Game Day – Musical Word Play

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. It’s Game Day!!  Always a fun time. And since I love word games (I also love math games but I’m aware I may be in the minority there 🙂 ) I thought we’d play one that combines wordplay and music.

This is going to be super easy – take the letters in EITHER your first or last name (or both if you’re feeling ambitious!) and list a song that starts with that letter.  Here’s an example using my name – I used both my first and last names because I wanted to cover more songs (and yes I’m a BIG Randy Travis and Beatles fan 🙂 )

Whisper My Name (Randy Travis)
In My Life (Beatles)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
Norwegian Wood (Beatles)
I Told You So (Randy Travis)
Eight Days A Week (Beatles)

Girl (Beatles)
Revolution (Beatles)
If I Didn’t Have You (Randy Travis)
Good Day Sunshine (Beatles)
Get Back (Beatles)
Somewhere In My Broken Heart (Randy Travis)

So now it’s your turn. I can’t wait to see what musical choices you make.

And everyone who plays along gets entered in a drawing for their choice of any book in my backlist

Will Rogers: Master of One-liners

I just finished reading a delightful book by Will Rogers titled The Cowboy Philosopher on Prohibition. Using liberal doses of the Bible, Rogers made a thoughtful and humorous argument against the alcohol ban.  The book made me realize how little I really knew about the man and so naturally I had to do some research.    

Will Rogers was born in Indian Territory in 1879 to a prominent Cherokee family.  Rogers quipped that his ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower.  Instead they “met the boat”

He learned cowboying from the ranch hands on his father’s Dog Iron Ranch.  Cherokee freedman Dan Walker taught him roping, which later proved to be his road to success.

Quick to learn ranching, he was in his own words a poor student, saying that he “studied the Fourth Reader for ten years.” He was much more interested in cowboys and horses. Much of his later humor involved both.

“You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.”

He left home to work on a Texas ranch, where he was known for his lassoing abilities.  He then tried to make it as a ranch owner in Argentina, but when he ran out of money, he traveled to South Africa.  There, he joined Texas Jack’s Wild West Circus.”  

He rode broncos, but his real talent was throwing lassoes.  He didn’t just throw one rope; he threw three, and his trick of lassoing a horse’s neck, legs, and the rider all at the same time earned rave reviews.

“Best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what’s the matter. He’s just got to know.”

He returned to America in 1904 and joined the vaudeville circuit.  During his trip to Madison Square Gardens, a wild steer broke out of the arena and began climbing the viewing stands. Rogers roped the steer to the delight of the crowd. The feat got front-page attention from the newspapers, giving him valuable publicity and an audience eager to see more.

At first, he worked in silence, but when he discovered that audiences responded to his western drawl, he began ad-libbing. Soon people were lining up to hear his words of wisdom.

“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

His folksy style enabled him to poke fun at politicians, gangsters, prohibition, and other controversial subjects in such a way that no one took offense. People were too busy laughing.  Knowing that President Woodrow Wilson was in the audience during one performance, Rogers improvised a “roast” of presidential policies that had Wilson, and the entire audience, in stitches.

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
 

He went from being a cowboy to a vaudeville performer. Before long, he was known as a humorist, newspaper columnist, social commentator, and humanitarian.  As an entertainer, he traveled around the world three times and appeared in an astounding 71 movies.  He also wrote six books, and more than 4000 syndicated newspaper columns. 

Somehow, he still managed to marry and father four children.  Who knows how much more he would have accomplished had he not died at the age of 56 in an airplane crash? 

Fortunately, his witticisms live on and are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago when he first uttered them.  The man who cautioned us to “always drink upstream from the herd,” also had a lot to say about politics, which could just as easily be written today.   

  • This would be a great time in the world for some man to come along that knew something.
  • We shouldn’t elect a President. We should elect a magician.
  • Both parties have their good times and bad times at different times. Good when they are out. Bad when they are in.
  • I can’t see any advantage of having one of your own Party in as President… I would rather be able to criticize a man than to have to apologize for him.
  • So much money is being spent on the campaigns that I doubt if either man, as good as they are, are worth what it will cost to elect them.
  • The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. 

What is your favorite Will Rogers’ quote?

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Fall off that horse and come on in!

In 2018, I wrote on western, and particularly Texas, sayings. Then all of you commented with others I hadn’t heard. You had me laughing pretty much all day. My favorite came from fellow filly, Pam Crooks. “He’s foolish enough not to realize he shouldn’t jump a barbed wire fence naked.”

Pam’s saying reminded me of my four Wishing Texas Series heroes, because that’s the kind of friends they are. When one is being a jerk, the others call him on it. As my heroes aren’t traditional cowboys riding on the ranch, I often add western or Texas sayings to add to their western character. I had to find a way to use Pam’s saying. I’m writing Book 4 now, To Marry A Texas Cowboy, and Zane’s best friend says to him, “I suppose you think jumping a barbed wire fence naked is a good idea too.”

As I sat to write today’s post, I realized I needed a laugh. With everything going on in the world, I figured you could too. So, here are some sayings I found but didn’t have space for last time. I hope they make you smile and maybe even chuckle.

Might was well. Can’t dance, never could sing, and it’s too wet to plow.

So crooked you can’t tell from his tracks if he’s coming or going.

If I say a hen dips snuff, you can look under her wing for the can.

He’d argue with a wooden Indian.

He’s the only hell his mama ever raised.

He may not be a chicken, but he has his henhouse ways.

So dry the trees are bribing the dogs.

Better to keep your mouth shut and seem a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

He’s got a big hole in his screen door.

She’s two sandwiches short of a picnic.

He always draws the best bull.

He could sit on the fence and the birds would feed him.

My newest foster Bella, to make you smile!

If a trip around the world cost a dollar, I couldn’t get to the Oklahoma line.

He’d steal his mama’s egg money.

He could talk the gate off its hinges.

She speaks ten words a second, with gusts to fifty.

You were too hard to raise to take chances.

Anytime you happen to pass my house, I’d sure appreciate it.

You smell like you want to be left alone.

If brains were leather, he couldn’t saddle a flea.

He couldn’t hit the floor if he fell out of bed.

Looks like he was pulled through a knothole backwards.

There’s two theories to arguin’ with a woman. Neither one works.

To be entered in today’s random drawing for the scarf, car air freshener and a copy of Home On the Ranch: Colorado Rescue, leave a comment about your favorite western saying. If you don’t have a favorite, tell me which saying above spoke to you the most. Thanks for sliding off and letting your saddle cool while you spent some time with me today. Stay safe until the next time we meet around the corral. 

 

 

Interesting Language and a Christmas Movie

Language is such an interesting subject and I’m always intrigued by the older terms and words. Our forefathers sure had a more colorful way of speaking. In fact, the vivid words drew pictures a lot better than today’s jargon. Since I write historicals I love finding one or two to throw in. Too many can make for difficult reading though. See how many you know. Some may be familiar.

 

Tub-thump – a forceful or violent way of speaking such as a politician

Carking – causing distress or worry such as: the carking of the homeless

Purse-proud – a showy or arrogant manner

Thunderstone – flint arrowheads or axes turned up by a plow and thought to have fallen from the sky

Slang-whanger – a political rant or a noisy talker (I know a lot of these!)

Sixes and Sevens – a condition of confusion or disarray

Mercurial – sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind

Omnishambles – a situation full of a string of blunders or miscalculations

Blue Skins – Presbyterians

Black leg – a gambler

Stanchion – a strong or durable support or barrier

Snipper-Snapper – an insignificant but pretentious person; a trifler

Booklore – book learning

Cactus-bloomers – longhorn cattle

Corpse and Cartridge Occasion – gun battle

Not born in the woods to be scared by an owl – not easily frightened

Do you have any to add to these? I’m giving away a 2019 calendar to two people.

* * *

Now that we’ve had some fun, I want to tell you about a Christmas movie that John Wayne starred in. How many have seen or heard of “The 3 Godfathers?” It came out in 1948 and was about three bank robbers running from a marshal when they stumble across a woman alone in a covered wagon giving birth. Before she dies, she makes them promise to take care of her baby and get him to the town of New Jerusalem. It’s a story of redemption. I watched it when I was young and remember some funny scenes as they try to take care of this infant. So if you’re wanting a different Christmas movie, you might try to find it. The trailer is on YouTube and the movie is on Amazon.

 

Who Said it Best?

It’s hot and my brain is mush, so I decided to do something that wasn’t too taxing.   Take a look at these Old West quotes and tell us who said it best or which quote is your favorite.

  1. “A pair of six-shooters beats a pair of sixes.” —Belle Starr

        “Never run a bluff with a six-gun.” – Bat Masterson

Belle or Bat?

  1. “I never hanged a man that didn’t deserve it.” Judge Parker’s hangman

        “I never killed unless I was compelled to.” –Belle Starr

Belle or George?

  1. “You all can go to hell. I am going to Texas.”  — Davy Crockett

       “Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route.” –Calamity Jane

Davy or Calamity Jane?

  1. Aim at a high mark and you will hit it.” Annie Oakley

       Shoot first and never miss. –Bat Masterson

Annie or Bat?

  1. “The grimly humorous phrase about our town was that Tombstone had ‘a man for breakfast every morning.’” — Josephine Sarah Marcus

      “Tombstone is a city set upon a hill, promising to vie with ancient Rome in   fame, different in character but no less important.” —John C

                                              Josephine or John?

  1. “I have no more stomach for it.” – Tom Horn, resigning as a lawman

       “At my age I suppose I should be knitting.” — Poker Alice

Tom or Alice?

  1. “For my handling of the situation at Tombstone I have no regrets. Were it to be done again, I would do it exactly as I did it at the time.”—Wyatt Earp

       “I do not regret one moment of my life.” —Lillie Langtry

Wyatt or Lillie?

  1. “After being so bad I could hear the angels singing.” —Lillie Langtry

      ”People thought me bad before, but if ever I should get free, I’ll let them know what bad means.”-Billy the Kid

Lillie or Billy?

    9.  “Talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much.” – John Wayne

               “Never miss a good chance to shut up.~ Judge Roy Bean

                                                  John  or Judge Roy?

 

 

New from Margaret Brownley!

Cowboy Charm School

When buying a horse don’t consult a pedestrian;  

When courting a woman don’t ask advice of a bachelor.

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How am I? Same trailer, different park.

If you’ve read my books, you know I love pairing a cowboy with a city girl. My characters usually wonder how they can be attracted to someone who fails to hit even one item on their this-is-what-I’m-looking-for-in-a-potential-date list, and this creates great conflict. But another reason I love throwing cowboys and city women together is it creates great dialogue and can even increase sexual tension.

Here are some sayings that have great dialogue potential. I’ve tweaked some a little the way I would if I used them in dialogue. ?
• Woman, you’re as friendly as a fire ant.
• Darlin’, I’m so country I think a seven-course meal is a possum and a six pack. (I can see my hero saying this one with a wry grin.)
• If a trip around the world cost a dollar, I couldn’t get to the Oklahoma state line.
• You look like you were sent for and couldn’t go. (Can’t you see the sparks flying if my cowboy hero said this to a heroine?!)
• You’re so skinny you have to stand twice to make a shadow. (More sparks flying, I think as my heroine wonders if this is a compliment or a diss.)
• You look like the cheese fell off your cracker.
• Honey, you make a hornet look cuddly.
• Woman, you talk any faster and you’ll catch up to yesterday.
• You look like you’ve been rode hard and put away wet. Or, it’s twin, you look like you’ve been chewed up, spit out, and stepped on. (This one has potential for a tender moment, as the hero asks her what on earth happened. When she asks why he thinks something is wrong, he uses a soft husky voice and says, “Sweetheart, you look like you’ve been chewed up, spit out, and stepped on.” Of course, what he says shatters her control. She confides in him. He understands and consoles her. Bond forms, and there you go, sexual tension.)
• Woman, you could talk the legs off a chair.
• Are you two sandwiches short of a picnic?
• Don’t dig up more snakes than you can kill. (Can’t you imagine a city girl trying to understand what the hero means by this one and him trying to explain it?)
• Don’t write a check your ass can’t cash.
• He’s all hat, no cattle.
• You can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.
• Same trailer, different park. (In response to being asked how you’re doing.)
• Dang, if you aren’t double-backboned (I can see my hero saying this to a heroine when he’s impressed with her strength of will or character. Of course, she won’t quite get the compliment, and when he explains it, she’ll just melt all over his boots.)
• Woman, you’d charge hell with a bucket of ice water.

Not only can a western saying add color and realism to a story, it can add humor, reveal character or even create sexual tension. But best of all, it’s fun as all get out to write.

Now mosey on over to leave a comment about one of the sayings above or your own personal favorite and be entered for a chance to win the snack set and a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy featuring AJ, a Texas Aggie cowboy and New York City girl Grace Henry.

Crossword Puzzle Fun Facts

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I hope you all had a very joyous Christmas and a fun-filled New Year’s celebration.

Last year I took a break from writing western historicals to pen a contemporary short story. It is titled A Crossword Puzzle Christmas and is part of the Christmas Roses anthology.  As the title of the story hints, my heroine is a crossword puzzle enthusiast. Which got me to wondering about the origins of the crossword puzzle itself. So of course I immediately dug in and did some research on the subject and here are a few tidbits I found.

  • Crossword puzzles are a relatively new pastime. The first one was published on 12/21/1913 in the New York World newspaper. The creator of this first puzzle was a journalist by the name of Arthur Wynne who hailed from Liverpool.  You can see a reproduction of his original puzzle below.

  • Arthur came up with the idea for these puzzles when he was trying to think up a new kind of game for the newspaper’s Christmas edition. He adapted it from a popular children’s game called ‘word squares’, transforming it into something more challenging for an adult readership.
  • The original puzzle was well received, so much so that Arthur created new puzzles for the next two Sunday editions. In fact, when the New York World tried to drop the feature, readers complained so strenuously that the owners of the paper decided to make it a permanent part of the puzzle page.
  • Arthur Wynne originally dubbed his puzzle a Word-Cross puzzle. However, several weeks after the puzzles debut, typesetters accidentally transposed the title and printed it as Cross-Word.  For whatever reason, the name stuck.
  • Though readers loved the puzzles, newspaper editors had the opposite reaction. The puzzles were difficult to print and they were prone to typographical errors. It was such a problem that no other newspaper wanted anything to do with them. As a result, for the next decade the only newspaper to carry the popular crossword puzzle was the New York World.

  • Believe it or not, the crossword puzzle was responsible for launching publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster. Popular lore has it that Richard Simon’s Aunt Wixie wondered aloud to him whether there was a book of these puzzles that she could purchase for her daughter. Simon, who was trying to break into publishing with his friend M. Lincoln Schuester, latched onto the idea as a way to kick start his business. The pair approached the New York World’s crossword puzzle editors and reached an agreement with them. For $25 each, they purchased the rights to publish the best puzzles in a book.  They then sunk all their money into printing The Cross Word Puzzle Book.  By year end they had sold more than 300,000 books and Simon & Schuester had become a major force in the publishing industry.
  • As you can see from the puzzle above, the grid was originally diamond shaped. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the puzzles began to take the block form we’re familiar with today.
  • It was also in the 1920s that crossword puzzles really took off in America. The puzzle craze inspired a Broadway plat titled Games of 1925 and a hit song called Crossword Mama, You Puzzle Me (don’t you just love it!).
  • Despite their 20th century origin, crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread of word games in the world today.

There you have it – a brief history of the Crossword Puzzle.

So which of these tidbits surprise you the most? And how do you feel about crossword puzzles –  do you love them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Are there other types of puzzles you prefer?

And since this is my first post of the new year, I thought I’d celebrate by doing a giveaway.  Everyone who leaves a comment on today’s post before noon on Tuesday will be entered into a drawing – the winner will have their choice of any book in my backlist

 

 

Think Like a Horse: 10 Favorite Cowboy Sayings

 

Kathryn Albright Kathryn Albright &Margaret Brownley

Margaret Brownley

wish Petticoats and Pistols

a Rip-Roarin’,

Yippee Ki-Yay

Son-of-a-Gun Birthday

Celebration

To help celebrate, we decided to share some of our favorite words

to live by–cowboy style!

So pull up a log to sit on, prop yer feet by the fire,

and consider the wisdom of the West ~

Kathryn’s Favorites:
(It’s so hard to choose only five! There are so many good ones.)

 

1.  Before you go into a canyon, know how you’ll get out.     
2.  Never straddle a fence. Build one, or tear it down.
3.  You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is till you thump’em.
4.  If you want to stay single, look for the perfect woman.
5.  A mail-order marriage is trickier’n braidin’ a mule’s tail.

Margaret’s Favorites:

1.  You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.
2.  Too little temptation can lead to virtue.
3.  If you come home with a hair on your vest, you better have a horse to match.
4.  Love your enemies, but keep your gun oiled.
5.  Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.

Now it’s your turn.  What are your favorite words to live by?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card

(in celebration of our 10 years here!)

***

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giant birthday bash giveaway. You can find all the details along with the entry form HERE.

Celebration

Running from trouble, Maggie McCary signs up to be a mail-order bride.

She doesn’t intend to actually marry…but one sensational kiss changes her mind!

Mail-Order Brides of Oak GroveAmazon

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There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always catches her man!

A Match Made in Texas

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Wild West Words: Temper, Temper

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

Fighting — over insults, over ideals (as in war), or just for fun — has been a popular pastime since the first person drew the first breath. There’s a reason the American West was called “wild”: Folks on the frontier seemed ready to throw a punch or unshuck a weapon with the slightest provocation, at least if popular myth is anywhere near the truth.

Nineteenth-century words and phrases relating to fighting, things that could provoke a fight, and means of stopping a fight are below. If you’re of a mind, also check out words for women, insults, outlaw vocabulary, food terms, and gambling.

"Smoke of a .45," Charles M. Russell, 1908
“Smoke of a .45,” Charles M. Russell, 1908

At outs with: no longer on friendly terms with; from about 1826. Became “on the outs with” around 1900.

Bantam: small, aggressive person; first documented in 1837. Extension of the 1749 name for a a breed of chicken discovered on Bantam, a Dutch colony in Java. As a lightweight class in boxing, use is attested from 1884. “Banty” is a dialectical corruption of the word.

Beat the living daylights out of: thrash, punish, chastise. Americanism; arose 1880s based on the late-18th Century threat to “let daylight into” a foe. The original phrase meant intent to kill by sword, knife, bullet, or other deadly weapon, but as the force of law began to catch up with the U.S.’s western frontier, the phrase was softened to lessen the perceived risk of hanging for murder should the target of the threat be found dead.

Below the belt: unfair; arose 1889 from boxing.

Bulldozer: person who intimidates by violence. Arose during 1876 U.S. presidential election, along with related “bulldose,” meaning “a severe beating” (literally, “dose fit for a bull”). Both were slang associated with aggressive intimidation of Negro voters in the North and the former Confederate states. Bulldozer acquired its current meaning, “ground-clearing tractor,” in the 1930s based on the image of bulls shoving one another around during dominance displays.

Call [someone] out: challenge, especially to a duel or fight. Arose c. 1823.

Cold shoulder: icy reception; deliberate coldness or disregard; a snub. Arose mid-1850s, evidently as a sarcastic reference to the European elite setting out hot feasts for their guests while the poor were able to afford only a cold shoulder of mutton (not a well-regarded meal). Sir Walter Scott is credited with creating the figurative sense c. 1816 by using “cold shoulder of mutton” to convey a deliberate intention to be rid of an unwanted guest. Americans, as usual, clipped the phrase.

Come off the rimrock: back away from a discussion that has turned unfriendly. Attested from the 1860s in the American West.

"Busted," Charles M. Russell, c. 1920
“Busted,” Charles M. Russell, c. 1920

Comeupance/comeuppance: Get what’s coming to you. 1859, presumably rooted in the phrase “come up,” meaning present oneself for judgment or trial.

Crotchety: irritable, contrary, grouchy. Arose c. 1825 from late-14th Century French crotchet, literally a small hook. In English, crotchet came to mean a perverse, capricious or eccentric notion c. 1800.

Dander: ire, irritation, temper, strong emotion. Entered American English c. 1831: “Don’t get your dander up.” Exact origin unclear, but may have been based on the slightly older (1825) shortening of dandruff (loose flakes of skin; mid-1500s), Spanish redundar (to overflow), or West Indies dunder (fermentation of sugar).

Dustup/dust-up: fight; brawl. Arose c. 1897; Americanism. Most likely a colorful reference to brawlers raising dust as they duked it out, but also may have roots in the late-16th Century usage of dust to mean confusion or disturbance. In the 1680s, to “dust [someone’s] coat” meant to deliver a sound thrashing.

Faceoff/face-off: disagreement (often silent, using only eye contact) that might turn physical. Arose c. 1893 as an extension of the boxing term that first appeared in 1867.

Face the music: Arose 1850 in U.S. congressional debates, probably as a reference to actors facing the orchestra pit—which sat between the audience and the stage—when delivering particularly dramatic lines or soliloquies.

Fired up: angry; arose c. 1824 in the American West. The meaning “throw someone out of a place”—a saloon, for example—arose c. 1871, probably from a play on the two meanings of “discharge”: “to dismiss from a position” and “to fire a gun, the latter of which dates to the 1520s.

Fistiana: anecdotes about pugilists; boxing lore. From 1839.

"Not a Chinaman's Chance," Charles M. Russell, 1894
“Not a Chinaman’s Chance,” Charles M. Russell, 1894

Get in [one’s] hair: persistently annoy, vex, or irk. First appeared in print in the Oregon Statesman in 1851, though the expression undoubtedly is older. Etymologists speculate the phrase originally may have compared an irritating person to head lice.

Gunfight/gun-fight: combat with handguns. American English c. 1889; combination of “gun” and “fight.”

Hold your horses: settle down; take it easy; be patient. Original usage was literal: During harness races at American county fairs, horses picked up on their drivers’ nerves, often resulting in a false start. Consequently, announcers frequently admonished participants to “hold your horses.” First appearance in print: New Orleans Times Picayune, 1844.

Hot air: unsubstantiated statements; empty, exaggerated or pretentious talk; boasting. Probably from observation of a flaccid balloon puffing up and rising as it fills with heated air. Colloquialism; may have arisen as early as 1835-40 but was in common use during the latter half of the 19th Century.

Humps and grumps: surly remarks; a fit of ill humor. Arose c. 1844 from the adjective “grumpy” (c. 1778), which most likely arose as an extension of “grum,” meaning morose or surly (also possibly related to Danish grum, meaning cruel). By 1900, the “humps and” had dropped off and “grump” had become a common term for a disagreeable person. (In this case the adjective appears to have given rise to the noun, instead of vice-versa as was more common.)

Keep your shirt on: be patient; calm down. The Americanism arose c. 1904 from prizefighting. Because organized boxing was illegal in much of the U.S. until the 1920s—not because of the violence, but because gambling and organized crime quickly attached to the sport—pugilists waited to remove their shirts and engage until they were reasonably certain a police raid would not be forthcoming. Men fighting fully clothed was considered a spontaneous brawl; men fighting half-naked indicated forethought.

Knock-down drag-out: violent fight. Arose c. 1859 in the U.S.

Knockout/knock-out: as pertains to general fighting, arose 1887 from the phrase “knock out,” meaning “to stun by a blow for a 10-count,” in boxing. Slang meaning “attractive person” is from 1892. To knock oneself out, meaning “make a great effort,” is from 1936.

"Loops and Swift Horses are Surer than Lead," Charles M. Russell, 1916
“Loops and Swift Horses are Surer than Lead,” Charles M. Russell, 1916

Lather: state of agitation. Arose c. 1839 from the 1650s application of the Old English word for “soap suds” to the violent sweating of horses under stress.

Lock horns: Arose 1839 in the American West from observation of the way cattle butted heads during dominance displays.

Manhandle: to handle roughly. First recorded use 1865, from the earlier nautical meaning “to move by force of men” (instead of using tackle or levers). The nautical connotation arose from the mid-15th Century meaning “to wield a tool”; the 1865 connotation seems more closely related to the late-15th Century common usage meaning “to attack an enemy.”

Mexican standoff: stalemate; impasse. First documented use 1891, though the expression may be older. “Stand-off,” meaning draw or tie, arose c. 1843. Though some sources claim “Mexican standoff” is Australian in origin, a more likely source is Texas, where Mexican bandidos routinely crossed the border for nefarious purposes. Originally, the idiom referred to three mutual enemies facing each other with drawn weapons. If A shot B, C would shoot A, thereby winning the conflict. Everyone wanted to be C, so nobody fired—leaving the dispute unresolved.

Pull in your horns: calm down; back away from a fight. Mid-1800s among cowboys in the American West as a reference to cattle battling with their horns.

Pull up: check a course of action. First recorded use 1808 as a figurative reference to pulling on the reins to stop a horse.

Rough/rough up: beat up or jostle violently; first documented use 1868.

Roundhouse: blow delivered by the fist with a wide sweep of the arm. Arose latter half of the 19th Century from the 1856 use of roundhouse to describe the circular shed with a turntable at the center for repositioning locomotives.

Scrap: fight. First attested 1846, possibly as a variant of scrape, which came to mean “abrasive encounter” or “scheme, villainy, vile intention” in the 1670s.

Scrappy: inclined to fight. First documented appearance 1895, from scrap.

Sockdolager: a heavy, finishing blow; a conclusive argument. First documented appearance 1830 from the 1700s “sock,” meaning “to beat, hit hard, pitch into.” Sockdolager is assumed to have arisen from the conflation of “sock” and “doxology,” meaning finality. The word shifted meaning to “something exceptional” in 1838. “Sockdologising” (confronting with a forceful argument) likely was one of the the last words Abraham Lincoln heard. During the performance of Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, assassin John Wilkes Booth—an actor who had performed in the play—waited for the humorous line “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap.” Amid the laughter that erupted from the audience, Booth fired the fatal shot.

Smack: hit with an open palm; slap. Attested from 1823; presumed to be imitative of the sound of flesh meeting flesh with force.

Spat: petty quarrel. Arose c. 1804 as American slang. Of unknown origin, but perhaps from the notion of “spitting” words.

"Buccaroos," Charles M. Russell, 1902
“Buccaroos,” Charles M. Russell, 1902

Wild and woolly: untamed; rowdy. Americanism first documented in 1855 in The Protestant Episcopal Church Quarterly Review and Register (“wild and woolly-haired Negrillo”). In the post-Civil War years, as dime novels and newspaper accounts popularized sensational tales about Indians, outlaws, lawmen, land and gold rushes, etc. in the new territories, the alliterative phrase “wild and woolly West” became a popular way for Easterners to describe the entire region west of the Mississippi River.

Winded: tired; out of breath; rendered temporarily breathless. Arose c. 1802 as a boxing term used in reference to the effect of a punch in the stomach.

Yank: sudden blow; cuff. American English from 1818. (Also short for “Yankee” during and after the Civil War.)

 

Wild West Words: That’s Downright Insultin’

Insults and pejoratives have been around since man’s first spoken word. Below are some that were popular in the 19th-century American west. (Terms for food are here, women here, outlaws here, and gambling here.)

Bigmouth: a person who talks too much, usually about something another doesn’t want discussed. American English, c. 1889.

Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864
Battle of Franklin (Tenn.) Nov. 30, 1864 (Library of Congress collection)

Bluebelly: from the early 1800s in the U.S. South, a derogatory term for a northerner; a Yankee. From about 1850, a pretentious, opinionated person. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), any Union sympathizer, especially a Union soldier. Union soldiers also were called blueskins, after the color of their uniforms.

Bottom-feeder: a reviled person, especially someone who uses a position of authority to abuse others; a lowlife. Originally used to describe fishes, the word became American slang c. 1866.

Dude: a fastidious man; fop or clotheshorse. The term originated in New York City c. 1880-1885; antecedents uncertain. Westerners picked up the word as derisive slang for any city dweller out of his element on the rough frontier. Cowboys used the phrase “duded up” to mean “dressed up.” Contemporary usage of “dude” as a minor term of endearment or indication of spiritual kinship arose in California’s surfer culture during the latter half of the 20th century.

Fiddleheaded: inane; lacking good sense; “possessing a head as hollow as a fiddle.” Arose c. 1854; American slang.

Grass-bellied: disparaging term for the prosperous (especially those whose prosperity had gone to their waist); originally applied to cattle whose stomachs were dangerously distended due to eating too much green grass. The word arose prior to 1897, when it appeared in Owen Wister’s A Journey in Search of Christmas.

Confederate soldier re-enactors charge into battle during 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg July 6, 2013 (courtesy E.J. Hersom, U.S. Department of Defense)
Confederate soldier re-enactors charge into battle during 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg July 6, 2013 (photo by E.J. Hersom, U.S. Department of Defense)

Grayback: Confederate soldier, based on the color of their coats. Arose during the American Civil War.

Greaser: derogatory term for a Hispanic of the lower classes. Arose in Texas before 1836.

Greenhorn: novice, neophyte, or newcomer; pejorative in the American west from at least 1885. In the mid-15th century the word meant any young horned animal; by the 17th century, it had been applied to new military recruits.

Heeler: unscrupulous political lackey. The U.S. slang meaning dates to about 1877, no doubt from the image of a dog following its master’s heels. The word “heel” took on that very meaning in 1810. Previously (dating to the 1660s), “heeler” described a person who attached heels to shoes.

Hellion: disorderly, troublesome, rowdy, or mischievous. Arose mid-1800s in the U.S. from Scottish and Northern English hallion, meaning “worthless fellow.” Americans may have changed the A to an E because “hell seemed appropriate, although the shift could as easily represent a simple mispronunciation that stuck.

"An East-Side Politician" (Frederic Remington, 1894)
“An East-Side Politician” (Frederic Remington, 1894)

High-binder: swindler, confidence man, cheat (especially of the political variety). Americanism; arose 1800-10.

High yellow: offensive term for light-skinned person of mixed white and black ancestry. Arose about 1808 in the southern U.S. The term and the notion are reflected in popular songs of the mid-1800s, including the original lyrics for “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Hustler: in 1825, a thief, especially one who roughed up his victims. By 1884, meaning had shifted to “energetic worker.” The sense “prostitute” arose c. 1924.

Lead-footed: slow and/or awkward. Arose as American slang c. 1896. By the late 1940s, thanks to the burgeoning interstate highway system in the U.S., the term had taken on the opposite meaning — “fast” — as a reference to a heavy foot on a vehicle’s accelerator.

Loco: Borrowed from Spanish about 1844, the word has the same meaning in both languages: “insane.” “Loco-weed,” meaning a species of plants that make cattle behave strangely, arose about 1877.

Loony: short for lunatic; possibly also influenced by the loon bird, known for its wild cry. American English. The adjective appeared in 1853; the noun followed in 1884. “Loony bin,” slang for insane asylum, arose 1919.

Lunk: slow-witted person. Americanism; first documented appearance was in Harper’s Weekly, May 1867. Probably a shortened form of lunkhead, which arose in the U.S. about 1852.

Alexander W. Monroe, prominent Virginia lawyer and politician,1875. (courtesy West Virginia Division of Culture and History)
Alexander W. Monroe, prominent Virginia lawyer and politician,1875. (courtesy West Virginia Division of Culture and History)

Mouthpiece: from 1805, one who speaks on behalf of others. The word first became tied to lawyers — especially of the slimy variety — in 1857.

Mudsill: unflattering Confederate term for a Yankee. In the 1680s, the word meant “lowest sill of a house.” In March 1858, it entered American politics when James M. Hammond of South Carolina used the term derogatorily during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Yankees embraced the term as a way of flipping Rebs the proverbial bird.

Nuts: mentally unbalanced; crazy in a negative way. From 1846, based on an earlier (1785) expression “be nuts upon” (to be very fond of), which itself arose from the use of “nuts” for “any source of pleasure” (c. 1610). Oddly, “nut” also became a metaphorical term for “head” about 1846, probably arising from the use of “nuts” to describe a mental state. “Off one’s nut” as a slang synonym for insane arose c. 1860. The adjective nutty, i.e. crazy, appeared about 1898; nut as a substitute for “crazy person” didn’t arrive until 1903. (The related British term “nutter,” meaning insane person, first appeared in print 1958.)

Panhandle: to beg. Americanism c. 1849 as a derogatory comparison of a beggar’s outstretched hand to a pan’s handle. The noun panhandler followed in 1893.

Rawheel: newcomer; an inexperienced person. Exactly when the term arose is uncertain, but diaries indicate it was in use in California’s mining districts by 1849.

Redneck: uncouth hick. First documented use 1830. Originally applied to Scottish immigrants who wore red neck scarves during the American Colonial period, the word shifted meaning as it traveled west, possibly in reference to the notion farmers’ necks became sunburned because they looked down as they worked in their fields, leaving the backs of their necks exposed.

Secesh: short for secessionist. First recorded 1860 as a pejorative for Confederates during the American Civil War.

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

Son of a gun: politer version of the epithet “son of a bitch,” indicating extreme contempt. It’s unknown when the American figurative connotation arose, but the literal meaning appeared 1705-15 among the British navy, during a period when officers’ wives accompanied them to sea. Babies sometimes literally were born in the shadow of a gun carriage.

"The Squatters" by George Caleb Bingham, 1850 (courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston )
“The Squatters” by George Caleb Bingham, 1850 (The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, collection )

Squatter: settler who attempts to settle land belonging to someone else. Arose in Britain in 1788 as a reference to paupers occupying vacant buildings; first recorded use in the American west 1880.

Tenderfoot: newcomer; inexperienced person. Arose c. 1866 among miners, apparently in reference to an outsider’s need to “toughen his feet” in order to walk among rocks and stones where mining typically took place. Tender-footed, originally said of horses, leapt to humans in 1854 as a description of awkwardness or timidity.

Whippersnapper:
young, presumptuous and/or impertinent person. The term arose in England c. 1665-1675, possibly as a variant of the much older (and obscure) “snippersnapper.” Modern Americans have Hollywood westerns to thank for inexorably associating the term with cranky elders in the Old West: The word was virtually unused in America prior to the popularity of western “talkies.”

Windbag: person who talks too much, especially in a self-aggrandizing way. First appearance in print 1827. Originally (late-15th C.) “bellows for an organ.”

Yellow-belly: from 1842, a Texian term for Mexican soldiers. Origin obscure, but possibly from traditional association of yellow with treachery or the yellow sashes that were part of a soldado’s uniform. Yellow became slang for “cowardly” c. 1856, but yellow-belly didn’t become synonymous with coward until 1924.

Yellow dog: contemptible person. First recorded use 1881, based on the earlier meaning “mongrel” (c. 1770).