Tag: Cowboy Lingo


One of my favorite things about the cowboy mystique is the way they express themselves. That colorful cowboy lingo is second to none when it comes to finding just the right way to describe a situation or person. Those western metaphors draw me into the old west faster than a gunman can clear leather. My mind immediately conjures images of trail-weary cowpokes jawin’ around a campfire or a bunch of ranch hands mumbling their opinions from atop a corral rail.

Ramon Adams wrangled up a fun selection in his book, Cowboy Lingo. Here are some of my favorites:

To express something as being hard to miss –

“plain as the ears on a mule” or “as conspicuous as a new saloon in a church district”

Someone or something not well liked –

“as popular as a wet dog at a parlor social”

A brave man –

“had plenty of sand in his craw” or “gravel in his gizzard”

When asked to do something on foot instead of on horseback –

The cowboy would reply that he was “too proud to cut hay and not wild enough to eat it.”

In hot, dry weather –

“you had to prime yourself to spit” or the weather “sweated him down like a tallow candle”

Trying to accomplish the impossible was like –

“tryin’ to scratch yo’ ear with yo’ elbow” or “trimmin’ the whiskers off the man in the moon”

Something useless –

“as useless as a twenty-two cartridge in an eight-gauge shotgun”

To describe a worthless person –

“his family tree was a scrub” or “he ain’t fit to shoot at when you want to unload your gun”

An ignorant person –

“don’t know as much as a hog does a side-saddle”; “his thinker’s puny”; “he don’t have nuthin’ under his hat but hair”; or “his brain cavity wouldn’t make a drinkin’ cup for a canary bird”

When something is pretty –

It’s “pretty as a painted wagon” or “pretty as a young calf’s ear”

When something is ugly –

It’s “so ugly the flies wouldn’t light on him”

A thin person –

“he’s built like a snake on stilts” or “he’s so narrow he could take a bath in a shotgun barrel”

An inhospitable person –

“sociable as an ulcerated tooth” or “as polite as a hound to a stray pup after his bone”

An unhappy person –

“his luck was runnin’ kinda muddy” or “someone had swiped the silver linin’ off his cloud”

 If a cowboy failed to comprehend your meaning, he might ask you to –

“chew it finer” or “cut the deck a little deeper” or “cinch up a little, your saddle’s slipping” because “it’s too boggy a crossin’ for me”

If he needed you to repeat something –

“Would you mind ridin’ over that trail again?”

If you talked too much, he might advise you to –

“save part of your breath for breathing” or “keep a plug in your talk box” or “put your jaw in a sling, your liable to step on it”


So what about you? What are some of your favorite cowboyisms?


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