If you've been around Northern California for a while, you should know about Boontling, the weird, charming, very country sounding dialect that was invented about 150 or so years ago in the Anderson Valley town of Boonville. It uses proper names and various slang words in English to stand in for other words, and it may have been invented so men in the town could talk dirty amongst themselves without the ladies knowing. In any event, the 12 people left who can speak it fluently are getting very old, and the Chron has just published a new piece about it.

You can hear some snippets in the video above, via one of its remaining speakers, 80-year-old Wes Smoot.

Linguists have marveled at Boontling over the years, with one English professor at California State University at Chico having written the definitive book on it in 1971. That professor, Charles Adams, says the only other American dialect quite as extensive is Appalachian English. Boontling consists of about 1,500 distinct words and phrases, many of which refer to people from Boonville's history — like the term for telephone, buckey walter, which refers to a guy named Walter who, about 100 years ago, was the first guy in town with a phone, and he charged people a buckeye nickel to use it.

The fun part that we didn't know before is that Boontling is loaded with dirty words, or stand-ins for dirty words, even though the Chron is too prudish to tell us any of them besides the word for having sex: burlappin'.