Origins of the word 'burbilly

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 22:00.

On realneo, I recently coined a new term 'burbilly", which Phillip Williams found hilarious. He asked if I made this term up, which I did, and I explained to him the origins of the term, which are very serious.

Burbilly is a term for people who dwell in remote, exurban, sprawl areas. In particular the term refers to residents of exurban Northeast Ohio in the United States. Usage of the term "Burbilly" generally differs from other terms referring to rural people in the United States in that it can be used for sprawl-dwelling people anywhere but is generally not used to refer to rural people in non-sprawl areas outside Northeast Ohio. Further, terms like redneck and cracker, often connote rejection of, or resistance to assimilation into the dominant culture, while burbillies theoretically are merely isolated from the dominant culture, despite attempting to assimilate with the rural culture, for which they are generally not competent. Nevertheless, the term is sometimes considered derogatory depending on the manner in which it is used or the attitude of the target.

I do not mean the term to be derogatory, but use it to highlight a frightening phenomenon that has caused my family harm recently, and this week proved fatal for a child in the news, the granddaughter of deceased Cleveland Browns owner Al Lerner.

Several month age, I received a call from my 12 year old daughter's mother that she was in the hospital from a golf cart "accident" out in the exurbs where they live. Burbilly friends of my daughter have a large property in Lorain County and so have dangerous adult rural toys like golf carts they let their children use without supervision. The children drove recklessly, wrecked the cart, and my daughter has a seriously broken leg.

We hear of such senseless accidents all the time - people who believe because they live in rural places they are rural people, and load their properties with chainsaws, shotguns, four-wheelers, and golf carts, when they were not raised in and are not tuned in to that environment and the hazards there, and don't have the sense to protect their children from such dangers. In the case of my daughter, her leg is broken and her summer ruined. In the case of Lerner's 6 year old granddaughter, driving a go-cart unattended on a 300 acre property, the poor child drowned. This concern for the safety of sprawl children is the source of the term Burbilly, for cause.