bottom

In common usage, bottom is of course just the low part of whatever you’re talking about. In business, there’s the bottom line; for Gertrude Stein, talking about people, there was the bottom nature; and when referring to landscape, there’s bottomland, a term that suggests, if not an alluvial floodplain, then at least some swampy or marshy area—a wetland, drained or not. As bottomland sounds rather formal, common usage has shortened it simply to the bottoms, a term that, being plural, preserves the fact that bottomland isn’t just one place, but a series of interconnected places along a creek, stream, or river. Joe R. Lansdale uses it this way in his book The Bottoms, set in 1930s east Texas: “Through our thin walls I could hear the crickets outside, and somewhere in the bottoms, the sound of a big bullfrog bleating.” In place names, you’ll find the term in both singular and plural: for every Yazoo Bottoms (Mississippi) and Cheyenne Bottoms (Kansas), there’s a Foggy Bottom (Washington, D.C.) and Sugar Bottom (Iowa).

Stephen Graham Jones

And then we came into the bottomlands where the palmettos were turning yellow. At the river, which seemed to have just waked and was clucking in its cradle, we saw the leaves falling into the river. Now not a living creature ran or rustled. There was only the occasional comma of dropped cones punctuating the long flowing syntax of the river’s sentence

— William Goyen, The House of Breath

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