The Wonderful World of Cowboy Slang

A post on colorful Scottish dialect got me thinking we have some colorful language of our own here in the U.S. Last year I picked up a wonderful little book, Cowboy Slang, by Edgar R. "Frossty" Potter, to help me develop a cowboy cartoon character I was working on at the time.

From movie Westerns I got the idea cowboys had a distinctive way of expressing themselves, but I never imagined how rich their language is until I flipped through Cowboy Slang. Here are just a few of the many entries --

  • Blackern' a blacksmith's apron.
  • That hoss looked as easy as shootin' fish in a dry lake.
  • Busiern' a hen drinking out of a pan.
  • Had no more guts than a snake had hips.
  • Crooked 'nough to sleep on a corkscrew.
  • Had on boots so fine you could see the wrinkles in his socks.
  • So drunk he couldn't hit the ground with his hat in three tries.
  • Hungry 'nough to eat a saddle blanket.
  • His word was as bindin' as a hangman's knot.
  • [To someone who's talking too much] Save part of yore breath for breathin'.
  • As useless as settin' a milk bucket under a bull.

So expressive and full of good natured humor. The analogies (like corkscrew, for instance), get the point across quickly, don't they? Demonstrates how powerful analogies and metaphors are in business writing.

(History and Old West culture buffs will like the book for its lengthy section on rodeo, drawings of 18 types of bob wire, and other cowboy trivia.)

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