Monday, August 22, 2011

Old West glossary, no. 18

Montana cowboys, c1910
Here’s another set of terms garnered from early western novels. Definitions were discovered in various online dictionaries, as well as searches in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Dictionary of the American West, The New Encyclopedia of the American West, The Cowboy Dictionary, The Cowboy Encyclopedia, The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from novels by Owen Wister and Frederic Remington about a cowboy in Wyoming, a half-breed and a white man raised by Indians in Montana. Once again I struck out on a few. If anybody knows the meaning of “getting on rollers,” “spider dog,” or “klat-a-way,” leave a comment. 

Hot Scotch = a drink made of butterscotch schnapps and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. “Because he liked the smell and had not thought of the mixture for a number of years, Lin took Hot Scotch.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

Money Musk
= a song and partnered folk dance in which couples dance in two facing lines. “Buckskin and feathers may swirl in the tan-bark rings to the tune of Money Musk.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. [see example here]

noggin = a small drinking vessel, a mug. “They had fought and marched together, spilled many a noggin in each other’s honor, and who drew the other’s monthly pay depended on the paste-boards.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. 

Old Boy = Satan, the Devil. “The Old Boy himself would have to wave his tail, prick up his sharp ears, and display the best of his Satanic learning to stand the comparison.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

peach-blow = a delicate purplish pink color likened to that of peach blooms; applied especially to Chinese porcelain. “She showed no sign of life; the peach-blow left her cheeks an ivory white.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

Portland Fancy = a traditional dance for four couples. “‘I expect you used to dance a lot,’ remarked Sabina, for a subject. ‘Yes. Do yu’ know the Portland Fancy?’” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

rimfire = a saddle with a single cinch, placed well forward. “A rim-fire, do you call them? Well, do you know, Major, I should say this saddle was better adapted to carrying a sack of corn than a man.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. 

roach-backed = said of a horse with a convex or up-curving back. “Their gaunt, hammer-headed, grass-bellied, cat-hammed, roach-backed ponies went with them when they took their departure.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. 

Rough on Rats = a poison, claimed to eliminate rats, mice, roaches, flies, beetles, moths, ants, skunks, weasels, gophers, moles, and muskrats. “It had been wolf-poison. It had been ‘Rough on Rats.’ It had been something in a bottle.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

shavetail = a second lieutenant; a noncommissioned officer in the army, from a nickname for an untrained mule marked by a shaved tail. “A bunch of ‘shave-tails’ were marched ashore amid a storm of good-natured raillery from the ‘vets’.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

Sibley tent = a conical-shaped tent used by the military, patented 1856, twelve feet high and eighteen feet in diameter, with a single central pole, housing about a dozen men. “Before the gray of morning they were safely ensconced under a bluff, waiting for the daylight and within a mile of the long line of Sibley tents.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. 

signal service = national weather service originated in 1870 by the Army Signal Corps. “Jode received us at the signal-service office, and began to show us his instruments with the careful pride of an orchid-collector.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean. 

skin game = any form of gambling designed to fleece the uninitiated. “Dey was ’ave plenty money, un I tink we play de skin game on dem.” Frederic Remington, Sundown Leflare.

stager = a horse used to pulling a stagecoach. “The girl’s horse was a stager, which had been selected because he was highly educated concerning badger-holes and rocky hillsides.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. 

tanbark = the bark of the oak or hemlock, milled for use in tanning hides; tanbark ring, a surface covered with pieces of tanbark, especially a circus ring. “Buckskin and feathers may swirl in the tan-bark rings to the tune of Money Musk.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

throw down = to cover someone with a gun, to shoot. “He had sat up and leveled a finger at me with the throw-down jerk of a marksman.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

tush = elongated tooth of an animal. “Tommy Postmaster had paid high for a necklace of elk-tushes the government scout at McKinney sold him.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

valley tan = a kind of whisky derived from wheat and potatoes, produced by Utah Mormons; anything homemade. “The ‘valley tan’ having been disposed of, Dan added:— ‘It was a boy!’” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

yellow eyes = Indian term for whites; also “hat-wearers.” “These yellow-eyes are only fit to play badger in a gravel-pit or harness themselves to loaded boats, which pull powder and lead up the long river.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone. 


Yellow Hair = Indian name for Gen. Custer. “I spak de English; I was scout with Yellow Hair. I am brav mans.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

Image credits:
Frederic Remington

Coming up:
Valdez is Coming (1971)

5 comments:

  1. Another fun bunch of terms, I knew 4.

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  2. Thanks for the translation, Ron.

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  3. I've heard "tushes," YEllow hair. Didn't know about yellow eyes. Intersting.

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  4. "Klat-a-way" is Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa) for "go". I'm blogging today about Remington's use of Chinook, over at my site http://chinookjargon.com, if you're interested. Thanks for your really interesting post!

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Klat-a-way" is Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa) for "go". I'm blogging today about Remington's use of Chinook, over at my site http://chinookjargon.com, if you're interested. Thanks for your really interesting post!

    ReplyDelete