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Colonial House

Old West Slang

Ace-high: first class, respected.

A hog-killin' time: a real good time. "We went to the New Year's Eve dance and had us a hog-killin' time."

Arbuckle's: slang for coffee, taken from a popular brand of the time. "I need a cup of Arbuckle's."

At sea: at a loss, not comprehending. "When it comes to understanding women, boys, I am at sea."

Balled up: confused.

Bazoo: mouth. "Shut your big bazoo."

Bear sign: cowboy term for donuts. A cook who could and would make them was highly regarded.

Beat the devil around the stump: to evade responsibility or a difficult task. "Quit beatin' the devil around the stump and ask that girl to marry you."

Beef: to kill. "Curly Bill beefed two men in San Antonio."

Between hay and grass: neither man nor boy, half-grown.

Best bib and tucker: your best clothes. "There's a dance Saturday, so put on your best bib and tucker."

Bone orchard: cemetery.

Burg: town.

Calaboose: jail.

California widow: woman separated from her husband, but not divorced. (From when pioneer men went West, leaving their wives to follow later.)

Clean his/your plow: to get or give a thorough whippin'.

Coffee boiler: shirker, lazy person. (Would rather sit around the coffee pot than help.)

Crowbait: derogatory term for a poor-quality horse.

Curly wolf: real tough guy, dangerous man. "Ol' Bill is a regular curly wolf, especially when he's drinkin' whiskey."

Doxology works: a church.

Dude: an Easterner, or anyone in up-scale town clothes, rather than plain range-riding or work clothes.

Fight like Kilkenny cats: fight like crazy.

Fish: a cowboy's rain slicker, from a rain gear manufacturer whose trademark was a fish logo. "We told him it looked like rain, but left his fish in the wagon anyhow."

Four-flusher: a cheat, swindler, liar.

Get a wiggle on: hurry.

Granger: a farmer.

Heeled: to be armed with a gun. "He wanted to fight me, but I told him I was not heeled."

Hobble your lip: shut up.

Hoosegow: jail.

Knock galley west: beat senseless.

Make a mash: make a hit, impress someone. (Usually a female.) "Buck's tryin' to make a mash on that new girl."

Mudsill: low-life, thoroughly disreputable person.

Play to the gallery: to show off. "That's just how he is, always has to play to the gallery."

Played out: exhausted.

Plunder: personal belongings. "Pack your plunder, Joe, we're headin' for San Francisco."

Ride shank's mare: to walk or be set afoot.

See the elephant: originally meant to see combat for the first time, later came to mean going to town, where all the action was.

Scuttlebutt: rumors.

Simon pure: the real thing, a genuine fact. "This is the Simon pure."

Soft solder: flattery. "All that soft solder won't get you anywhere."

Someone to ride the river with: a person to be counted on; reliable; got it where it counts.

Sound on the goose: true, staunch, reliable.

Take the rag off: surpass, beat all. "Well, if that don't take the rag off the bush."

The Old States: back East.

Wake up/Woke up the wrong passenger: to trouble or anger the wrong person.

Thirteen / WNET New York PBS Online Colonial House is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York.
© 2003-04 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
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