Thursday, November 27, 2014

Commentary: It Ain’t The ‘Dacks, Dude!

Paper birch forest on Jay Mountain's northern slopeAbbreviations and acronyms continue to mushroom in popularity with each passing day. As an increasingly face-paced world collides with new and ubiquitous technologies, these short cuts will likely become more invasive in our language. Their burgeoning use coincides with the development of many modern means of communication, such as text messaging and social networking, which may eventually prove as the death knell to clear and concise communication.

What does this have to do with the Adirondacks?

Despite the prominence of these short cuts in popular culture, one annoying Adirondack abbreviation predates this social media trend. My first encounter with it goes back as far as the 1990’s, but it most likely was in use well before then. Although it does not appear to be in widespread use yet, I still hear it from time to time, and it never gets less annoying. Finding a more demeaning abbreviation would be a difficult task, especially when applying to such a beautiful place as the Adirondack Park.

I am sure everyone has heard it used at least once. Just in case someone out there lives under a rock, or spends all their time in the Adirondack backcountry, and the term is not clear by now, I will use it, just this one time, and for this time only.

The ‘Dacks. Although equally disturbing is the Daks, or perish the thought, the Dax.

As far as clear and concise communication goes, these abbreviations are anything but clear. One could easily be confused with pants in Australia, and the other is a German stock market.

A cynic may very well attribute this rant to an old curmudgeon, who has spent an excessive amount of time in the backcountry alone (all of which may be entirely true). Fortunately, this old fart is not by any means by his lonesome on this matter. A whole Adirondack forum thread was devoted to this very topic many years ago. In a poll there, around 71% preferred the term Adirondacks, to only 5% for that dreaded abbreviation that I will not name (again). Although the thread started in 2008, it continues with recent entries, the newest being in July of this year!

Why anyone finds it necessary to abbreviate the Adirondacks, I have absolutely no idea. Is saying, writing or typing “Adirondacks” just too difficult or time-consuming? Is it that important to save a second or two, when hours are spent wasting time in front of some monitor, whether it is watching a sitcom on TV, surfing the Internet or playing a video game for the umpteenth time?

Where will this trend end, if such a beautiful name like the Adirondacks shortened to appease the linguistically lazy among us? Will I soon be ‘whacking through the ‘rest avoiding b’downs and the ‘ferous using a map and a ‘pass on my Adirondack adventures? Heaven forbid!

From my experience, locals do not use it. Some in central New York may use it, though it is probably reserved for those who want to feel cool, or appear overly pretentious. Most of my experience with the term comes from people downstate and areas farther south. If you are one of them, then please stop now, as you are offending the rest of us, or at least me.

For those who feel they must use this abbreviation, please use the comments section below to defend your choice. Do you think it makes you cool? Is your time so important that you must save a little time by not using the entire name? Please share your reasoning with the rest of us.

With so many important issues facing the Adirondacks, it would be easy to dismiss the use of annoying abbreviations as nothing short of frivolous. Global climate change’s effects on Adirondack flora and fauna, Lot 8 at the brink of being replaced by a big pit in the ground, and the carving up of the SLMP like a Thanksgiving turkey to accommodate the contrived Essex Chain of Lakes area are just a few of the crucial matters facing the region. How can you expect anyone to make an informed judgment on these or any other regional issues then they cannot even bother to use its actual name?

If you find yourself unconvinced, and believe I am once again making a big deal out of nothing then I have only one thing left to say.


Photo: Paper birch forest on northern slope of Jay Mountain in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area by Dan Crane.

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Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.

25 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    If you need to sound cool call the Adirondacks the north country . That other word is gross.

  2. You ask “Is saying, writing or typing “Adirondacks” just too difficult or time-consuming?”. Really? You are addressing people who substitute “4” in place of “for” and uppercase U for you. Obviously they are way too busy to type out Adirondacks.

  3. frank says:

    How about the cats for that other part of the preserve. Those terms don’t bother me so much as those ADK stickers I hope you don’t have one. By the way IMO the north country is outside the park.

  4. Nate says:

    “Why anyone finds it necessary to abbreviate the word I have absolutely no idea.”

    “Why anyone finds it necessary to abbreviate the word I have absolutely no idea.”

    “How can you expect anyone to make an informed judgment on these or any other regional issues [such as the State Land Master Plan] then they cannot even bother to use its actual name?”

    I use call them the ‘dacks all the time. I don’t feel any shame, nor do I think its degrading. But heck, that is the great thing about living in America. By and large, we can call things as we like regardless of whether other people think we are either directly related to cavemen or Manhattenites.

    The other one of my two cents is why are we looking to drive fractures between anybody who cares enough about the ‘dacks to talk about them? Yes, different people like the Adirondacks in different ways. Instead of highlighting this, can we all be happy that a large group of us care about the place and want to protect it?


    • Mike says:

      I have never used the term ‘Dacks. But I have no objection to those who do.

      I agree with Nate, it seems counterproductive to look for divides in a group of people who share a common interest. I think there are more important and pressing issues facing the Adirondacks for Park enthusiasts to focus on.

      Dan you’re certainly entitled to your opinion about disliking the term ‘Dacks. However, if you’re truly offended by it’s use, with all due respect – I think it’s more your problem than theirs. It seems an innocent and harmless abbreviation. By the way, people typically abbreviate words they frequently write or speak (you asked for Ideology in why someone would use the abbreviation).

  5. Nate says:


    the word “TV”

    the word “SLMP”

  6. Matt says:

    Sitcom? TV? SLMP? We abbreviate a lot of words. Why is Adirondacks so sacred?

  7. Bruce says:

    When I was raised in Oswego County, it was always the north country for anywhere north of Oneida Lake, including the Adirondacks. The “Dacks” sounds about as bad as calling Syracuse, “Cuse”, which my brother who thinks he’s cool does.

    I think it comes down to people being partially lazy, and partially wanting us to believe they are up on all the latest lingo and Twitter talk. I for one, am not impressed.

  8. rdc says:

    never heard a local call them the Dacks. I think it’s a rich tourist failed attempt to ‘belong’. All it does is make us laugh at you.

  9. Tim says:

    When I lived in San Francisco in the 70’s, anyone calling the city Frisco was clearly a tourist. I hear that has now changed and everyone says it.

  10. Bob Meyer says:

    What would happen if the Park was called The Couchsachragas?
    If a person is too [whatever you want to insert] to use Adirondacks, maybe they should just go to the “Kills”. :-).

  11. Curt Austin says:

    English skills were on the rise with all the writing people were doing on the internet. Then the smartphone appeared, and a new language was born: gibberish. I invented a term recently for committing acts of careless thumb typing: “forum farting”.

    “dacks” is a linguistic fart, for sure.

  12. drdirt says:

    I really get annoyed when people refer to me as ‘dude’ and even worse .,.,’bro’ .,.,
    way more than hearing dacks

    we used to say and write Ticonderoga, but now wink at each other and say ‘Ti’ like the locals and really do feel a bit cool.

    (chuckle, chuckle, wink)

  13. Bill Ott says:


    You are by far my favorite Dak Dude, but it seems you have run out of things to write about, though I know it is not so. E-mail me.

    Bill Ott

  14. common sense says:

    I though about this article when I drove by ‘van ho’ this afternoon. I rarely say ‘Mount Van Hoevenburg sports complex’. That being said the term Dan mentions in his article does annoy me or…. maybe its the people that use the term.

  15. Paul says:

    You could use AM as in Adirondack Mountains. Dan doesn’t mind acronyms he used SLMP.

    I also dislike the term ‘Dacks, but I would defend anyones right to use such annoying terms.

  16. Old Bill says:

    I agree, this term bothers me so much that when I read it in Backpacker magazine I let my subscription expire.

  17. Frank says:

    Surprised to see This still going. When the hotel saranac opens can we call it the hot Sara or will that be a faux pas also.

  18. John Lounsbury says:

    When I moved from New York state to North Carolina 10 years ago one of the most painful parts was giving up my NY vanity plate “CATSNDAX”. That is one use where “Adirondacks” just won’t do.

  19. Anon says:

    Is this article for real or are you making fun of us for reading it?

  20. Mouse says:

    What about the term ‘Rondacks? How does that hit everybody? Me and my friend, both “come here’s” use it as a term of endearment.