Older family members then would say something like "This place (somewhere totally remote or unfamiliar, usually upcountry as opposed to an urban locale) is as far away as Timbuctoo."
From the Urban Dictionary comes this description:
So, I learned a new idiom as a child and vaguely recall being told Timbuctoo -- the older spelling variation of what is now called Timbuktu -- was somewhere in Africa. The Internet makes it easier today to find out more fascinating tidbits about this exotic African city which was also recently in the news because of a civil war:
From here to Timbuktu
No one knows who started the phrase but it dates from the mid 1800s.
|Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbuktu ANDhttp://www.timbuktufoundation.org/history.htm|
So, is this quaint idiom still in use today? Well, exploring further, I found this piece of online ribald humour:
Linguistic humor, Timbuktu
The National Poetry Contest had come down to two semifinalists: a Yale graduate and a redneck from Wyoming. They were given a word, then allowed two minutes to study the word and come up with a poem that contained the word. The word they were given was "Timbuktu".
First to recite his poem was the Yale graduate. He stepped to the microphone and said:
Slowly across the desert sandThe crowd went crazy! No way could the redneck top that, they thought. The redneck calmly made his way to the microphone and recited:
Trekked a lonely caravan.
Men on camels, two by two
Me and Tim a-huntin went,The redneck won hands down!
Met three whores in a pop up tent.
They was three, and we was two,
So I bucked one, and Timbuktu.