blew into town.  But as I think about it, I wonder if it "boomer" might
>have derived from one of the many languages tramps and tramp miners, often
>immigrants, spoke.  Cf. "bindlestiff," for a hobo, with reference to the
>"bindle" (Scandinavian?) or bundle that he carried at the end of a stick
>over his shoulder.
>Robert Houston
>Dept. of English/Creative Writing Program
>The University of Arizona
>Tucson, Az 85721
>At 02:10 AM 4/26/01 -0700, you wrote:
>>         Ever hear of this?
>>         Rudy
>>Date:    Wed, 25 Apr 2001 15:05:45 -0400
>>From:    Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>
>>Subject: "mountain boomer"
>>The term "mountain boomer" has a few senses referring to various types
>>of animals (the red squirrel, the mountain beaver, and the collared
>>lizard), and a sense referring to people, = 'hillbilly'. This sense
>>only slightly postdatess the 'red squirrel' sense.
>>Does anyone have an idea about the derivation of the 'hillbilly'
>>sense? The quots in DARE (from Kephart, and a LAGS informant) link it
>>to the 'squirrel' sense, but since these quots are so much later than
>>either word arose, it could just be a later association with the
>>common squirrel word; I don't know if we can actually assume that the
>>'hillbilly' sense is a transferred application of the term for a
>>squirrel. And what about the _boomer_--DARE suggests (s.v. "boomer,"
>>which used alone postdates "mountain boomer" by 20 years) that it's
>>from standard _boom_ 'to make a hollow sound', but surely the
>>squirrel, or the beaver or the lizard, doesn't make such a sound.
>>Jesse Sheidlower
Greg Downing, at greg.downing at nyu.edu or gd2 at nyu.edu

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