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?

Roughneck Cowboy
(Feb 2011)
Rodeo Daddy (April 20110)


  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!)

  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,

  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 :-)

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

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

  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".

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

  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.

  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?


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.