They'll hear about this in Timbuktu!!!!!!

“They’ll hear about this in Timbuktu!!!”

“I had to drive all the way to Timbuktu to find it”
I used to hear people say these things more so years ago, but every now and then someone will utter it.
Why Timbuktu? Where did these says come from? Some book or movie?

Because not only is it a far away, exotic place, but the word is fun to say? They are saying word of the event will reach the ends of the world, in essence. I don’t know where it came from though.

I’m not sure if the OP realizes this, but Timbuktu is a real place. It’s a city in what is now Mali, and the name is probably spelled differently these days–I think I’ve seen “Tombouctou”.

Being a crossroads in the middle of the African desert, Timbuktu was considered remote and exotic by Europeans and Americans.

In Spice Up Your Life by The Spice Girls there’s a line “Yellow Man in Timbuktu…” etc.

In the 1930s, maybe even the 1920s, there was a popular song “What do they do on Saturday night in Timbuctoo?” A friend of mine in the Peace Corps visited Timbuctoo about 30 years ago and said that in spite of its past glory today it wasn’t worth the trip.

Yeah, I know. I also know what the saying means.

I’m just wondering if it has an actual origin like a movie or book, or if people just started saying it because of it’s remoteness.

There was a band in the eighties called Timbukthree. :slight_smile:

With such a bright future, shouldn’t Mr. Smiley face wear shades? :cool: claims it has been used in that sense since 1863, but does not list the cite:

Timbucktu was at the edge of the Sahara, the extreme north of the Sahel, in the old French Sudan (present Republic of Mali) and hence the extreme of remoteness among populated areas in early-20th-Century popular conception.

Timbucktu is also in downtown Dexter, NY, just off NYS Highway 180. Excellent beer selection for a small-town bar and grill, and wonderful wings. Do not order a cheeseburger.

It’s a good start to my question, though. Thanks. :slight_smile:

Alright, I’ll bite.


Well, hell. Why not?

At its peak Timbuktu was famous far and wide as a center of learning and scholarship, and for its prosperity due to the West African caravan trade in valuable commodities like gold and salt. It’s declined quite a bit since then, but that is probably the reason it is popularly remembered to this day for its remoteness if little else. If it hadn’t once been famous and great, it wouldn’t be remembered at all.

In addition to the remoteness and exotic locale already mentioned, I suspect the name had (or has) that tinge of comedy that so many other names have had in songs, sayings and catchphrases. Other candidates:

Bumfuk, Egypt (this one is fictional, I think)
Tripoli (as in Shores of)
Walla Walla

I wager we could develop a list of at least 50 such places.

Anaheim, Azuza, and Cuc-amonga!

How you gonna bite, if you don’t order the cheesburger?

(sorry, but I couldn’t resist…)

I’d always wondered about Timbuktu, as well, enough to look it up.

Among the places it shows up in pop culture are the Disney movie The Aristocats (the butler arranges to ship Duchess and her kittens to Timbuktu, but ends up getting sent there himself), and in Kurt Vonnegut play and indiee movie Between Time and Timbuktu 9where it only shows up in the title).

In one word, grease.

How can you mention Walla Walla, Wash. but not Kalamazoo?

(What do they teach these kids in school these days?)

Please read the quoted post – all of it.