Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cowboy Slang

If you write either contemporary or historical Western romances then you know how difficult it is to create authentic cowboys who "talk the walk."

I write contemporary cowboy stories so my heroes are fairly educated, but I love to throw in a few quirky characters—usually geezers—who are throwbacks to the "olden days." In order to make those characters realistic to my readers I turn to two of my favorite books: Cowboy Slang and Cowboys Talk Right Purdy by Edgar "Frosty" Potter.

One reason I have my secondary characters use colorful language is that their phrases conjur up word pictures, which add humor to my writing—most of my readers expect a little "cowboy" humor in my books. Here are a few examples of phrases from "Frosty's" book that trigger word pictures in the reader's mind.

"A man that straddles a fence usually has a sore crotch."


"His hoss throwed him forked-end up."


"She didn't wear 'nough clothes to dust a fiddle."


Below are some of my favorite Cowboy Sayings:
Blind: So blind he couldn't see through a bobwire fence.
Big: As broad beamed and cow-hocked as a Holstein's behind.
Braggart: He was full of wind as a bull in corn time.
Bronc Rider: I got throwed so high I could've said my prayers before I lit.
Courting: Thet little feller with a bow an' arrer can shore bugger up a cowboy.
Dead: He'd saddled a cloud an' rode to the great beyond.
Drunk: He drank so much hair oil he had to eat moth-balls to keep down the fur.
Dumb: He couldn't hit a bull's ass with a banjo.
Fighting: I squirted 'nough lead into him to make it a payin' job to melt him down.
Religion: Most of his religion was in his wife's name.
Swearing: He could make a bull-whacker's cussin' sound like a Methodist sermon.

Do you have a memorable line one of your characters has said...or have you read a book with a character whose language and words made him or memorable?

Marin
Roughneck Cowboy
(Feb 2011)
Rodeo Daddy (April 20110)
www.marinthomas.com

9 comments:

  1. MARIN--I LOVE these photos! How funny. I have a site bookmarked that contains cowboy slang. I rarely use it, but sometimes I read it to entertain myself. (the lady is not exactly the femme fatale we think of as saloon beauties!)
    Celia

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  2. The fence straddler quote and pic are great! My favorite quote is when one of my characters has finally calmed down after a temper outbreak: "Now that I've stopped chewing steel and spitting horse shoes ..."

    Enjoying the blog,
    Nancy

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  3. Celia--you're not joking about the picture of the bordello sweetie I found :-)

    Nancy, love the chewing steel and spitting horse shoes quote! Very visual :-)

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  4. I love this post! I have several books similar. One of my favorite sayings is, "Don't squat with your spurs on."

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  5. Caroline--I've got a book titled Don't Squat with yer Spurs on. :-)
    Cowboys get right to the point, don't they?

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  6. Marin, great photos. I use Cowboy Lingo- A dictionary of slack-jaw words and whangdoodle ways of the American West by Ramon F. Adams. It has some good sayings and information about cowboys.

    In it a brave man "had plenty of sand in his craw," "had plenty of gravel in his gizzard" while anyone not possessing those qualities; "ran his boot-heels over side-steppin' trouble," "had a yellow streak down his back so wide that it lapped plumb around to his brisket bone," or "was yellow as a dandelion".

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  7. Hi Paty
    lol, thanks for sharing your cowboy slang--Love it!

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  8. Marin,

    I love these pictures. Great post--love the slang. When I worked at the National Cowboy Museum a few years ago, they had a huge display about Ramon F. Adams. Very interesting! Thanks so much for this post, Marin--I loved it.
    Cheryl

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  9. Hi Cheryl--thanks for your comment. I'm a sucker for cowboy and wild west trivia. I put a trivia question in my monthly newsletter that goes out to my readers and we all have fun with that. What would a western romance be without a little cowboy slang?

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