Do You Love Words?

I love words! It sounds strange, but I really do. When I write I get a thrill when the words flow from one to the another like a beautiful rhythmic song. I’ve read authors whose works are so musical that it’s a true and simple joy to read.

When I write my westerns, the words I use have to give the flavor of the time period without over doing. This is called the author’s voice.  Voice comes naturally for most of us, but sometimes we do need a little help.

The greatest resource  I’ve found is The Cowboy’s Dictionary – the Chin Jaw Words and Whing-Ding Ways of the American West, by Ramon F. Adams. This book is a compilation of vocabulary words and phrases from rodeo terminology, common words used by cowmen, sheepmen, the freighter, the packer, the western river-boatmen, the logger, the western gambler and the stagecoach driver.  I enjoy searching this dictionary and finding new terms and meanings that depict the joy and fondness I have for the American West.

 Here are just a few:

Alfalfa desperado – A cowboy’s name for a hay hand.

All horns and rattles – Said of someone displaying a fit of temper. A man in this mood, as one cowboy said, “maybe don’t say nothin’, but it ain’t safe to ask questions.”

Monkey Ward cowboy – A cowboy wearing a mail-order outfit and having little or no range experience.

Man for breakfast – A killing. This expression originated in frontier days when there were so many killings at night in the tough cow towns and mining camps that when the good citizens awoke the next morning they could see the body or bodies laid out before breakfast.

Hobble your lip – A cowboy’s advice to someone to quit talking so much.

chuckwagon500.jpgLoggers and cowboy names for the cook:




Dough roller

Dough wrangler



Bonnet strings

Conk cover

Hair case

Hard-boiled hat

John B



War bonnet

In my upcoming release Bodine’s Bounty, there’s word that I’ve never heard before.  See if you can spot it?charlenesandsbook.jpg

A hard-bitten bounty hunter has no time for love…

Heiress Emma Marie Rourke is naive, innocent and very, very determined. She’ll find her outlaw fatherand make it as a singer.

Bodine—just Bodine—has promises to keep. And looking for some spoiled flibbertigibbet runaway isn’t top of his list. But, dammit, his conscience won’t let him rest until he finds her. And at least there’s a reward for retrieving her.

Protecting Emma isn’t the easy job he expects it to be. Bodine is startled when he can’t get his mind—or his hands—off Emma’s diminutive figure! He’s sworn to keep her safe—but who will save her from him?

No spoiled heiress will stand in his way!

Okay, so how many of you know the meaning of flibbertigibbet?  Honestly, I had to look it up! 

What western words or phrases do you love? Are there any you think are overused? Tarnation, I sure as anything would love to know!

Posters- Thanks for stopping by. I do value your comments, but a family emergency has taken me away today. 

I’m offering a 2 in 1 book in a random drawing today. I’ll pick the winner on Saturday, so please check back.  Win my contemporary Expecting the Cowboy’s Baby and Julianne Maclean’s Sleeping with the Playboy all in one! 

Be sure to enter the Big Fall Bonanza contest and visit me for my all new Win in Winter Contest.

Happy Trails and Happy Reading!

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38 thoughts on “Do You Love Words?”

  1. Hey Charlene!!! I have to say I’m pretty awful at words — spelling was almost my worst subject in school. And flibbertigibbet — that doesn’t even look like a REAL word to me. Can’t wait to see what it means.

  2. Hi Charlene! I hope everything is okay with your family.

    I never heard of flibbertigibbet before, either. The one word that came to mind was poke. Every time I hear it, it makes me laugh. I think it has a true meaning and the reference that makes me laugh is slang. It was used in the movie Lonesome Dove.

    A man who wouldn’t cheat for a poke don’t want one bad enough.

  3. OH, I know this word! I wonder if it has the same meaning on the western frontier that it has in the hills of WV?

    I’ve been called a flibbertigibbet by my grandparents when I was little, I believe it was used to call me someone who couldn’t sit still, ie “Terry Jo, sit down and quit being such a flibbertigibbet!” (Heard that more than once in my life).

    Kim, around here a poke has two meanings 1) a bag 2) a weed the old people pick and eat-poke greens.

  4. What a fun word. It even sounds funny when you say it. I have never heard of it before. What a great post.

  5. Hi, Charlene.
    I’ve heard flibberitgibbet before. I think today’s equivalent word is “airhead”. But I’d love to hear your definition. Thanks for a fun blog. Good luck to all on the contest.

  6. Hi Charlene! I’ve always been fascinated with words, too. I love them so much, I have to go back over my writing and tone it down because there’s no telling what kind of high-flown words pop onto the page when I’m working through a first draft.

    I have a wonderful reference book that sounds very similar to your Cowboy’s Dictionary. Mine is A Dictionary of the Old West by Peter Watts.

    I’m also familiar with flibbertigibbet. Must be a regional thing. Something I found interesting after I got older–many words that were used commonly around these parts when I was young appear to have been carried directly from the old countries. Like chamber pot. By necessity, (because there was no indoor plumbing)we had them. They were enamel buckets with lids and bales (handles). What’s interesting is that the old farm house I lived in didn’t have a “chamber” in sight, nor would anyone have known about a chamber or its definition, but that’s what the pots were called. So I figure it was carried over from the ancestors who first immigrated to this country from England.

    Great post! Hope everything with the family is okay.

  7. I’ve never heard of a flibbertigibbet, but it sounds flighty to me and a bit on the prissy side. LOL

    I don’t think it’s western, but I always got the “ants in the pants” comment because I couldn’t sit still.

    I’ve used the term “lick and a promise” in regard to cleaning my house.

    “Hold your horses” comes out of my mouth a lot with two kids. LOL

    Hope everything is okay with your family. I’ll be thinking of you!

  8. Shoot, my mom used to call me a flibbertigibbet! I love the cowboy slang and use it as much as I can in my books. My favorite word is “hankering”. He had a hankering to feel her body next to his.

    My favorite book is “Cowboy Lingo” A dictionary of slack-jawed words and whangdoodle ways of the American West by Ramon F. Adams.

    And nicknames were a way of the West. A lot of people who went west went for a reason. To get lost. So few would go by their real names. And the cowboys gave names to each other that depicted the either a characteristic of the person or their job.

    A red-headed man would be called, Red, Brick, or Sunset. A man with freckles would be- Speck, Paint, or Pinto. Every outfit had their Slim or Shorty. Another word for a slim person was Skeeter of a fat person, Squatty. If they had extreme bow-legs they would be called Wishbone or Rainbow.

    So you can make up some interesting characters just by their names!

    Fun Blog, Charlene!

  9. Hi Charlene! I hope everything is okay with your family. I love words as well, but flibbertigibbet? I have never heard that one lol. So what does it mean? Do tell. I mean, I could be a flibbertigibbet and not even know it. 🙂

  10. Oh, please, Charlene.

    How do you solve a problem like Maria?
    How do you catch a cloud and hold it down?
    A flibbertygibbet
    A will-o-the-wisp
    A clown

    Have we not listened to The Sound of Music, people?? 🙂

    I love the word lists and book suggestions.
    I was trying to come up with another word for a cook on a cattle drive just yesterday. Just one of those scenes where the word chuckwagon and camp cook were used to many times, and I’m using one of yours.

    The was an older lady in our church who called babies snicklefritz, I’ve always wanted to use that. Right up there with whippersnapper. 🙂 Which I HAVE used.


  11. Charlene, learning new words and expressions is my favorite thing. I especially love the old, colorful phrases of the west and I think using some in our stories adds lots of flavor. Another word for cook was “biscuit-shooter.” A very hard rain was a “goose-drowner.” And I love this one–“That preacher’s been laboring in the Lord’s vineyard for ten years and ain’t picked a grape yet.” I think finding new words and phrases is one of the most fun parts of writing.

    Love your post and the words that popped up!! 🙂 Hope your family is okay.

  12. Charlene, I’m almost positive Mr. Edwards called Laura Ingalls that in an episode or two on “Little House”. I hope everything turns out ok with your family.

  13. Hi Charlene,

    It is interesting to learn about commonly used words in the past and what they meant. Hope you and yours are doing well.

  14. Hi Charlene! I hope everything is okay!

    I think the only place I have seen flibbertigibbet is in a book…and no I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant either.

    I like learning new words and phrases. Westerns and historicals have some of the best. It is interesting to see what words or phrases are common to different regions and time periods. Even today there are words that are common in my neck of the woods that aren’t so common elsewhere.

  15. I have heard the word flibbertigibbet many times in books that I have read especially when I was much younger. As well as, balderdash and Land Sakes. Just love those western expressions.

  16. I have no idea what flibbertigibbet means!!

    I also like to learn new words… though I don’t use them often!!

  17. Nice post, Charlene. This is a great blog. I always learn something when I drop by for a quick visit.

  18. Oh Mary you beat me to it – I’ve been singing the song since I read the blog lol. I’ve always had a knack for spelling and words and I keep a dictionary nearby when I’m reading. Unfortunately I don’t always retain the new word any more but at least I know what the author meant at the time. I’ve always liked the word cattycornered. I’m also from western PA where we have words like gum band and chipped ham.

  19. Hi Charlene,
    I hope everything turns out ok with your family.I have no idea what flibbertigibbet means.
    It is interesting to learn about commonly used words in the past and what they meant.

  20. I’d heard it before, but researched google to find “silly flighty person” and confirm my thought: “Characterized by capricious, unstable, irresponsible or silly behavior.” Has quite a ring to it. Aren’t these considered “collequialisms?”

    I’m wondering if anyone ever called Anne Shirley one in Anne of Green Gables?

    Thanks to Mary for the song lyrics

    Jeanne cattycorner same as kittycorner

    Taryn- my favorite “Trixie Belden”‘s mom asked her to give the house “a lick & a promise” before going on her adventures to solve mysteries. Wish my mom or aunt let me do MY chores that way when growing up! I was a tomboy with ADD so got the “ants in the pants” comment too! I’m from Iowa and we used “hold your horses” also.

    Love Dillydally for dawdling.
    Know older lady who uses snicklefritz- it’s making a comeback- it’s a cat on the kids’ program Big Comfy Couch! LOL
    Didn’t Gaby Hayes say “you young whippersnapper” to Roy Rogers & other cowboy partners?

  21. I first heard flibbertigibbet back when the movie The Sound of Music was first released. I loved the word and went around for days singing that song over and over. Now that I’ve seen the movie over 30 times and rehearsed the play for six weeks in high school the word is firmly burned into my memory banks, never to be erased.
    It means silly or flighty.

    I love words. One of my favorite old western words is dagnabbit. Love this definition from the Urban Dictionary. “Oldcootism used during great consternation or surprise. Used by 1890’s prospectors, cantankerous old farmers, and young people playing old people on TV in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.” “Them dern aliens ruined my golldarn rubbarb patch with their flyin’ machine, dagnabbit!” LOL!


  22. I love words, too. I remember this book, a book-length poem I read to my kids over and over.
    It’s ‘Maude and Claude Go Abroad’ by Susan Meddaugh (I wouldn’t know that without Amazon)

    The poetry is just inspired, so light and whimsical, a lovely book and my girls (I’ve got four daughters) and I used to talk about what a fantastic way Meddaughs had with words.
    The line I loved best was:

    And when they laid eyes on
    Land on the horizon.

    Maybe it’s just me but I loved that she rhymed Laid eyes on…with ‘horizon’

    I also like that ‘awed’ and ‘odd’ are the same word. Things like that just delight me.

    And now I’m singing ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’ all day and I can’t STOP!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Well let me mosey on in before Charlene comes back and say Howdy! Can you mosey in fuzzy bunny slippers? I think “mosey” is overused btw.

  24. DEAR FRIENDS – Thank you all for posting your kind thoughts regarding my family. My uncle and godfather passed away and it took me out of town. It was a honor to write and read his eulogy during the service.

    Now for some good news — “airhead” would be the modern day term for flibbertigibbet – LuckyLou had it right – Characterized by capricious, unstable, irresponsible or silly behavior.
    I sincerely doubt my bounty hunter hero would use that word to describe her, but as you might have guessed I didn’t write the back cover blurb.

    Random Drawing Winner – Congrats to Terry Stone!! Your name was picked out of a “conk cover”. Please contact me at and send me your address.

  25. Oh one more thing– I really enjoyed reading your posts about “words”. And loved your favorite ones. As always, I’ve learned a lot from your posts as well – new phrases and expressions of the old west that you’ve shared with all of us.

    Mary – No I never did make out that word in The Sound of Music – so that’s a new one for me too!

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