Western Slang

October 13-28 I plan to be in Peru.  As you read this, I’ll likely be rafting the Urubamba or trekking the heights of Macchu Picchu.  Since I won’t be present to respond to your comments, I hope you’ll get a chuckle out of this list of Western slang phrases.  The list is adapted from THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE 1800s, by Marc McCutcheon (Writer’s Digest Books, 1993). 

I tried and tried to format these into a neat single-column list.  The program wouldn’t cooperate.  Made me as mad as a peeled rattler!

all horns and rattles:  very angry 

as blind as a post hole:  very blind 

barkin’ at a knot:  doing something useless 

colder’n a witch’s tit:  very cold

could follow a woodtick on solid rock:  expert at tracking 

dead as a can of corned beef:  dead

doesn’t use up all his kindlin’ to make a fire:  doesn’t waste words on small talk 

don’t go wakin’ snakes:  don’t make waves 

grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ a yellowjacket:  happy or embarrassed 

harder than tyin’ down a bobcat with a piece of string:  difficult 

hot enough to wither a fence post:  very hot 

mad as a peeled rattler:  very mad 

mad enough to swallow a horn-toad backwards:  very mad 

only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook:  self explanatory

short as a tall hold on a bear:  very short

you can’t hitch a horse with a coyote:  referring to opposites who marry

How about you?  Do you know any fun Western slang you can add to this list? 

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

15 thoughts on “Western Slang”

  1. Wow, Elizabeth, what an adventure.
    My mother-in-law uses old sayings like this a lot.

    About children:
    When they’re young they tug on your apron strings. When they’re old they tug on your heartstrings.

    Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

    Good Lord Willin’ and the creek (crick) don’t rise.

    I can make a meal for ten people in thirty minutes. Or is it thirty people in ten minutes.

    And my father-in-law (deceased) always said: I’m agin it. (as in I’m against it) I always loved the sound of that. “Fer it or agin it.”

    Really they speak perfect English but they’re older–mil is 88–and they just have these old sayings they carry along.

  2. Wow! Sounds like you’re on an amazing adventure! Hope you’re having fun!

    I love old sayings-
    I’ve always heard the “colder than a witch’s tit in an iron bra.”

    Not sure if it’s a Western slang- but there’s also the “Colder than a well digger’s a**”

    I love~
    Nervous as a longtailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs
    Fit to be tied
    Feel like you’ve been run through the mill
    Mad as a wet hen
    P’shaw

  3. Oh my gosh, how fun! I hope you’re not thinking about us slaving away up here. 🙂 That would be a shame, now wouldn’t it? Soak up Peru and come back and tell us all about it. We’ll be envious as a widow woman at a kissing contest!

    I recently read one of Linda Lael Miller’s books and she wrote something along the lines of: He sounded like the rattling lid of a boiling pot. Thought that was neat. I’d never heard it. And my mama always said talking to my dad was like arguing with a fence post. He was pretty stubborn and wouldn’t listen to a blamed thing. My, the memories.

    Enjoy your trip and make lots of notes! 🙂

  4. Well you left out.
    Rode hard and left out wet…..looks used well and not cared for well.
    Well these are my kind of gals. I read them all and look for them everywhere I go. If they are not reviewed in the RTM where can you find if you missed a new release.
    As to my stack of to be read books, Well I began to read on vacation at the beach with the kids surfing and then as I found the kids bigger I read a bit more. Well mom wanted to read and so I dropped off a few for her and then she got so she could not do much but read and bead so I got way behind. I make the lists and check off the lists books we read or have. Well now I have closet shelves full with boxes of books I am behind on and they were checked off the “to get” list and on my to read list. Mom is gone and Dad is still reading away. Nearly one book a day and that keeps me buying and shopping for them alot. So do I read, Yes, and will I be reading in my old age. When the money is gone the books will be waiting for me. Yeah. I am always hunting for “These Books” and I would devour them in a day if I could be left alone. Food and wash, and babysitting our Grand twins of 10 months besides teaching and designing beadwork does get in my way but I do read some every night in bed.
    What I would do if I could? Well make 2 gourmet meals and dessert and buy ice cream then I would bead and read the week away. I have a lazboy and I just get the blanket or turn up the AC and enjoy some grapes and chocolate. My daughter and I do go to the beach with her kids and even they know we read in bed and they come for a story by grandma in the dark with ocean waves.The RV is so perfect for our 5 day jaunt and the kids are book readers at 3 and 5. Well picture readers anyway. My son is never without a book and his wife also. So we do support books. What a grand life if we did not have to work!

  5. Oh, and I thought of one…although it might not quite be western slang “It’s comin’ up a cloud…” My grandmother used to say that whenever it looked like it was going to rain.

  6. Great list! Good grief, Elizabeth. Peru! Hope you have a great time. :o)

    Okay, back to the list. How about…

    — uglier than a mud fence

    — He’s so full of hot air, he could blow up an onion sack.

    And my personal favorite…

    — uglier than I was that dry year

    (here in eastern Ky., I heard this last one often when I was a child. Have never figured out exactly what it meant. :o)

  7. Elizabeth- FUN trip & safe return- my parents went to Bolivia & Peru 10 yrs ago: left early due to sudden health problem, but created exciting story: Mom (age 68 then) had GREAT medical care: Dr visit to hotel & male nurse for $125 24 hrs. My straight-laced Dad meet a man at midnight to get blackmarket conversion of $200 travelers’ checks to pay extra to leave country early!

    Horse & coyote describes my husband & I- we thought we were so alike when we first met and are NOT!
    Heard “…witch’s tit” and variation: leftover’s is “sucking hind tit” (of a sow-female pig.)

    Mary, love your familiar additions! (knew all but 10-30) and Taryn’s list as well. Must be a Midwest thang.
    Linda- Widow woman– LOL!

    Elizabeth- Just found a TREASURE trove at my local booksellers: 7 of your books, 2 of Charlene’s AND 6 of Chery StJohn’s, including TWO
    I didn’t have! My nickname is holding TRUE!

  8. This is too funny. I’ll have to dig my copy of Everyday Life in the 1800’s out and read through it again.

    By the way, I did recognize a couple of those sayings! 🙂

    Have a great trip!

  9. Hi, everybody. It’s Sunday afternoon, October 28 and I’m back after a great trip. Flea-bitten and worn out but it was wonderful.
    Loved your comments! Thanks to those of you who helped liven things up in my absence!

  10. I just love your website, and thought maybe you’d help me out with a good name for my boutique. It’s a trendy/vintage/cowgirl/boho chic kinda place. I’m also gonna offer custom leather work as well. Please help! I’ve got my brain in knots tryin to come up with one. Thanks

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