Boise Slang

by JM Pence, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 31st 2010 04:39 AM

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Boise Slang

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It's hard to believe that an all-American city like Boise, Idaho has its own local language. But it does, starting with the name of the city itself. Pronounce it wrong, and it's a dead giveaway that you're from out-of-state. Here's a guide to Bosie slang that will soon have you speaking like a Boisean.


1. "Boy-see"

If you want to sound like you're a native of the area, pronounce Boise, "boy-see." Only outsiders say "boy-zee."

Legend has it that the name comes from the first French mountain men who arrived here after crossing the dry, treeless Snake River plain. They were so thrilled when they saw the cottonwoods lining the Boise River that they cried out, "Les bois! Les bois!" ("The trees! The trees!").

Where the final "e" in Boise came from is anybody's guess. You'll find lots of "bois" (pronounced "bwah") in Boise language. Even the racetrack is at Les Bois Park.


2. "Mos – coe"

Moscow, Idaho is the location of the University of Idaho's main campus. Here, it's always pronounced "mos-coe," or, as people say, "There are no cows in Moscow."

Actually, there are quite a few cows in the area, which is in the central part of the state, by the Washington border. There are none, however, in the pronunciation.


3. "Owyhee"

The huge mountain range southeast of Boise (and visible from the city) has the strange name "oh-why-he." Many people think it must be a Native American word. They couldn't be more wrong.

In the 1800s, people from all over the world came to Idaho, initially for fur trading, and later in search of gold and silver. This included a group from, of all places, Hawaii. Unfortunately, three of these Hawaiians went into the mountains in hope of finding gold or silver and were never seen again.

The mountains were named "Owyhee," the pronunciation used at that time for what we now call "Hawaii," in honor of those lost men.

By the way, the mining town of Silver City is still in existence in the Owyhee. But it's only accessible in summer. Venture there in winter and you may never be seen again.


4. "BoDo"

This is a relatively new term in Boise slang, pronounced "bow" as in "tie a ribbon into a bow," and "doe" as in John Doe, or a female deer. It stands for "Boise Downtown" and is used for a new group of shops centered near Grove and 8th Streets. And yes, the name, even in Boise, is the butt of a lot of jokes and snickers.


5. "Chinden"

For some reason, a lot of out-of-towners want to pronounce the name of this major street that runs through the area from Eagle to Garden City to Boise as "shin-den." In Boise lingo, it is actually pronounced "chin-den," saying, "chin" just like the knobby thing below your mouth.

The name is short for "Chinese Gardens." Before Idaho became a state, it was home to some beautiful Chinese gardens (the Chinese also came to Idaho in search of gold and silver). Boise was also home to a number of Chinese gambling dens, along with many gambling dens not run by Chinese settlers.

Chinden Street had so much gambling, in fact, that when Boise City decided to outlaw the practice, the area along Chinden declared itself an independent city. Thus, Garden City was born, surrounded by Boise. Garden City exists to this day. Gambling, however, is still outlawed throughout the state.


6. "Jaialdi"

Jaialdi ("hai-al-dee") means "festival" in Basque and in Boise lingo. Few people realize that the Boise area has the largest population of Basque in the United States.

Every five years Boise hosts an enormous festival that goes on for five or more days, featuring Basque food, drink, dancing and sports. Even dignitaries from the Basque homeland, located on the Spanish-French border in the Pyrenees Mountains and along the Bay of Biscay, come to Boise to celebrate.

The Basque language is completely unique, and does not stem from the "Romance" roots of French, Spanish or Italian. The Basque people have long struggled for independence for their land.


7. "Rendezvous"

There are many French names found in Idaho as a result of those French mountain men that first came to the area when the U.S. was nothing more than thirteen colonies. Periodically, these men would gather at a "rendezvous" point for days of wild revelry after the hardships and loneliness they faced as trappers.

Today, you'll still find rendezvous ("ron-day-voo") festivals throughout the state. It's said that the modern versions of rendezvous are considerably less raucous.

It's also said that the pronunciation of the many French words that have been adopted by Idahoans are enough to make a Parisian weep.


8. "Kootenai"

Boise local language is replete with Native American Indian names, most pronounced locally unlike anything ever heard in the Old West. For instance, there is a county, a town and at least one Boise street named for the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho. In downtown Boise it is pronounced as "Koot-nee" Street.


9. "kai-yohts" "var-mits" "crick"

In Boise, local lingo includes plenty of cowboy lingo, of course. Anyone needs to pick up at least a little when you visit these parts and beyond. Be sure to pronounce common Old West words in their properly improper fashion.

For example, the "coyote." This scavenger is found all over Boise. Forget "kai-yoh-tee." In Idaho, they're known as "kai-yohts," and more often, varmints. Or rather, "var-mits."

Another example is "creek." Here, you don't fish in "creeeek," you fish in a "crick" (Sounds just like the thing you get in your neck if you stare at the crick too long when fishing).

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