18

I'm looking for a short term describing a town which is not important, possibly looked down on by people coming from other places. There is probably nothing interesting to do there, etc. One expression that comes to mind would be shit-hole, but I'm looking for terms which are either neutral or at most moderately offensive.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 3
    In Sicilian you would say “unni persi i scarpi u Signuri”, i.e., “where the Lord lost his shoes” - not useful for you, but fun to know. – Walter Tross Dec 2 '16 at 18:10
  • 7
    A common expression in Texas, when I was growing up there, was tank town. From Wentworth & Flexner, Dictionary of American Slang (1960): "tank town A small town; a town too small to have a railroad station, but having a railroad water tank, if little else." – Sven Yargs Dec 2 '16 at 19:43
  • 2
    An exclamation rather than a description, so I won't give it as an answer, but ever since John Betjeman's poem "Slough", we've had "Come friendly bombs" used by extension of other towns. – Jon Hanna Dec 2 '16 at 22:08
  • 2
    If you're looking for a colloquialism, it would help to know where in the world you are. Here in Ireland "kip" could work as could "dive" but you may need a qualifier to help reduce the offensiveness, depending on context. For example, it's not entirely offensive to describe a place as being "a bit of a kip" but, if you were being more emphatic, you might say "it was a complete kip but it had some interesting sights to see". – a25bedc5-3d09-41b8-82fb-ea6c353d75ae Dec 2 '16 at 22:57
  • 3
    If you want a moderate-to-highly-offensive term, you might consider Bumfuck: dictionary.com/browse/bumfuck – Nick Weinberg Dec 2 '16 at 23:32

18 Answers 18

28

There are several idioms that come to mind, but they also imply that the town is small:

One-horse town

One-stoplight town

Wide place in the road

Hick town, Hicksville

Jerkwater town

Podunk

  • 13
    Being from a small town, I have to say these are not just "moderately offensive." But I suppose they're better than shit-hole. – JLG Dec 2 '16 at 16:07
  • 5
    @JLG I used the metric of "If I was from a town like that, and wanted to be deprecating about my background, but not sound bitter, what would I say?" – John Feltz Dec 2 '16 at 16:13
  • 18
    No, they're not neutral. They're moderately offensive. What OP asked for. – John Feltz Dec 2 '16 at 16:30
  • 10
    From "Buffy the Vampire Slayer": "[A] one Starbucks town" – Baard Kopperud Dec 2 '16 at 21:31
  • 8
    I find Podunk to be the most precise description of Op's request. No more than moderate offense and re all minimal to any but the most sensitive – Stu W Dec 2 '16 at 23:13
34

Several thoughts:

One-horse town: An old-fashioned expression referring to a small, boring, backward place.

Backwater: A town where nothing important ever happens and progress rarely occurs.

Jerkwater town: A location with little to offer in terms of worthwhile sites or basic conveniences.

Podunk: A fictional locale defined by its insignificance and relative inaccessibility.

  • 3
    Almost all of these were posted in a prior answer. Please do read through earlier answers before posting. – Andrew Leach Dec 2 '16 at 16:14
  • 2
    That answer didn't exist when I was writing my answer. When I started writing my answer, there were no other answers yet. – freeling10 Dec 2 '16 at 16:18
  • 3
    Sorry, I meant to add "including those revealed with the 'new answers' banner", but I figured 17 minutes was a bit long to make that relevant. – Andrew Leach Dec 2 '16 at 16:23
  • 4
    @AndrewLeach I upvoted this answer a while back because the OP provided a brief description, it takes much longer to compose a description for each expression than to merely make a list of phrases. Much as Feltz's answer has been upvoted, I don't consider it to be particularly good for the reasons I stated in my comment under his answer. – Mari-Lou A Dec 4 '16 at 9:16
  • 2
    It's not about being first, it's about being better. Which is why this answer has more votes. And they both have so many votes because they both have "podunk town" in them, which according to Ngram is the clear winner (assuming you include neither backwater nor Hicksville). – Mazura Dec 8 '16 at 4:48
10

Back of beyond used in the figurative sense may suggest a dull, unimportant place:

  • A place that is remote or unsophisticated.

AHD

10

For me, the term burg comes to mind.

Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary:

Informal. a small, quiet city or town.

This has the possibly unfortunate fact that in some contexts it has exactly the opposite connotation. The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus:

Informal. A large and important town

Also consider: the sticks. McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions:

and the sticks n. a rural or backwoods area. (Always with the in this sense and always plural.) You hear a lot about how things are in the sticks. They’re worse.

  • 7
    Coming from a (very) small town, sticks always referred to those who weren't even in the small town. The sticks were unincorporated rural areas. – Leatherwing Dec 2 '16 at 20:33
  • 2
    I am not a native speaker but... doesn't burg just mean small town? What about the part which specifies it is totally uninteresting or boring? There are several interesting burgs in my country (Italy) and I think also in many other places. :) – Andrea Lazzarotto Dec 3 '16 at 17:38
9

A colloquial British English phrase for this is the arse-end of nowhere.

Despite the bodily reference, the phrase is not normally considered particularly offensive, and is definitely a milder phrase than shit-hole.

  • 3
    Even less offensive: back-end of nowhere, or even, "At the end of nowhere" – jpaugh Dec 2 '16 at 20:27
  • To which we must add an 'armpit of a place'. – Peter Point Dec 3 '16 at 5:39
  • Nice one. :) That sounds quite similar to an Italian expression, although the Italian one means "far away and basically unreachable" not "unimportant". – Andrea Lazzarotto Dec 3 '16 at 17:40
6

I would describe somewhere like this as a dead-end town, as this article from the Huffington Post describes. It was a line from the Pet Shop Boys song West End Girls that made me think of it though.

6

The word "stopover" is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as

A place where a journey is broken.

Referring to a town as a stopover sometimes implies that it is not important in and of itself, but only as a convenient halfway point between two more significant places. It is thus not necessarily negative when the town in question actually is small. However, referring to a populous city as a stopover may indicate a more disdainful attitude under which the city's economic or cultural contributions are considered negligible despite its size.

  • 1
    My first thought was flyover country, but that doesn't really apply to a town... This has about the same regard for the location, but could be applied to even just a gas station in the middle of nowhere... – JPhil Dec 2 '16 at 16:46
  • It can only be a stopover if it's big enough to support a motel. I don't think that would normally apply to the kinds of places the OP is referring to. – jpaugh Dec 2 '16 at 20:24
5

A moderately to slightly more than moderately offensive descriptive term would be to refer to the town as "the armpit of" whatever context fits, such as "That town is the armpit of the county." This approach can be escalated to use more and more offensive body parts depending on how much the location is disliked by those describing it... i.e. "Washington DC is the scrotum of dirty politics."

2

Fictional exemplars, in US at least: Mayberry, Dogpatch, Smallville.

(Real) Peoria is a metonym for mainstream-to-conservative, stodgy, and boring, but often still important: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_it_play_in_Peoria%3F

2

In British colloquial English, dump is a moderately offensive term for a town, especially one that has little to attract young people.

  • Also in US English, though it could also apply to a building or an establishment. – phoog Dec 5 '16 at 4:14
1

You are describing a pissant town:

  1. noun: an insignificant or contemptible person or thing.
  2. adjective: worthless; contemptible.

A neat aside: while looking up the definition, I learned that the word comes from an Australian soccer coach insulting his own city:

pissant town: A city or town which is basically very dull and boring and serves no real purpose. Originates from Disgruntled Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar who after a disappointing loss referred to his own city as a pissant town:

"...because of this pissant town this club will never win anything"

- Aurelio Vidmar

  • 1
    This term far predates Aurelio Vidmar's diatribe. See e.g. the song titles in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas from 1978. – shoover Dec 2 '16 at 21:56
  • An actual Pissant is an ant that lives in certain European forests and gets its name from the odor produce by its nesting material - pine straw and pine needles. Middle English pissemyre : pisse, urine (from the smell of the formic acid that ants secrete); piss + mire, ant (probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Danish myre). quoted from pestproducts.com – Airymouse Dec 3 '16 at 1:18
1

Informally, you could simply call an unattractive town a hole (Collins entry lists this meaning) - it isn't quite as offensive as shit-hole but wouldn't be considered entirely neutral either.

It's used in the dialogue from the Chronicles of Narnia, for example:

"And so would you," he went on, "if you'd lived all your life in the country [...] and then been brought to live in a beastly Hole like this."

"London isn't a Hole," said Polly indignantly.

  • 1
    It existed at least in 1910. H G Wells started The History of Mr Polly with these words: "Hole!" said Mr. Polly, and then for a change, and with greatly increased emphasis: "'Ole!" He paused, and then broke out with one of his private and peculiar idioms. "Oh! Beastly Silly Wheeze of a Hole!". – BoldBen Dec 4 '16 at 19:58
  • @BoldBen Ah, the downtrodden Mr. Polly. Enjoyed the book in school and the B&W movie, staring John Mills and Megs Jenkins, even more. – Peter Point Dec 5 '16 at 1:56
1

A word that works both in British and American English and I think accurately captures all you asked for is nowheresville:

  • a location lacking identifying or individualizing qualities
  • a place or state denoting failure or relative obscurity

(Merriam Webster)

1

Since "backwater" (first preference) and "sticks" (second preference) are already in the answer list, I would like to suggest "boondocks":

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/boondocks

North American

informal

Rough or isolated country:

‘this place is out in the boondocks, you'll never get here by bus’

The word carries the connotation of a very rural place, surrounded by nature in an unkempt state (quite similar to "the sticks").

0

A mostly-neutral term would be Anytown, especially in the US (where it might be Anytown, USA). From Oxford Dictionaries

Anytown (also Anytown USA) NOUN

Any real or fictional place regarded as being typical of American small-town appearance or values.
‘the party was looking for that elusive candidate from Anytown

That example suggest a neutral-to positive connotation, but one of the additional example sentences illustrates the less attractive connotations of your meaning just about perfectly (and also usage outside the Americas):

‘Supermarkets stand accused of committing grievous bodily harm to the social and economic fabric of British life, turning urban centres into ghost towns or undifferentiated Anytowns.’

0

A term or expression rather than a word that's has been left out is;

"A pimple on the posterior of the world [state, countryside or universe, depending on context]".

Posterior is also open for enhanced volubility. I do like the references to Egypt. Those have been very popular in the past.

  • 1
    Please explain your answer, preferably with some supporting statements and references. :) – NVZ Dec 5 '16 at 8:43
  • As an example; "Dimit is a pimple on the ass of Texas." – user2863749 Dec 6 '16 at 15:34
0

I may be a bit late to the party, but I think I can come up with better alternatives to the all rather offensive terms from John Feltz and freeling10, namely referring to cultural exemplars of "boring" towns:

British English

In British English, you could compare the place to the city of Milton Keynes, e.g.

Burbank is the Milton Keynes of California.

or

Adelaide is a bit like Milton Keynes.

In Britain, Milton Keynes is often used as an exemplar of a totally nondescript, uninteresting town which is nevertheless not actually a bad place to live. Sadly, I couldn't find any direct references of this usage but merely an indirect reference on Urban Dictionary.

American English

  • Fittingly enough, in (Southern) California, you can compare a place to Burbank:

I would never move there! Come on — that'd be like moving to Burbank!

  • I've heard Cleveland being used in this sense as well, and it's got a less regional flavor than using Burbank has, i.e. it might be understandable to more people.

    Again, see Urban Dictionary for an indirect reference thereof.

  • Additionally, I agree with abligh that nowheresville is a good candidate albeit being a bit more negative than the other examples I provided above.

Australian English

Finally, a nice term for Australian audiences would be Woop Woop, e.g.

Doesn't Jeff live out Woop Woop these days?

However, this term has a decidedly negative connotation, a bit like the sticks.

-1

Humdrum perhaps?

Or "backwards", bit more offensive.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

protected by tchrist Dec 2 '16 at 22:20

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.