Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Old West Lingo

Writing a book requires discipline and dedication. And when writing a certain genre, research often comes into play. Such is the case for writing western historical romance. 

As the author, I want my story to be as true to the old west as possible. It’s easy for me to envision the outward appearance of a cowboy; Stetson, denims, chaps and spurs. And thanks to Hollywood movies, I have a vivid concept of the towns and saloons they frequented and the ranches they lived and worked on. Even mannerisms come easy to me. Some are the strong, silent type. Others are the quick-tempered, fist-throwing type. But when it comes to the lingo and the slang from their era, that’s where I sometimes draw a blank. But I have a wonderful reference book at my hands to help with this problem, Everyday Life in the 1800’s.  Below are some of the terminology I consider unique and funny:  

Cowboy Phrases:
Barking at a knot—wasting time
Could follow a woodtick on a solid rock—refers to one adept at tracking or following a trail
Doesn’t use up all his kindlin’ to make a fire—someone who doesn’t waste words on small talk
Don’t go wakin’ snakes—don’t make waves (I have used this one)
Loosened his hinges—someone thrown from a horse
Seven by nine—something or someone of inferior or common quality (I have used this one)

Coffin varnish—bad coffee
Collar and hames—a stiff collar and necktie
Decorate a cottonwood—to be hung
Grass freight—goods shipped by a team of bulls
Lady broke—a very gentle horse
Muleys—hornless cattle
Parlor gun—another name for a derringer
Pull foot—leave in a hurry
Soaplock—a rowdy
Underwears—cowboy’s contemptuous name for sheep

Bedchamber sneak—a thief’s assistant
Bloke buzzer—a pickpocket who specializes in picking the pockets of men only
Calaboose or hoosegow—prison
Kick—code word used by pickpockets to communicate which pocket a wallet is in
Necktie sociable—a hanging (I use this one frequently)
Pettifogger—an unscrupulous lawyer
Rounder—a habitual offender
Scratcher—a forger
Touching a jug—thieves language for robbing a bank


Alison E. Bruce said...

Love the cartoons! Those are one's that I've saved too. And you obviously share my love of language. (What writer doesn't though?)

Shanna Hatfield said...

Awesome post! Made me smile to read some of those old sayings!