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CSI: South Park
“Mountain Town”
Forensic Audio

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The finale of the 1999 South Park movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut begins with “Thank God we live in this” and ends with “mountain town”, between which are a large number of very funny but sometimes difficult to precisely identify adjectives. As with any ill-defined item of popular culture, the Web has weighed in with dozens of interpretations of this passage, all different. What's a bathtub singer who lives in a quiet, little, etc. mountain town to do?

In the fantasy world of television series such as the grotesque fascist forensic-porn wallow CSI and its spin-offs, one need only take an audio recording, however noisy, and tell the taxpayer-paid lab-droid “lose the music”—“isolate the big-boned kid's voice” and that's that: obvious perpetrator fingered, self-evident red herring exonerated, roll credits, swell end theme. In the real world, however, audio is rather more messy and the associative comprehension of human meatware still blows away digital signal processing.

So let's pool the resources of our ears, cochleæ, and brains and come up with a definitive transcription of this passage. I have captured CD quality audio of this song from a DVD of the movie in my collection and chopped it up into samples of each word (or apparently compound word) in the passage. Because some Web browsers have fits if you link to MP3 audio from a Web page, I've stored these as big gnarly .wav files which, ideally, should simply play when you click on the words linked to them. If they don't, it's a matter of how your browser is configured and there's nothing I can do about it. If you prefer to scrutinise the audio files offline (avoiding browser compatibility problems and network delays), you can download a Zipped archive of the audio clips in either MP3 (979 Kb) or .wav (11 Mb) format. The clips are numbered as in the list below, with the prologue numbered 00, the epilogue 23, and the complete finale (included for context) named “complete”.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, and your hamster minions agree to join you in this risky endeavour, is to listen to the audio corresponding to each of the adjectives in the list below and make your best estimation of what is actually being said. Please send corrections (or confirmations—I'm always open to attaboys!) with the “Send Feedback” button at the bottom of the page. (Yes, you have to solve a linear equation, but that's sea-cucumber computation compared to the Fourier filter required to tease information out of the noisy soundtrack.) When suggesting words, please include the word number from the table below; for example, if you think that word 18 is “unkempt”, then a message of:

   I think word 18 is "unkempt".

would be superb. Thanks in advance for your contributions to this ever so important project!

Should Matt or Trey chip in with the definitive lyrics, they will be posted here. That's no reason, however, not to find creative interpretations buried under the noise floor!

Thank God we live in this
  1. quiet,
  2. little,
  3. piss-ant,
  4. jerk-neck,
  5. podunk,
  6. jerk-water,
  7. green-horn,  in-born?
  8. one-horse,
  9. mud-hole,   slime-hole?   crime-hole?   crud-hole?
  10. ????wing,   single-wing?   peckerwood?
  11. right-wing,
  12. missing-stuff,   whistle-stop?
  13. hobnail?,
  14. truck-driving,
  15. old-trash,
  16. spacey,   hay-seed?
  17. pea-brain,
  18. ????,   unkempt?
  19. hungry,   out-of-date?
  20. out-of-touch,
  21. white-trash,
  22. kick-ass,
mountain town.

Complete Finale

Brief audio extracts from the movie soundtrack of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut are © 1999 Paramount Pictures and reproduced here for critical purposes under the doctrine of fair use.

Results to Date

The following table lists the results from contributors so far. Each of the suggested words which was found in a plausible transcription on the Web was started with one vote. Each additional suggestion by a visitor to this page increments the vote count. I've sorted the table entries so that suggestions are listed in descending order of the number of votes on each row. Note that words on which there is general agreement (for example “quiet” and “little”) will have low vote counts because few people bother to cite them. The word numbers in the table are linked to the audio clips so you can audition them when evaluating the suggestions.

Word Suggestions (votes)
1 quiet (11) squalid (1)
2 little (11)
3 piss-ant (11)
4 redneck (13) jerk-neck (3)
5 podunk (12) hodunk (1)
6 jerk-water (12)
7 green-horn (14) in-born (1) three-corn (1)
8 one-horse (12)
9 mud-hole (14) crime-hole (2) slime-hole (1) crud-hole (1)corn-hole (1)
gully-hole (1) bung-hole (1)
10 peckerwood (13) wanker-wood (3) right-wing (2) single-wing (1) chicken-butt (1)
rattlewood (1) dwindling (1) black and white (1)
11 right-wing (12)
12 whistle-stop (18) missing-stuff (2) freaked-out (1)
13 hobnail (11) corn-ball (1)hot-nail (1)
14 truck-driving (10) drunk-driving (1) chuck-wagon (1) one-wagon (1)
15 old-fashioned (4) old-trash (3) gold rush (2) poorest (1) hold-out (1)
coldress? (1) one-hill (1) old-fashion (1) hillside (1) polarised (1)
16 hay-seed (13) crazy (2) spacey (1) chasing (1)
17 inbred (7) pea-brain (6) free-bred (1)
18 unkempt (9) un-hip (5) unread (2) indecipherable (2) one-way (1)
hungry (1) wondrous (1) white-bread (1) cornbread (1) whack-the-wood (1)
wonder-bread (1)
19 out-of-date (12) tawdry (3) hungry (1) ugly (1)
prong-three (1)
20 out-of-touch (11)
21 white-trash (12)
22 kick-ass (12)

Last updated: 2007-02-01 20:28 UTC

According to the Subtitles…

Reader Lee Goodman writes at 19:15 UTC on 2006-06-23 to report that the subtitles on the DVD edition of the film are as follows:

“…quiet, little, pissant, redneck, podunk, jerkwater, greenhorn, one-horse mudhole, peckerwood, right-wing, whistle-stop hobnail, truck-driving, old-fashioned, hayseed, inbred, unkempt, out-of-date, out-of-touch, white-trash, kick-ass…”

This is largely consistent with the consensus that has emerged from the acute ears of contributors so far. Only words 15, 17, and 18 differ from the leaders in the vote tally at the time this information came to hand. I have added votes for these words to the result table above as regular votes; they did not change the ranking of any of the words. Only word 15 (“old-fashioned” in the subtitles) did not previously appear in the results. I cannot, for the life of me, hear sufficient syllables in the sound track to be consistent with this compound word, but then people don't always sing what's written in the lyrics and subtitles are not infallible.


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by John Walker
June, 2006


This document is in the public domain.
Audio clips are © 1999 Paramount Pictures.

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