View Full Version : Texan Etymology of Pipelining Terms

Gregor Samsa
10-14-2000, 06:44 PM
I work in the pipeline industry in Canada. Canadians were taught the techniques of pipeline construction in the 1950s by Texans (and to a lesser degree, Oklahomans.) The Texans have been gone for a long time now, but we continue to use their slang, and I am hoping that a Texan can explain to me why we use the two following terms:

1) Shoofly. A shoofly is a trail or road that allows access to the pipeline right of way. These are not called "shoofly roads" or "shoofly trails," but just "shooflies." We have all heard of shoofly pie up here (although frankly I have no idea what exactly it is) but I question whether it has any relevance to an access road. We have speculated that shooflies are small biting insects that congregate at roads, but honestly we have no idea why we call these roads "shooflies."

2) Bar ditches. These are the drainage ditches that run alongside rural roads. The most plausible explanation I've heard for this is that it's a Canadian corruption of the Texan pronounciation of "borrow ditches," as in "borrowing" the material along the side of the road to build up the crown of the road. There's also been some speculation that maybe Americans put their survey bars in ditches when shooting in sites, but this strikes me as unlikely.

I realize this is kind of obscure, but does anyone have any ideas as to the origins of these terms?

10-14-2000, 07:16 PM
As a Texan living in the Longview/White Oak/Kilgore area (most productive oilfield area in the world for a long time) all my life, I can tell you that I have absolutely no f----in' idea. Sorry.

I'll go to the oil museum at school (Kilgore College) Monday and see if they have any info.

10-14-2000, 07:52 PM
I tried but came up with nothing...however it is pronounced barrow ditch here in Idaho.

10-14-2000, 08:52 PM
The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has several definitions under "shoofly." 3. A rocking-horse in which the seat is placed between rockers representing the animal.
4. A temporary railway track constructed for use while the main track is obstructed or under repair. Also, a temporary road.It's a strech, but my WAG is that the temporary parallel railway track might have been named after the parallel rockers of the rocking-horse. It isn't clear to me why the rocking-horse was named "shoofly" though.

10-14-2000, 10:29 PM
Barditch- (is this supposed to be one word, two or hyphenated, and in an oral culture, how can you tell?) I can't help with the etymology, but I think I can tell you where it didn't come frome...

I get the feeling that the term barditch comes from South or West Texas. I was born in Galveston and grew up just fifteen miles on the mainland, and we just called them ditches (or drainage canals if they were deep.) My wife is from the hill country and never heard the term barditch when she was growing up. The only people I've heard use the term were from out west.

As a WAG, my Webster's defines bar as a barrier, a bank (sandbar), or as a long straight stripe. A ditch, cut to backhoe depth along a straight road, with the dirt piled up along one side, might fit any of these definitions.

Gregor Samsa
10-16-2000, 03:19 PM
Thanks for your input, everyone. Or, sorry, I meant to say, "Thanks, y'all."

My dictionary (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English) has no definition for "shoofly." Serves me right for buying the concise version, I guess.

Oh well, the search continues, eh?

Gregor Samsa
12-20-2000, 10:00 AM
Any chance that a new arrival might have some information on this most perplexing problem?

12-20-2000, 11:22 AM
Try beatle.

12-20-2000, 11:37 AM


"The early town was surrounded by a moat called the Barditch which also acted as the town sewer. As the town prospered the population grew and houses began to be built outside the Barditch. In Bargate the sewer was bridged and this street was probably one of the first to see buildings outside the Barditch. North of Bargate was Wide Bargate which probably held the livestock market where there was space for pens. As late as the 1950s animals were still driven through the town."

Seems to be another word for an medieval moat or drainage ditch ie being a ditch that "bars" access. The "bar" ditch is possibly a foreshortened form of this "barditch".

Gregor Samsa
12-21-2000, 12:10 PM
Thanks astro. Maybe it wasn't Texan after all.

I learn something new everyday.

Thanks again.

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