1874 cartoon of farmer bartering chickens for a subscription to the Podunk Weekly Bugle
In American English, Podunk, podunk, or Podunk Hollow denotes or describes an insignificant, out-of-the-way, or fictitious town, and is often used in the upper case as a placeholder name in a context of dismissing significance or importance.
Solomon Waxtend was a shoemaker of Podunk, a small village of New York some forty years ago.
The book portrays Waxtend as being drawn by his interest in public affairs into becoming a representative in the General Assembly, finding himself unsuited to the role, and returning to his trade. It is unclear whether the author intended to evoke more than the place near Ulysses, New York by the name "Podunk". Possibly the term was meant to exemplify "plain, honest people", as opposed to more sophisticated people with questionable values. An 1875 documentation of dismissive usage is:
Sometimes the newest State, or the youngest county or town of a State is nicknamed "Old Podunk," or whatever it may be, by its affectionate inhabitants, as though their home was an ancient figure in national history.
In American discourse, the term podunk came into general colloquial use, through the wide national readership of the “Letters from Podunk” of 1846, in the Daily National Pilot of Buffalo, New York. Here, 'Podunk' was represented as a real place and was subtly and satirically characterized as insignificant and out of the way. The term gained notoriety, as the fictitiousness of the particular podunk became clear to readers. For instance, in 1869, Mark Twain wrote the article "Mr. Beecher and the Clergy" defending a friend, the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, whose preaching had come under criticism. In it he said:
They even know it in Podunk, wherever that may be. It excited a two-line paragraph there.
At the time he was living in Buffalo, moving to Hartford, Connecticut in 1871, in a home within 4 miles (6.4 km) of the Podunk River. Elmira, where Twain had lived earlier, is within 30 miles (48 km) of Podunk, New York, so it is not clear to which village Twain was referring.
In addition, to this fictional podunk, there were also some actual places near podunk. George M. Cohan, who spent his childhood summers with his relatives in Podunk, Massachusetts (now part of East Brookfield). He loved Podunk and its "hayseed hicks" and made it famous, describing it in his comedy acts. Other vaudeville entertainers later picked up on Cohan's use of the word Podunk and used it in their acts.
Podunk, Michigan, the south eastern portion of the Village of Manchester, Michigan centered on the current village offices, formal before consolidation with the western portion "Manchester" changed in attempts to improve community image, the concurrent USPS designation of the Village of Manchester, Michigan zip code 48158. Washtenaw County, Michigan
An area of northwestern Rhode Island 3 miles (4.8 km) WNW of Pascoag
A sign in Holley NY
An alternative spelling; "Podonque" is found as the name of a road leading into a settlement area (intersection of County roads 23 and 243) which is still sparsely populated, believed to having been established in the 1800s as: Podonque, Town of Rushford, New York, Allegany County, NY
Podunk cemetery in Vermont on a private farm of the Newton family
Podunk, Wisconsin, a now defunct town containing a sizable Bradner, Charnley & Co. logging camp, in Door County, Wisconsin
^ abNick Bacon. "Podunk After Pratt: Place and Placelessness in East Hartford, CT.” In Confronting Urban Legacy: Rediscovering Hartford and New England’s Forgotten Cities. Xiangming Chen and Nick Bacon (eds). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013.
^ abRead, Allen 1939 The Rationale of Podunk. American Speech 14(2): 99-108.
^Lacy, John. 1982. “If this is Podunk, it is truly nowhere.”Hartford Courant May 30, pg. E6.
^Shea, Jim. 2007. “Proud to be Podunk!” Hartford Courant Jan 22.
^Goodrich, Samuel Griswold (1840). Token. Gray And Bowen. p. 109.
^"The Old North State". The New York Times. May 21, 1875. p. 6.
^Read, Allen 1939 The Rationale of Podunk. American Speech 14(2): 99-108.
^Kotker, Norman (September 1, 1994). "Just go past Shoddy's, head for the swamp, and you'll find Podunk". Smithsonian.