Misc: Cool Western Slang
Love them tough-talkin' cowboys? Sure, who doesn't? Oddly enough,
though, ole' western cowboy slang was a bit different from what you'll
pick up from Hollywood productions (go figger). Here's a list of some
of my favorite authentic old western terminology. This is compiled from
several sources, but the best source for this stuff that I know of is
Blevin's Dictionary of the American West.
- above snakes
- Above ground. Said of a man who's still alive.
- To bachelor it. For men to keep house without a woman's help.
Pronounced, and sometimes spelled, "batch".
- bear sign
- On the range, doughnuts.
- A low-grade drinking place. Cheap whiskey was sometimes
- An Indian male who dressed and lived entirely as a woman, fulfiling that
cultural role within the tribe. Sometimes called in Indian languages a
"would be woman" and sometimes thought of as a third sex. Common
among the tribes of the Americas, these men-women had social and religious
powers. They might be givers of sacred names; first to strike the
sun-dance pole; leaders of scalp dances; good luck to war parties; visionaries
and predictors of the future; matchmakers; excellent artisans in beadwork,
quillwork, hide-tanning and making clothing; creators and singers of songs.
Understood as following a vision by most Indians, they were not tolerated
by whites. They persist today, discreetly.
- bug juice
- Booze, firewater
- butt log
- In logging, the section of three nearest the stump; the biggest log.
Also butt cut, the length of log just above the stump.
- In cowboy talk, to get out fast.
- Cowbow talk for rope; in verb form to hang (someone).
Hemp fever was a morbidly jocular term for a hanging.
Hemp party (also string party) meant the same.
A hemp committee was a group of vigilantes or a lynch
mob (depending on your point of view) and a hemp necktie
was the rope they did the deed with.
- Rowdies of the gold-rush days of San Fransisco.
- man for breakfast
- A murdered body in the streets at dawn.
Commonplace in the early days of Los Angeles and Denver.
- on the prod
- Full of piss and vinegar and looking for trouble.
Said of both people and critters.
- pecker pole
- What a logger called a small tree or sapling.
- parade chaps
- A pair of chaps strictly for show. Might be worn
for the grand entry parade at a rodeo.
- Cowboy talk for naked. An unshucked gun is one that's out of the
- One of the words for cowboy, especially a cowboy who drifted from
ranch to ranch and helped out in busy times. Jo Mora and Ramon Adams
both suggest that the word derived from wad, something used
to fill in, but this notion isn't widely accepted. Neither is the
suggestion that it comes from chewing tobacco. To add to the mystery,
waddy first meant "rustler", then "cowboy".
Also spelled waddie.
Woad (also wad), is a plant grown, mostly in England to
make a blue dye consisting primarily of indigotin. It
was supplanted by indigo, then later by synthetic dyes.
People who worked the woad plantations in the Fens of Holland,
Lincolnshire, and Cambridgeshire still call it wad, just
as it was pronounced 1000 years ago.
People who worked in the woad fields were called waddies,
or less frequently woadmen.
(From Woad in the Fens by Norman T. Wills)
It likely crossed the atlantic with migrant agricultural
The Bibble Pages Christian Molick