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 n.pl.Gloss: the boondocks or the middle of nowhere. Note: Out in the tules/tules means “out in the boondocks” or “far away.” Encarta says that “to be in deep tules” is a Hispanic English expression meaning “to be in trouble with the law.” Another spelling is “tules,” plural form of “tule,” pronounced TOO-lee, which is a type of Californian bulrush and the origin of the term. The expression is most common in the American southwest, including California. «The dirt road might as well be called Old Rutted—it’s that rough—but McCullough doesn’t seem to mind. At 75, the snowy-haired scientist still loves driving his giant 4×4 into the wilderness—the “tulies,” as he calls them—and getting out to hike through the spiny desert.» —“Mapping the Border” by Margaret Regan Tucson Weekly (Arizona) Oct. 4, 2007. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  • The term ‘tulies’ originated in the USAF, a reference to Thule Air Base, Thule, Greenland (owned by Denmark), one of the most desolate outposts in the world. The term was in common use in the middle 60s, originally meaning the middle of nowhere, and later equivalent to ‘the sticks’. Look for Thule AB at: 76.5303,-68.7031

  • Sorry, no. There’s no evidence whatsoever that it comes from an Air Force base. That, in fact, cannot be true as the expression is older than the Air Force itself. As stated above, it comes from the name for a type of bulrushes.

  • You don’t think it’s a reference to ultima thule, which is “any distant place located beyond the borders of the known world” as Wikipedia puts it?

  • How about this usage: “out in the toolies” was a phrase common when I was growing up in 70’s Salt Lake City, Utah. It was used in my family to mean “way the hell out beyond the fringes of civilization,” otherwise known as Toole, Utah. At least, I always understood the phrase to refer to Toole, which is pronounced “Too-willuh.”

    The town is located southwest of Salt Lake on the edge of the Oquirrh Mountains. Toole County contains a whole lot of desolate desert and the Toole Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. According to Wikipedia, Wendover Air Force Base was there, as well as the infamous Toole Army Depot.

    I wonder if any Air Force or Army personnel based at Toole might have had a hand in coining “out in the toolies?”

  • This is my first post on this board!

    I was watching American Horror Story, and I just about fell out of my chair when an incidental character referred to the gas station he was at as being ‘out in the toolies’!

    Just like Ginny in the post above, I thought the expression was a local term used only by people in the small town I grew up in, Alamogordo, New Mexico. Actually, the only person I remember using this expression was my older brother.

    I know many might argue that Alamogordo is way out in the middle of nowhere. But, to my family, the small village of Tularosa, located about 15 miles NW, was really and truly the edge of civilization!

    So, it was ‘out in the Tulies’ in our family. Interestingly, Tularosa is Spanish for ‘tule’, or ‘cattails’. Or, so says the Internet. This jives with Grant’s original post.

    It is interesting how the expression seems to be adapted to specific towns and places across the world.

  • Just discovered this site, how exciting! My family moved to Idaho from South Florida in the mid-sixties, never heard the word tulie before that, it was “the sticks”. I was a teenager, so the expression stuck because my friends used it. This may be one of those words of which we will never be certain of the origin. Okay, how about “barrow pit”?

  • It’s interesting how sure people seem about the origins of this word, expecially if they used it growing up to describe some part of their world or have a connection to a plant or air force base. I just read a 16th Century poem by Anonymous titled, Thule, the Period of Cosmography, describing the “way out there” land of ice and snow, the northern most part of the habitable world. I’m with Wikipedia, that it means a mythological land located near Norway but seeming quite beyond the pale of the world known as the civilized world. Hence, “out in the toolies” as in way beyond town.

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