Monday, October 15, 2012

Old West glossary, no. 45

Two cowboys, Montana, c1910
Here’s another set of terms gleaned from early western stories. 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, Vocabulario Vaquero, I Hear America Talking, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from Eleanor Gate’s Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher, about a matchmaking cowboy, Hattie Horner Louthan’s This Was a Man! about the sons of a wealthy Colorado ranch owner, and Edgar Beecher Bronson’s frontier memoir, Reminiscences of a Ranchman. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “Butte belle,” “fewey,” “sunbonnet carriage,” “scale head,” “picture hat,” “Mother Winslow,” or “high-checked,” leave a comment below.


admire = to delight in, be glad/happy to. “‘I’ll go over,’ he says, ‘and just natu’lly settle that dude’s hash. I’d admire t’ do it.’” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

Aigrette
aigrette = a head ornament consisting of a white egret's feather or other decoration. “Her figure was perfection, her gowns of the quiet elegance of ultra-refinement always harmonious, as now, from the tip of the jeweled aigrette in her picture-hat to the points of her aristocratic shoe.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

bread hooker = hand. “‘Why, hello, ole boy’ he says, puttin’ out a bread-hooker; ‘I met you out West, didn’t I?” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

case-hardened = made callous or insensitive. “Men with the ferocious hunger of the wolf, and the case-hardened stomach of the ostrich.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

chin = talk, chatter, conversation. “One of the eatin’-house gals tole me, confidential, that Up-State had lots of little chins with Macie acrosst the lunch-counter.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

Dr. Price’s baking powder = a baking powder sold in cans, advertised as the only baking powder that does not contain ammonia, lime, or alum. “He is one of these elder brothers to dear, defenseless little girls, being, himself, absolutely pure—like Price’s baking powder.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

draw = to gather information. “I drawed, though, that Mace was havin’ a way-up time.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

Ell
ell = the length of the arm from elbow to the tip of the middle finger; preserved in the phrase “give someone an inch and he’ll take an ell.” “‘If we ask Paul, there is his mother.’ ‘Of course; the inch always has its ell.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

feezed = worried, alarmed. “Maud, I’m shore feazed! I been believin’, since I got back from Noo York, that it was settled I was to marry Mace.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

grease one’s holler = to have a drink. “I ast him to come over and have one with me. He said O.K., that suited him. So we greased our hollers a few times.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

green-up = a plant in the early stages of growth. “Well, you don’t know my little sister. She’s a green-up when it comes to city ways.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

Half-hitch knot
half-hitch = a knot made by passing the end of a rope around the rope and then through the loop thus made. “All the time Llano had been throwing half-hitches of his rope at the flying hoof.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

Haviland = porcelain tableware designed for the American trade and made by a factory founded in 1839 at Limoges, France. “At the dining-room door, she snatched and kissed Helene with all but fatal results to the tray of Haviland the housekeeper bore.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

jacemo = a stout headstall made of horsehair, used in bronco breaking and handling. “It needed only a glance to note that his jacemo had been removed.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

job = to cheat, trick. “Hairoil went to him and said I’d been jobbed, and was innocenter’n Mary’s little lamb.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

Jockey Club = a popular and much imitated fragrance in the late 19th century. “She dusted more starch over the traces of her tears, poured half a vial of Jockey Club over the front of her dress, tucked a pale blue silk handkerchief into her lavender belt and with one last approving look at the reflection, entered the sitting-room.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

Katy bar the door = a warning to take precautions. “Ef yu crowds her too hard ’n’ gits her on th’ fight, it’s ‘Katy bar th’ door’ wi’ yu, ’n’ adios t’ her ’n’ her calf.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

lanterns = eyes. “Next, I had t’ go over and turn my lanterns on the lake.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

lead pumper = gunslinger, shooter. “He modestly mentioned that some of his friends thought he could shoot a little, but probably he would not be in it with a real Bitter Creek lead pumper.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

lights and liver = stuffings; literally, lungs and liver. “O’ course ’t ain’t calc’lated t’ sweeten a feller’s temper none t’ have his dog handled, his worst outlaw rid, ’n’ t’ have th’ hull lites ’n’ liver o’ his conceit ’bout bein’ th’ best gun shot on th’ desert kicked plumb outen him at one kick.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

mavourneen = my darling (from Irish). “‘Prettier than ever, mavourneen,’ his deep voice flattered, ‘Come, that wasn’t half a kiss.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

Mellin’s food = a baby formula made from malt extract, developed in the 1870s. “She gets her last doll out every once in awhile, honest; and still has a secret hankering for Mellin’s food.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

nutcrackers = teeth. “He shuts his face hard ’nough t’ bust his nut crackers.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

panocha = a pudding made from ground sprouted wheat and sugar from sugarcane. “I seen her talkin’ acrosst the counter to Pedro sweeter’n panocha,—with a takin’ smile on the south end of that cute little face of hern.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

roadster = a horse for riding (or pulling a carriage) on roads. “She glanced up at the sound of wheels. It was Pierce Eldreth driving his high-checked roadster, Brownie.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

shin oak = a deciduous, low-growing, thicket-forming shrub native chiefly to New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma; also called shinnery oak. “They ain’t such a much, and cain’t raise nothin’ but shin-oak and peanuts and chiggers.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

skeezicks = rascal. “ ‘Here’s Carlota,’ he says, ‘She’d make a figger fer a book.’ Carlota!—the little skeezicks!” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

skin = to run off. “I skun fer Hairoil Johnson’s shack to borra a diff’rent suit of clothes offen the parson.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

Cover, Smart Set, 1911
Smart Set, The = a literary magazine founded in 1900 and edited by H. L. Mencken. “The Boss’s son, deep in his June number of the Smart Set when informed, gave utterance to several expressive oaths.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

springhalt/stringhalt = a nerve disorder in horses, causing exaggerated flexing movements of the legs in walking. “Her front legs acted plumb funny—jerked up and down. I figgered it was the spring halt.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

spoony = a fool or silly person. “Mr. Bruin fell dead; and the spoonies are handing down his hide to a numerous posterity.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

taboret = a small portable stand or cabinet. “Richard lay indolently in the veranda hammock within easy reach of the bottles and glasses on a small taboret.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

take a shy = to attempt damage by sarcasam or verbal attack. “‘Of all the gall!’ growls Chub Flannagan, gittin’ hot. ‘Goin’ t’ take a shy outen us!’” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

Tallyho, c1905
tallyho = a fast coach drawn by four horses. “Harry did once, on our tally-ho ride to Estes.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

Town Topics = a magazine devoted to gossip about high-society people. “He had been lying for some time with his eyes half closed, a half-consumed cigarette between his lips, an uncut Town Topics in his hand.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

tricks = belongings, personal possessions. “I’ll bet yu my outfit, gun, saddle ’n’ tricks, again yurn yu caint pick airy cow ’n’ calf outen th’ herd yu yu’sef, single-handed, kin keep bunched by ther lonesomes.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

two by twice = small, limited in size; cf. two-by-four. “And spoil a good foreman to make a two by twice lawyer.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

Walking beam engine
walking beam = on a steam engine, a lever that oscillates on a pivot and transmits power to the crankshaft. “When ‘Walkingbars’ got down to earnest pitching it seemed—and usually proved—as hard to stop him as to stay the mighty swing of a side-wheeler’s walking-beam.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman

whack up = to share or divide equally. “Let’s go coax the little Bradley girl and one other to go down to Denver for a lark. I’ll be generous and whack up with you.” Hattie Horner Louthan, This Was a Man!

Image credits:
Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Robert Mitchum, The Lusty Men (1952)

10 comments:

  1. Most of these are unfamiliar to me. Bread hooker is very quaint. I kind of like it. May use it but call it my beer hooker.

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  2. An especially relevant entry for me. We said "Whoa, Nelly! Bar the door!" but I can remember my grandma also calling on Katy rather than Nelly. Case-hardened naturally becomes "hard case" later on, as in "He's a real hard case." I always assumed "skeezicks" came from Gasoline Alley, but naturally midwesterner Frank King must've got it from somewhere. Again, a great list!

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    1. Thanks, Richard. A friend in North Carolina uses the phrase "Katy bar the door." I'm sure you are right about "hard case." I also first knew "skeezicks" from the Sunday comics.

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  3. A picture hat was a dressy (impractical) wide-brimmed hat such as were found in portraits by Gainsborough and Winterhalter. In this painting the lady on the right in the lavender dress with the pleated bertha and lace draperies is carrying a picture hat.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Winterhalter_Franz_Xavier_The_Empress_Eugenie_Surrounded_by_her_Ladies_in_Waiting.jpg

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    1. Thanks, Shay. Appreciated. The term comes up often in turn of the century novels, but I've never been able to find a definition of it. Seems to me they may also have been called "Gainsboroughs."

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  4. My mother (born 1926) used to call the Empress Eugenie hats.

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