Category: Word Play

Wild West Words: An Outlaw by Any Other Name

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love

If you’ve ever read a western novel or watched a western movie, no doubt you’ve run across a whole herd of quaint terms that add character to the story. Where did those terms come from, why did folks use them, and when were they popular?

The Outlaw

Thomas Mitchell, Jack Buetel, and Walter Huston in The Outlaw (HowardHughesProductions, 1941) [promotional image]

Here are some of the words and phrases used to describe the bad boys of the Old West. Some of them are older than one might imagine. Western historical romance authors may be dismayed to find others are newer than they hoped.

Buscadero: gunfighter. From the Spanish buscadero, literally a searcher. The origin of the slang usage is obscure; possibly “seeking trouble.”

Bushwhacker: cowardly enemy who strikes from ambush. Americanism; arose c. 1809. Oddly, the verb “bushwhack” arose later, c. 1837. During the American Civil War (at least from 1862-1865), “bushwhacker” acquired a less-pejorative connotation, meaning any irregular who took to the woods to strike from cover and then vanish. The term was applied in equal measure to both friend and foe.

Cabrón: an outlaw of low breeding and even lower principles. In Spanish, the word means “goat.” Origin of the slang usage is obscure.

Cold-blooded: unfeeling, dispassionate, cruel. Arose c. 1828 from the old (1600s) notion that excitement increased human blood temperature. Reptiles have been called cold-blooded since about 1600, and the reptilian image also played into the description as applied to killers and other reprehensible sorts who acted without apparent regret.

The Law and the Outlaw

Promotional flier for
The Law and the Outlaw, 1913

Cold lead: from the mid-1800s until the 1920s, a bullet. About 1920, usage changed and “hot lead” became slang for bullets. The reason is unclear.

Cowboy of the Pecos: rustler, based on the notion safety could be found in the lawless area around Texas’ Pecos River.

Dressed to kill: double entendre meaning not only that a man wearing two guns most likely was a killer, but also that wearing a double rig (a holstered pistol on each hip) made it difficult for a gunman to do anything with either hand without implying a threat; therefor, dudes who adopted the practice were likely to be killed.

Dry-gulch: to ambush someone, particularly in a cowardly manner.

Get the drop on: to obtain a marked advantage, especially with the help of a gun. Probably dates to the California gold rush of 1849, when claim-jumpers sometimes seemed to materialize from the ether before hijacking a profitable claim at gunpoint. First documented appearance in print 1869 in Alexander K. McClure’s Three Thousand Miles through the Rocky Mountains: “So expert is he with his faithful pistol, that the most scientific of rogues have repeatedly attempted in vain to get ‘the drop’ on him.”

GTT: on the wrong side of the law. Short for “gone to Texas,” this usage dates at least to the Civil War, when deserters and other former soldiers from both armies — suddenly unemployed and inured to violence — migrated to still-wild, wide-open Texas, “lost” their names, and took up outlawry. (Originally, “Gone to Texas” was the phrase families ruined by the financial panic of 1819 painted on doors and fence signs before lighting out to begin anew in greener pastures south of the Mexican border.) In his 1857 book Journey through Texas, Frederick Law Olmstead noted that many newcomers to the state were suspected of having skipped out on something “discreditable” back home. Thomas Hughes, in his 1884 book G.T.T., wrote “When we want to say that it is all up with some fellow, we just say, ‘G.T.T.’ as you’d say, ‘gone to the devil,’ or ‘gone to the dogs.’”

Days on the Range (Hands Up!)
by Frederic Remington

Gun: until the early 20th Century, cannon or long guns like shotguns and rifles. Handguns were called pistols or — after Samuel Colt introduced his first patented repeating revolver in 1836 — six-guns or six-shooters.

Gunman: shootist; gunfighter. First recorded use 1903 in a New York newspaper. (Gunsman, with an S in the middle, arose on the American frontier during the Revolutionary period.)

Gunslinger: No such term existed in the Old West. The word is pure Hollywood, from the early days of western movies.

Gun shark: gunfighter. Arose mid-1800s from the earlier (1700s) use of “shark” to indicate a voracious or predatory person, based on the reputation of the fish.

Heeled up: armed. Arose ca. 1866 from the 1560s usage of “heel” to mean attaching spurs to a gamecock’s feet.

Hogleg: large revolver. Originally referred to the Bisley single-action Colt (first manufactured 1894), but later generalized to any big pistol.

Holdup: a robbery. American English colloquialism, 1851. The verb “to hold up,” meaning “to stop by force and rob,” didn’t arise until 1887, apparently from the robbers’ command to raise hands. “Hold up,” meaning to delay, dates to 1837.

Hustler: thief, especially one who roughs up his victims. Arose 1825. Sense of “energetic worker” is from 1884; sense of “prostitute” dates from 1924.

Lam: to run off. U.S. slang dating to 1886; of uncertain origin. “On the lam,” meaning flight to avoid prosecution or consequences, arose c. 1897.

Jesse James' Oath, or Tracked to Death by W.B. Lawson (Street & Smith Publishers, Dec. 1897)

Jesse James’ Oath, or Tracked to Death by W.B. Lawson (Street & Smith Publishers, Dec. 1897)

On the cuidado: running from the law. From the Spanish warning ten cuidado, which means “be careful.”

Owlhoot: outlaw. “Riding the owlhoot trail” referred to a man who had left the straight and narrow to become an outlaw. One explanation of origin came from a man living in the Indian Territory of eastern Oklahoma around 1870. He claimed the name came about from the Indians in the area using owl hoots to signal danger or someone’s approach. Another tale indicates outlaws were called “owlhoots” because, when they were getting ready to ambush somebody in the dark, they would imitate the hooting of owls to signal one another.

Pecos swap: theft. Again, based on the reputation of Texas’s Pecos River area.

Pistolero: expert with a handgun. Adopted from Mexican Spanish, in which the word has the same meaning.

Rattlesnaked: ambushed (literally or figuratively) in a particularly devious or cunning way. Dates at least to 1818.

Safecracker (also safe-cracker): individual with a talent for liberating money from locked vaults. Arose ca. 1897, as a reference to robbers who used dynamite to thwart security boxes.

Shootist: expert marksman. Arose 1864.

Sidewinder: dangerously cunning or devious person. Arose American West ca. 1875 as a reference to some species of rattlesnakes’ “peculiar lateral movement.”

Stickup: robbery at gunpoint. Arose 1887 from the earlier (1846) verb “stick up,” meaning to rob someone at gunpoint. The phrase “stick up for,” meaning defend, is from 1823. The archaic noun “stick-up” arose ca. 1857 as a colloquial term for a stand-up collar.

 

Wild West Words: Ladies’ Night

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. (Canada celebrates Women’s History Month in October.) Setting aside a special month to celebrate women’s history always has struck me as a mite amusing, because without women there would be no human history.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Women’s History Month traces its origins to the original International Women’s Day, March 8, 1911. In 1980, Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States, expanded the recognition of women’s roles in society to a week. In 1987, the U.S. Congress declared all of March Women’s History Month, but they didn’t make the designation permanent. Each year since (until 2017), the President has proclaimed March Women’s History Month.

Regardless whether Women’s History Month continues in an official capacity or becomes an informal observance, there is no doubt women have changed the world in ways too numerous to mention. Most of us would rather be called “the fairer sex” than “the weaker sex” — but we’ll let men call us whatever (polite) term they desire, because we know who’s really in charge.  😉

Women in 19th Century America knew who was in charge, too. Perhaps nowhere was that more evident than in new vocabulary that entered the lexicon during the period. (How’s that for a segue?) Here are some of the more colorful terms.

Women with "safety bicycles," 1890s

Women with “safety bicycles,” 1890s

California widow: a woman whose husband is away from her for an extended period. Americanism; arose c. 1849 during the California Gold Rush.

Call girl: prostitute who makes appointments by phone; arose c. 1900. To call someone, meaning to use a phone for conversation, arose in 1889 along with the telephone.

Catty: devious and spiteful; c. 1886 from the previous “cattish.” The meaning “pertaining to cats” dates to 1902.

Cute: pretty, 1834 from American English student slang. Previously (1731), as a shortened form of acute, the word meant “clever.”

Drag: women’s clothing worn by a man. 1870s theater slang from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor.

A working girl of the late 1800s

A working girl of the late 1800s

Fancy woman: high-dollar whore or a kept woman; possibly from the 1751 use of “fancy” to mean “ornamental.”

Fast trick: loose woman. Of unknown origin, but possibly related to the 15th Century use of the noun “trick” to mean “trifles,” or pretty things with little value. By 1915, “trick” had come to mean a prostitute’s client.

Feathered out: dressed up.

Filly: a young, unmarried woman (literally, a young mare).

Frump, frumpy: cross, unstylish person; sour-looking, unfashionable. The noun arose c. 1817, possibly imitative of a derisive snort. The adverb followed c. 1825. The slang etymology is a bit obscure, although earlier uses of the noun frump meant “bad temper” (1660s) and “cross-tempered” (1746), both of which may have derived from the verb frump, which in the 1550s meant “to mock or browbeat.” All senses may have descended from the late-14th-Century verb frumple, “to wrinkle; crumple.”

Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's 19th wife. She divorced him.

Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s 19th wife. She divorced him.

Grass widow: divorcee

Gyp: female dog; more polite form of “bitch.” American slang from about 1840 as a shortened form of gypsy, presumably in reference to stray dogs’ wandering nature. By 1889, gyp’s meaning had shifted to “cheat or swindle,” also based on gypsies’ perceived behavior.

High-strung: temperamental, excitable, nervous; c. 1848. Evidently based on earlier (1748) musical term referring to stringed instruments.

Hot flashes: in the menopausal sense, attested from 1887.

Hysteria: mental disorder characterized by volatile emotions and overly dramatic or attention-seeking behavior. When the word arose in 1801 (based on the Latin medical term hysteric), it was applied solely to women and often resulted in their confinement to an asylum. In 1866, clitoridectomy was proposed as a cure.

Lightskirt: woman of questionable virtue. American slang. Date unknown, but most likely from the notion loose women’s skirts lay over fewer petticoats than traditional skirts of the time and therefor were easier to raise.

Dolly Adams, exotic dancer in San Francisco, 1890s

Dolly Adams, exotic dancer in San Francisco, 1890s

Painted lady: any woman who wore obvious makeup, primarily entertainers and prostitutes. From the 1650s use of “paint” to mean makeup or rouge.

Scarlet woman, scarlet lady: prostitute. From the 13th Century use of scarlet to mean “red with shame.”

Soiled dove: prostitute; generally considered the kindest of such terms. Most likely a conflation of the 13th Century definition of “soil” (to defile or pollute with sin) and the Christian use of “dove” to indicate gentleness or deliverance.

Sporting house: brothel. Arose latter half of the 19th Century as a combination of “sporting” (early 1600s for “playful”) and “house.”

Sporting ladies, sporting women: prostitutes. Shortening and modification of 1640s “lady of pleasure” by substitution of early 1600s “sporting” (playful). Arose in America during the latter half of the 19th Century in conjunction with “sporting house.”

Vaulting house: brothel. Conflation of “vault,” meaning a vigorous leap (mid-15th Century), and “house.”

 

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How a Cowboy Talks ~ by Amy Lillard

I grew up in Mississippi and moved to Oklahoma when I was in my late teens. One thing you can say about the deep South and Southern-minded places like the Sooner State is the language can be quite colorful.  I never paid much attention to some of the idioms I would spout on a daily basis. Even after all this time.  That was, until I got a Yankee friend!  Yep, now I’ve done it.  But my crazy sayings afford her laughs on a daily basis, and I suppose that’s more than most can ask for.

For me, they are second nature.  I don’t give them a second thought.  They are just there, jumping from my mouth like everyone says them.

Okay, so maybe my Baltimore friends have no idea what I mean, but I know a few cowboys who would.  More than a few actually.  See, cowboys have a language all their own.  I’m not talking about bull fighters (previously known as rodeo clowns) and latigo (a leather strap on a Western saddle).  It’s more of an everyday vernacular as colorful as a West Texas sunset.

Here are a few for you to enjoy–

Cowboy vocabulary:

A lick and a promise = to do haphazardly. “She gave it a lick and a promise.”
Back down = yield, withdraw.
Bang-up = first rate. “They did a bang-up job.”
Bend an elbow = have a drink. “He’s been known to bend an elbow from time to time.”
Bender = drunk. “He’s off on bender again.”
Blow-up = fight/argument. “He and the missus had a blow-up, but it’s over, now.”
Buckle bunny = rodeo groupie
by hook or crook = any way possible
Cantina = bar/restaurant
Cowboy up = cowboy equivalent of chin up buttercup
Goner = Dead or past the point of no return—as in love. “He’s a goner.”
Heap = a great deal. “He went through a heap of trouble to get her that piano.”
Hoosegow = jail
In cahoots = secretly partnering together
Namby-pamby = not brave
Skedaddle = leave quickly
Tenderfoot or greenhorn = a new person

Y’all = all of you (always plural)
Yokel = a person from the country (not the city)
Yonder = over there
And my favorite: In apple pie order = in top shape. Because, well, I write “Romances as Sweet as Apple Pie!”

I’d love to hear from you. What cowboy idioms are you familiar with? Do you have one to add to the list? Or maybe just a great saying from your neck of the woods? Whatever it is, leave me a comment below.

Everyone who comments will be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of Healing a Heart, my newest western romance.

Buy Amy’s book on Amazon!

Here’s a little more about Healing a Heart:


Amy Lillard, the author of Loving a Lawman invites you back to the ranch…

As cowboys, the Langston brothers of Cattle Creek, Texas, know it’s easy to mend a fence. Mending a broken heart, however, takes time…

Rancher Jake Langston prides himself on being the sensible type. But five years after the loss of his wife left him to raise their daughter alone, he indulges in a one-night stand with a sexy stranger. He thought he’d never see the woman again. Four months later, though, she’s standing in his drive with a big surprise.

Bryn Talbot wants nothing from the hunky cowboy who got her pregnant, but her Southern nature demands she at least tell him about it. When Jake’s family persuades her to stay for a while, she’s soon won over by their charms—and by Jake. But with the losses the two of them have suffered in the past, neither is sure if they’re ready to take the leap to forever…

And as always, thanks for reading!

Amy

Wild West Words: Grub and Hooch

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love

The final three decades of the 19th Century — 1870 to 1900 — compose the period most people think of when they hear the term “Wild West.” Prior to the Civil War, westward expansion in the U.S. was a pioneering movement, and the period around the turn of the 20th Century was dominated by the Industrial Revolution. But in a scant thirty years, the American cowboy raised enough hell to leave a permanent mark on history.

Round Up on the Musselshell, Charles M. Russell, 1919

Round Up on the Musselshell, Charles M. Russell, 1919

Cowboys also left a permanent mark on American English. A whole lexicon of new words and phrases entered the language. Some were borrowed from other cultures. Others embodied inventive new uses for words that once meant something else. Still others slid into the vernacular sideways from Lord only knows where.

One of the best ways to imbue a western with a sense of authenticity is to toss in a few bits of period-appropriate jargon or dialect. That’s more difficult than one might imagine. I’m constantly surprised to discover words and phrases are either much younger or much older than I expected. Sometimes the stories behind the terms are even better than the terms themselves.

In case you ever find yourself in the midst of a herd of hunky 19th Century cowboys, here are some terms with which they be familiar. All arose in the U.S. during the 1800s.

Ball: a shot of liquor. Originated in the American West c. 1821; most commonly heard in the phrase “a beer and a ball,” used in saloons to order a beer and a shot of whiskey. “Ball of fire” meant a glass of brandy.

Barrelhouse: cheap saloon, often attached to a brothel. American English; arose c. 1875 as a reference to the barrels of beer or booze typically stacked along the walls.

Bear sign: donuts. Origin obscure, but the word was common on trail drives. Any chuckwagon cook who could — and would — make bear sign was a keeper.

Laugh Kills Lonesome, Charles M. Russell

Laugh Kills Lonesome, Charles M. Russell

Bend an elbow: have a drink.

Benzene: cheap liquor, so called because it set a man’s innards on fire from his gullet to his gut.

Booze: liquor. Prior to 1821, the word was used as a verb meaning “to drink heavily.” The change in usage may have had something to do with clever marketing on the part of Philadelphia distiller E.G. Booz.

Bottom of the barrel: of very low quality. Cicero is credited with coining the phrase, which he used as a metaphor comparing the basest elements of Roman society to the sediment left by wine.

Budge: liquor. Origin unknown, but in common use by the latter half of the 1800s. A related term, budgy, meant drunk.

Cantina: barroom or saloon. Texas and southwestern U.S. dialect from 1892; borrowed from Spanish canteen.

Chuck: food. Arose 1840-50 in the American West; antecedents uncertain.

Dead soldier: empty liquor bottle. Although the term first appeared in print in 1913, common usage is much older. Both “dead man” and “dead marine” were recorded in the context before 1892. All of the phrases most likely arose as a pun: “the spirits have departed.”

Dive: disreputable bar. American English c. 1871, probably as a figurative and literal reference to the location of the worst: beneath more reputable, mainstream establishments.

Goobers or goober peas: peanuts. American English c. 1833, likely of African origin.

Camp Cook's Troubles, Charles M. Russell

Camp Cook’s Troubles, Charles M. Russell

Grub up: eat. The word “grub” became slang for food in the 1650s, possibly as a reference to birds eating grubs or perhaps as a rhyme for “bub,” which was slang for drink during the period. 19th Century American cowboys added “up” to any number of slang nouns and verbs to create corresponding vernacular terms (i.e., “heeled up” meant armed, c. 1866 from the 1560s usage of “heel” to mean attaching spurs to a gamecock’s feet).

Gun wadding: white bread. Origin unknown, although visual similarity to the cloth or paper wrapped around the ball in muzzle-loaded weapons is likely.

Hooch: cheap whiskey, c. 1897. From Hoochinoo, the name of an Alaskan native tribe whose distilled liquor was a favorite with miners during the Klondike gold rush.

Jigger: 1.5-ounce shot glass; also, the volume of liquor itself. American English, 1836, from the earlier (1824) use of jigger to mean an illicit distillery. Origin unknown, but may be an alteration of “chigger” (c. 1756), a tiny mite or flea.

Kerosene: cheap liquor. (See benzene.)

Mescal: a member of the agave family found in the deserts of Mexico and the southwestern U.S., as well as an intoxicating liquor fermented from its juice. The word migrated to English from Aztec via Mexican Spanish before 1828. From 1885, mescal also referred to the peyote cactus found in northern Mexico and southern Texas. Dried disks containing psychoactive ingredients, often used in Native American spiritual rituals, were called “mescal buttons.”

Mexican strawberries: dried beans.

The Herd Quitter, Charles M. Russell

The Herd Quitter, Charles M. Russell

Red-eye: inferior whiskey. American slang; arose c. 1819, most likely as a reference to the physical appearance of people who drank the stuff. The meaning “overnight commercial airline flight that arrives early in the morning” arose 1965-70.

Roostered: drunk, apparently from an over-imbiber’s tendency to get his tail feathers in an uproar over little to nothing, much like a male chicken guarding a henhouse. The word “rooster” is an Americanism from 1772, derived from “roost cock.” Colonial Puritans took offense when “cock” became vulgar slang for a part of the human male anatomy, so they shortened the phrase.

Sop: gravy. Another trail-drive word, probably carried over from Old English “sopp,” or bread soaked in liquid. Among cowboys, using the word “gravy” marked the speaker as a tenderfoot.

Stodgy: of a thick, semi-solid consistency; primarily applied to food. Arose c. 1823-1825 from stodge (“to stuff,” 1670s). The noun form, meaning “dull or heavy,” arose c. 1874.

Tiswin (also tizwin): a fermented beverage made by the Apache. The original term probably was Aztecan for “pounding heart,” filtered through Spanish before entering American English c. 1875-80.

Tonsil varnish: whiskey.

Tornado juice: whiskey.

 

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How to Speak Texan

Kathleen Rice Adams

Don't mess with TexasTexans speak a language all our own, leading non-Texans to look at us like we don’t have good sense. We’re not illiterate hicks, you know … well, not all of us, anyway. Truth be told, even the most educated, most cosmopolitan Texans converse in Texas-speak when we’re around other Texans.

Honestly, folks who can speak both English and Texan ought to be considered bilingual.

In an attempt to assist the unfortunate souls who’ve not had the pleasure of hearing our lyrical language — and to educate those of y’all who insist on embarrassing yourselves with really bad Texas drawls — I herewith present a few Texas-isms. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Ahmoan: I’m going to. “Need anythin’ else? Ahmoan head on out here in a bit.”

Ahohno: I don’t know.

Ahuz: I was. “You hungry? Ahuz just about to put supper on the table.” (Note: Whether or not Texans are happy to see you, if it’s mealtime they’ll invite you to eat with them.)

Aint: aunt. “Ant” is acceptable. “Awnt” is unforgivable.

All y’all: y’all, but aimed at a bigger group.

Arya: are you.

Awl: oil. Still the lifeblood of Texas’s economy.

Pumpjack in Hockley County, Texas (click image to see it in action)

Awl patch: oilfield; petrochemical industry. Every Texan has at least one relative or ancestor with some connection to the oil business.

Bar ditch: a water-diversion channel running alongside a roadway. Except after a rain, they’re usually dry.

Bidness: business. “That ain’t none of your bidness.”

Bless yore heart: This phrase isn’t exclusive to Texas, but it gets used an awful lot in the Lone Star State. The meaning depends upon the context, and there are too many possibilities to list. Among the most common are “I’m so sorry,” “you are just the sweetest thing,” “you just said the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” and “You’d best get out of my sight before I need bail money.”

Caint: can’t.

C’moanin: come on in. “I’ve been expecting y’all. C’moanin.”

Cocola: Coca Cola. If you want the brown, fizzy beverage that comes in a red can, order this.

Coke: any carbonated beverage, regardless the color, flavor, or name on the bottle.

Coon’s age: a long time. “Where you been? I ain’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

Texas Rangers monument

Monument to the Texas Rangers at the state capitol in Austin

Cotton to: like, accept, or be unoffended by. Usually used in the negative. “We don’t much cotton to folks tellin’ us barbecue from anywhere else is better’n Texas barbecue.”

Daaaaayum: the longest word in the Texas language. Foreigners just say “damn.”

Didden; dudden: didn’t; doesn’t. “My family didden want me to marry Jim Bob. Daddy still dudden like him.”

Do whut now?: Could you repeat that? Used as both an indication the speaker wasn’t paying attention and disbelief. “Somebody paid Jake $5,000 for that old pickup out in the barn.” “Do whut now?”

Fixinta: about to. “I’m fixinta run down to the store. Need anything?”

Flahrs: flowers. “Better take her some flahrs or throw your hat in first.”

Foggiest notion: clue or idea; always used in the negative. “I don’t have the foggiest notion what you’re talking about.”

Furiners: foreigners. Anybody who’s not from Texas.

God love ’im/her/’em: Like “bless your heart,” this phrase can be used in a variety of ways. The most common meaning is he/she/they need looking after, because they’re too stupid to live. “God love ’im. He ain’t never had a lick of sense.”

Growshree, growshrees: grocery, groceries. “I’d better run down to the growshree store and pick up some growshrees, or we’re gonna starve.”

Hun’ert: one hundred.

Idden: isn’t. “That idden broke so bad duck tape caint fix it.”

Isetee: iced tea, the national beverage of Texas. If you don’t want sugar in it, you’d best ask for “unsweet” and be prepared to face a scowl.

Texas longhorn

Texas longhorn with attitude

My cow: an expression of disbelief or concern. “My cow. Doesn’t he know better than to tease a rattlesnake?”

My hind leg: I don’t believe you. “You were working late, my hind leg.”

Nessary: necessary. Texans frequently omit syllables they don’t find absolutely nessary.

Ohnover: on over. “Y’all come ohnover. We’ll play cards or something.”

Pert near: almost. “That boy’s pert near as big as his daddy, idden he?”

Probly: probably. “He’s probly just confused.”

Proud of: typically indicates something is priced way too high. “A hun’ert dollars for a pair of jeans? They sure are proud of those, ain’t they?”

Rainch: ranch; used as both noun and verb. “Yep, I come from rainch stock: My granddaddy was a raincher. Some of my uncles still rainch.”

Ratback, ratnow, ratquick: right back, right now, right quick. “Ahohno what you think you’re doing with that horse, but put him ratback where you found him, ratnow, or I’ll call the law ratquick.”

Ratcheer: right here. “Clara, where’d you get off to?” “I’m ratcheer.”

Rouneer: around here. “Y’all got any duck tape rouneer?”

Spoze: suppose; supposed. “I spoze you expect me to mow the grass.” “You were spoze to mow it yesterday.”

Tuhmahruh: tomorrow. “See you tuhmahruh.”

These parts: the general vicinity, which might be the neighborhood, the state, or the entire southern U.S. “’Round these parts, we don’t cotton to folks who can’t keep their noses in their own bidness.”

Texas anole

Texas anole (NOT a gecko; NOT a chameleon)

Tickled to death: very happy. “I’m just tickled to death y’all stopped by.”

Uh-huh: although used nationwide as a general term of agreement, in Texas “uh-huh” also is an appropriate response to “thank you.”

Urmomanem: your extended family; literally, your mom and them. “How’s urmomanem?” (Warning to the unwary: Never ask a Texan about his or her mother unless you’re prepared to hear an extensive report about everybody in the family. “How’s your momma?” “Oh, she’s fine. Grandma’s rheumatism’s acting up again. Uncle Billy and Aint Leta sold the house in Boerne and moved over to Seguin to be closer to the kids. Mark ran his truck off into the bar ditch again, and Dub had to take the tractor out yonder to pull him out. Cousin Lucille’s getting married in November. Ahohno how that girl can have the nerve to wear white, but…”)

Viztin: having a conversation with; literally, visiting. “Ahuz viztin with Mable just the other day. That woman can talk the bark off a tree.”

Wooden: wouldn’t. “I wooden touch that with somebody’s else’s ten-foot pole.”

Yaint: you aren’t. “Yaint too bright, arya?”

Yawna: you want to. “Yawna go to the football game Friday night?” (Word to the wise: Football is a religion in Texas. Whatever you do, don’t admit to being an Okie — or even once having seen an Okie — during college football season. You’re liable to wind up in a crossfire during the annual Red River Shootout on the gridiron. For the record, the official tally of wins stands at UT Longhorns 61, OU Sooners 45.)

Yole: you old. “Ain’t seen you in a coon’s age, yole hound dog.”

 

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Movie Quotes: You Can’t Say it Better Than That!

MargaretBrownley-header

I love good dialogue, especially when it delivers the unexpected or makes me laugh. Dialogue sparkles when it reveals insight into the character, adds conflict, or moves the plot forward. I also like dialogue that adds sexual tension—hee haw!  Here are a few of my favorite western movie quotes.

The Ououtlawtlaw Josey Wales

Josey Wales: When I get to liking someone, they ain’t around long.
Lone Watie: I notice when you get to disliking someone they ain’t around for long neither.

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

Wobbles: You can trust me, Frank.
Frank: Trust ya? How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders, a man who can’t even trust his own pants?

True Grit

Rooster Cogburn: Damn that Texan, when you need him he’s dead.

The Magnificent Seven

Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen.
Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse.

 Tombstone

 Wyatt Earp: You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed?

 Unforgiven

The kid:  Well, I guess they had it comin’.
Munny: We all got it comin’, kid.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

 Man with no name: See, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.

 The Cowboys

Jebediah: Above all, forgive me for the men I’ve killed in anger…and those I am about to.cowboy

 Pale Rider

Preacher (played by Clint Eastwood): Well, if you’re waitin’ for a woman to make up her mind, you may have a long wait.

 Support Your Local Sheriff

Jake: You want me to tell Joe Danby that he’s under arrest for murder? What’re you gonna do after he kills me?
Jason: Then I’ll arrest him for both murders.

The Searchers

Martin: I hope you die!
Ethan: That’ll be the day.

Blazing Saddles

Lamarr: Taggart.
Taggart: Yes, sir.
Lamarr: I’ve decided to launch an attack that will reduce Rock Ridge to ashes.
Taggart: What do you want me to do, sir?
Lamarr: I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the West. Take this down: I want rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nit-wits, half-wits, dim-wits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bush-whackers, horn-swagglers, horse-thieves, bull-dykes, train-robbers, bank-robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists!
Taggart: Could you repeat that, sir?

GWTWWestern movies aren’t known for love or romance, so I offer one of my favorite romantic quotes from Gone with The Wind:

Rhett Butler (who else?) You should be kissed — and often — and by someone who knows how.

And finally, here’s one from my soon-to-be-released book Left at the Altar

Josie (when the groom fails to show up for the wedding) You don’t suppose something might have happened to Tommy, do you? An accident?
Meg (the bride) It better have!

Do you have a favorite book or movie quote to share?  If not, which of the movie quotes above did you like best?

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.

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Updated: July 28, 2016 — 2:27 pm

Southern Words and Phrases

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P Bluebonnet

This last weekend, fellow filly, Linda Broday and I went to the movies to see the Hank Williams Story I Saw the Light.  It is a great movie, but after I got home I realized just how many Texisums and truly southern figurative speech and words were used.  I thought it’d be fun to share some phrases and words we all use in this part of the country that wasn’t even used in the movie, but are normal for us.  While you read this, if you’d like, please jot down some of your favorite terms be it from around this part of the country or your neck of the woods.  I am giving away a Bath and Body Works gift certificate to a reader who leaves a comment with a special jargon and its explanation.

In extrapolating information that I’ve gathered over the years, I came across an explanation of a Dictionary imagemuch used southern term that is wrong … in my opinion.  I’m paraphrasing part of this.  The term is Y’all and the writer’s point was “It must, must MUST always refer to more than one person.”  Oh man, how wrong can a non-Texan be.  Okay, here’s the way us Texan’s use it.

You all does not necessarily “must refer” to more than one person; but it is both singular and plural, as well as plural possessive. Y’all come back, you hear.  First off “you hear” isn’t a question … it’s a statement.  Agreed Y’all can refer to one or more; however, all you all is definitely the proper way to address a group of people.

A true Texan knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit.  And, a term I use verballyOutline of Texas with Horseman so much that it’s been banned by my critique partners, is catawampus.

A truly southern phrase is “Bless your heart”.

Coke in my day could be a root beer, Dr. Pepper or 7Up.  It still is.

Rode hard and put away wet, is a fairly normal negative comment, especially if it’s about a person.

One I use a lot is “ugly as the north end of a southbound horse”.

Everyone, I think, uses “tooth and toe”, but I’ve always heard and used “tooth and toenail”.

I think this is probably a pretty much regularly used term, “that dog won’t hunt” meaning it ain’t gonna happen”.

I believe “happier than a pig in slop” may not be a true Texasium, but it’s used a lot.

Quote on HorseHere’s just a short list:

Dumber than dirt.  Dumb as a stump.

Snowball’s chance in hell.

Ugly as the day is long.

And, the most important, all Texans younger than the person they are speaking with always use the words “ma’am and sir”.

Okay, I’m fixin’ to get the fixin’s out of the frig, so I can fix some supper for my darling hubby and me.

What is your favorite slang word for phrase?

 

 

Updated: April 4, 2016 — 7:40 pm

Ain’t Nothin’ Better than Cowboy Lingo

MargaretBrownley-headerI love writing about the old west.  That was when men were men and women were women, but a cowboy wasn’t a cowboy unless he was wild, woolly and full of fleas.  Of course the heroes we write about are more likely to be tall, dark and handsome, which may be a bit of a tall tale or whizzer.  But as far as the lingo goes, there’s no reason to stretch the blanket —and yes-siree-bob, that’s part of the fun.

Today’s language seems rather dull compared to the colorful expressions and words of yesteryear.  Can you think of  more mouth-pleasing words than hornswoggle, caboodle or skedaddle?  Or what about fiddlefooted, ranktankerous, rumbumptious  or splendiferous? A latte may be the haute cuisine of coffee, but give me an Arbuckle’s any day.

A know-it-all has a saddle to fit every horse, and if someone called you a drowned horse it meant you had a bloated ego.  And when was the last time you heard the weather man describe a dust storm as Oklahoma rain?  Cowboys didn’t just work together they were in cahoots, and if you want to ride your horse fast, you will either  have to burn the breeze or ride a blue streak.

The rebellious part of me delights that my characters can use such words as “ain’t” and “druther” without being cut down.  My eighth grade English teacher would have had a fit.  Of course, back in the 1800s, she’d be more likely to have a conniption (any way you call it,  it serves her right for branding me with an F).

Today’s nicknames seem rather tame compared to Old Fuss and Feathers, Rattlesnake Dick, Cattle Annie. and Crazy Horse Lil

 

 

When a cowboy said “hell on wheels” he wasn’t talking about no bikers (double negatives welcome).  He was talking about movable towns that followed the building of railroads.

Job hunters could take a lesson from an old buckaroo who claimed to be born in a hurricane and could handle anything that came his way.  A cowboy didn’t have work experience but he sure did have wrinkles on the horn.  He was also a firm believer that every bull should carry its own tail.  Think you’re right for the job?   I’m your huckleberry meant I’m your man.  Write that on your resume.

Want to impress someone with your courage? Tell them you know how to die standing up.  Someone dallying too long in the chow line? Yell at them to fire and fall back.  Fallen off the straight and narrow?  What you need is a fire escape (a cowboy’s name for a preacher).   Feeling spooney?  You haven’t lived until you’ve lallygagged on a sparking bench with your beau.

Criminals were called gangs, and a bad guy was a desperado, cattle thief,  gunman or roughneck. Anyone caught messing with the sheriff was escorted to the hoosegow immediately, if not sooner.

Finally, a word of wisdom to all you greenhorns out there.  Get a wiggle on and chew the cud but stay away from conversation fluid (whiskey)  Tell us your favorite cowboy expression and you’ll make us as happy as a dog with two tails.

Working Undercover is No Job for A Lady!

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Updated: March 18, 2016 — 6:44 pm

THAT’S SUCH A CLICHE! by CHERYL PIERSON

Cheryl2041webClichés are the bane of a writer’s existence. (I think I just used a cliché!) They’re so easy to fall back on because we’ve heard them all of our lives and they’ve become a part of our speech patterns—so, of course, when we write, they invade our work there, as well.

I really didn’t notice how often clichés appeared in the books I read until I wrote my own book, and my editor sent me a very nice note telling me I needed to go through and remove the clichés and find a different way of wording some of the passages…I had never seen so much red ink in my life!

 

(Here’s my first iteration of Fire Eyes–the one I had to take all the clichés out of!)

FireEyes_w2475_300I got better as time has gone on, but there are still instances when I think, “Nothing else will do!” And I have to tell myself, “Yes. You’ll think of a different way to say it.”

As a reader, I do notice those clichés more now than I did before. And if there are too many of them, I have been known to lay the book down…for good. You might think such a thing isn’t a HUGE deal, but for me, being aware of it tends to jerk me out of the story when I see too many of them.

I subscribe to a newsletter called “QUORA” – it’s a fun little online publication, where people write in with questions and other people answer them. The rest of us can “upvote” the answers if we agree.

Yesterday I came across this question: What are the most common clichés in fiction writing? Author Ellen Vrana gives these answers—and they’re darn good! I had to laugh—I’ve used plenty of these. Take a look:

RICK BURGESS--GNARLED TREE PLUM ORCHARD LAKE

 

 

 

 

(PHOTO by Rick Burgess http://our-wv.com/photography/photographers/rick-burgess-photography/west-virginia-water-colors-2016-calendar/ )

Every oak tree is gnarled. Every gentle wave is lapping upon the shore. Every mountain town is nestled in a valley, every chimney produces curled rings of smoke.

Every politician is slick, every banker is soulless. Journalists are moral and hardworking. Teachers are worn out. Every woman is unsatisfied, every man is flippant. Mothers are worn out too, but the fathers are emotionless.

Every woman has jet black hair and every day starts with bitter coffee (which might also be scorching) and ends with whiskey (who drinks whiskey?) and ice that clinks. (Or is it chinks? My eyes glaze over . . . )

In the city there are cars honking, lights blinking and there are many things that are incessant; noise, screams, cries, honking. Oh, and blaring lights. Lots of blaring lights which sometimes flicker.

The country has chirping crickets and waving grass. Parched earth abounds, there is lots and lots and lots of dust. The moon is always bathing things, the fog is always thick or dense, sometimes both. Thunderstorms rage while thunder cracks. Lighting illuminates, what, I don’t know. The sun shines down, as opposed to up, and clouds really don’t do anything except move.

Waves crash. Cars don’t. Tears roll down cheeks and faces break into smiles while the eyes always crinkle, when they aren’t sparkling, or flashing. Hair shines or curls, always curls. People are clad in clothing, never just clothed in it. Necklaces dangle and bracelets chink. Arms are thick and strong and eyes meet more than people.

Thoughts race or sometimes pervade while anger boils. Chills run up or down spines, depending on where you live, and ideas aren’t just clear, they are crystal clear. What is crystal? It’s what you drink your whiskey in. With the ice that clinks.

Things are notably pale, thick, greasy, cold, strong and dry which don’t need to be. If it’s a pillow we know it’s soft. Ditto Coke and cold. Words like eat and ran and speak are passed over for gobbled and raced and exclaimed. People can’t just hold they have to clasp, they can’t cry they have to sob and they can’t stop they have to come to a halt.

I’m not tired, I’m fatigued. I’m not messy, I’m disheveled. I’m not sad, I’m despondent. Ah whatever, at least I’m not gasping for breath or not sleeping a wink over the use of clichés. Every writer falls for them, at some time or another. Every oak tree is gnarled. Even this one.

(There was a reason I picked this particular photo that Rick did–the “gnarled tree”, the colors that looked “as though they were painted”, and the water that reflects those colors “like a mirror”…)

 

PRPA MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE WEB.JPG FINALI’m giving away a digital copy of the PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS’ upcoming Christmas anthology for 2015—A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE! This fantastic collection of stories will be available on November 27. It’s got a fabulous line up of authors, including fillies Kathleen Rice Adams, Tanya Hanson, and me, along with debut author Jesse J Elliot, Patti Sherry-Crews, Jacquie Rogers, Meg Mims, and Livia J Washburn.

Here’s the link to PRE-ORDER this fabulous collection, and receive it on your Kindle on November 27!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0182FEYU6/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

What cliché grates on your nerves or holds fond memories for you? Leave a comment about it to be entered in this wonderful give-away!

(Petticoats and Pistols contest rules do apply.)

A COWGIRL’S GUIDE TO LIFE

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My friend Susan gave me this entertaining book the other day!   I love reading the quotes and find some so true, some funny and others very poignant.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you today, from NEVER ASK A MAN THE SIZE OF HIS SPREAD, A Cowgirl’s Guide to Life. Giving credit to the author, and I love her name, Gladiola Montana.  Isn’t that a great name?

 

Never Ask a Man the Size of his Spread

 

 

QUOTES:

The Code of Her West- Use a short rope, a sweet smile, and a hot brand.

When a cowboy gives you the key to his truck, you know you’re close to winning the key to his heart.

Foolin’ a man ain’t all that hard, finding one that ain’t a fool is a lot harder.

Oil all the wheels on your wagon, not just the squeaky one.

“One of these days” is “none of these days.”

You can’t get ahead of anybody you’re tryin’ to get even with.

If you wake up and find yourself a success, you ain’t been asleep.

Be sure to taste your words before you spit ‘em out.

Women have a lot of courage, otherwise none would ever get married. 

New and improved can’t beat tried and true.

When kissin’ a cowboy in the rain, make sure you both fit under his hat. 

A lesson every cowgirl should learn is where her business ends and someone else’s starts.

About half your troubles come from wanting your way; the other half come from gettin’ it.

Always say “please” when you tell somebody to shut up.

To win all you gotta do is get up one more time than you fall.  

Before you get serious with a cowboy, make sure he values you more than his truck. 

If a man thinks that a woman who can dog steers, ride broncs and rope the wind is too much for him, he’s probably right.

A weddin’ ring should cut off the wearer’s circulation. 

Never-under any circumstances-admit that you like to cook. 

 

Aren’t these great?   They made me laugh.  My favorite is: “Be sure to taste your words before you spit ‘em out.”  Which one fits you the best?  

And be sure to visit me tomorrow at A Platinum Event- Fantastic Fall Multi-Author Online Party.  Sign up TODAY to be included. Every author is giving away wonderful prizes.  And my hour on the fence post is Friday at 3:15 pm, PST…I’d love to see all of you there!!  I’m giving away Amazon Gift Cards and this Fabulous Fall Prize. (Audio book of Carrying the Rancher’s Heir, Pumpkin shakers, Pumpkin spiced candle, Fall kitchen towels, and Candy corn!)

Fall 1

 

Check out my newest release too, A Royal Temptation! 

A Royal Temptation 1

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Updated: October 13, 2015 — 3:31 pm
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