Monday, January 14, 2013

Old West glossary, no. 54

Montana cowboys, c1910

Here’s another set of terms and forgotten people gleaned from early western fiction. 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, Cowboy Lingo, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from A. M. Chisholm’s The Boss of Wind River and Dell Munger’s The Wind Before the Dawn.

Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “cold shut,” “gambol stick,” or “worth a lift,” leave a comment below.


Alsatian bow = a large bow of wide ribbon, worn in the hair with the knot at the top of the head. “She rolled her hair from neck to brow in a ‘French twist’ and set on the top of it an ‘Alsatian bow,’ which stood like gigantic butterfly wings across her proud head.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

banking grounds = in logging, the area along the shoreline for holding felled timber. “All went merry as a marriage bell, and the quantity of logs pouring down to the banking grounds attested the quality of the work done.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

Bitts
bitt = one of a pair of upright posts on the deck of a ship for fastening cables or ropes. “It came inboard to the bucking clatter of a winch and was made fast to the towing bitts.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

botfly = a stout hairy-bodied fly with larvae that are internal parasites of mammals. “A botfly buzzed suddenly about the forelegs of the off-wheel horse.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

bull wheel = a wheel of horse-drawn farm implements, providing traction with the ground and powering the moving parts, e.g. the knives, reel, rake, binder. “The bull-wheel, striking a badger hole, threw the machine over sidewise and completely upside down.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

by ginger = a mild oath. “We know it’s a bad school, but, by ginger! we’ll see that you’re stood by.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

by jing = a mild oath. “‘I’ll do it, by jing!’ he exclaimed.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

by the Mortal = a mild oath. “By the Mortal! The moon’s high, an’ the travelin’s good. Come on, bullies, we’ll burn them out of their bunks this night!” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

circular = a woman’s cape extending to the bottom of the dress with a hood fitting tight around the face. “He didn’t feel that he could afford a coat, so I’m going to get the cloth and you and I will make you a circular this week.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

clevis = a U-shaped fastening device secured by a bolt or pin through holes in the two arms. “On six-inch spikes, hung extra clevises, buckles, straps, and such materials as accidents to farm machinery required.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

come-all-ye = a popular narrative ballad, folk song. “Great Scott, Jack, where did you pick up that old come-all-ye?” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

Butter churn
dasher = a plunger for agitating cream in a churn. “He took the dasher into his own hand and began a brave onslaught on the over-sour cream.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

deacon seat = in logging camp bunkhouses, a bench made of halved logs, flat side up, usually extending across the room. “He could see the bunk-house filled with the smoke of unspeakable tobacco, the unkempt, weather-hardened men on the ‘deacon seat,’ and the festoons of garments drying above the stove.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

dip = a candle made by repeatedly dipping a wick into tallow. “By the time ‘a dip’ had been constructed the full weight of the disaster had fallen upon the defeated and despairing woman.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

fix = condition, state; euphemism for “pregnant.” “Sadie, ain’t you ’fraid t’ talk that way an’ you in that fix?” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

gag = a deception. “No, ma’am; you don’t run any such gag as that on me.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

gosh all Friday = a euphemism for “God Almighty.” “Why, Gosh all Friday, what’s happened to your horse?” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

gosh a livin’s = a mild oath. “‘Gosh-a-livin’s!’ he exclaimed as a new thought struck him.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

hang out = to live. “You can run the place and I’m not hanging out like I thought I could.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

high banker = a logger’s term for a pretentious person. “All the blasted high-bankers between this and the booms of hell can’t hang us up.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

hornswoggle = to get the better of someone by cheating or deception. “And you are the Elizabeth these folk have been talkin’ about? Well, I’ll be hornswoggled!” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

Tom and Maggie Tulliver
Maggie Tulliver = the impoverished but idealistic young heroine of George Eliot’s novel, The Mill on the Floss. “A Maggie Tulliver in her own family, Luther was the one compensating feature of her life.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

Mexican Mustang liniment = a preparation for relief of aches and pains, for use by “man and beast,” produced by the Lyon Manufacturing Company, New York. “I’ll rub it good with Mustang liniment; that’s th’ best thing I know of.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

moonshine = nonsense, a trifle, nothing at all. “‘All moonshine, Noland, old boy,’ he exclaimed when he followed Elizabeth back to the sickroom a few minutes later. ‘This girl’s as sound as a dollar.’” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

New Thought = a spiritual movement beginning in the 19th century that held that God is everywhere, true human selfhood is divine, sickness originates in the mind, and healing results from right thinking. “The quaint couple, who were born two generations in advance of the birth cry of New Thought, laughed innocently and made no reply.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

nubia = a woman’s soft fleecy scarf for the head and neck. “Her mother stood with her back turned toward the raw April wind as they talked, her old nubia tied loosely about her head and neck and her hands red with the cold.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

peakie = a flat-bottomed, double-ended riverboat. “Load up a peakie with tools, blocks and tackle and dynamite and run her down river somehow.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

pitch hole = a defect in a road or trail, a pothole. “The huge sleighs made pitch-holes in the road. Altogether it was discouraging.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

pudding bag = a bag in which a pudding is boiled, usually not sewed in any way, but a cloth gathered around the uncooked pudding and tied with a string. “Elizabeth carried her books home under her arm, bulging out one side of her circular like an unevenly inflated pudding-bag.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

raffle = rubbish, debris. “The log walls hung with mackinaw garments, moccasins, and snowshoes, the water pail on the shelf beside the door, the bunks with their heavy gray blankets and bearskins—all the raffle that accumulates in a foreman’s winter quarters.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

Rosinweed
rosinweed = a plant native to North America with a resinous odor and yellow flowers. “Rosin weeds were collected and piled in heaps.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

shave a note = to discount a promissory note at a very high rate of interest. “By the way, Hunter, that man you bought the team of got in a pinch and asked me to shave the note for him. It’s all right, is it?” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

snapped corn = corn that has been removed from the stalk but remaining in the husk. “As Elizabeth started to the house, she noticed her father and the boys coming from the cornfield with a wagon-load of snapped corn.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

sweep = a long heavy oar used to row a barge or other vessel. “For propulsion it possessed long sweeps; but since it had merely to keep pace with the logs and the logs moved no faster than the current, these were used only for guidance.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

Seth Thomas
Thomas, Seth = American clockmaker (1785-1859) and pioneer of mass production. “The silence which followed was broken only by the ticking of the old-fashioned Seth Thomas clock and the roar of the fire.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

wanegan = a long, heavy, flat-bottomed scow. “Last of all came the ‘wanegan,’ also known as the ‘sweep.’” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.

water bench = a cabinet with a lower portion closed with doors for milk pails, an open shelf for water pails, and an upper section with shallow drawers. “I don’t know how it got over us, but there it was with th’ safe an’ water-bench a holdin’ th’ timbers off’n us.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

whipstock = the handle of a whip. “John replied, fingering the whipstock of the doctor’s buggy.” Dell Munger, The Wind Before the Dawn.

woods loafer = an outdoors person, fond of and at home in the woods. “His gait was the bent-kneed amble of the confirmed woods-loafer.” A. M. Chisholm, The Boss of Wind River.


Image credits:
Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: The Corner (2000)

11 comments:

  1. I wonder how "hang out" went from its old meaning to its present one?

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    1. It's a term with several pleasantly interesting definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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  2. When you think about it, I guess there were different vocabularies for logging camps, ranches, towns, mining camps, etc.

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    1. I used to have no interest in these other terminologies until I started reading other western sub-genres. Ramon Adams expanded his Cowboy Dictionary into these areas, for reasons of his own, and I'm pleased now that he did.

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  3. Have heard of a handful of these. In 1970 (my first real job) we moved to a small town and a neighbor lady used the term, gosh all Friday, nearly every time we talked. You brought back some nice memories. She also used to say, "I don't know what the duece they were talking about," she was colorful.
    Thanks for the memories!

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    1. OGR, I had a similar flashback when I came across the phrase "gosh all fishhooks."

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  4. "Hornswoggle" was used quite a bit where I grew up. I used it in my first manuscript and was shocked that none of my critique partners had ever heard of the word. They thought I made it up.

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    1. Jacquie, I've known the word for a long time, but don't know where I picked it up.

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  5. Botfly's are nasty little buggers indeed.

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  6. Some of the mild oaths like 'by ginger' remind me of Pa Ingalls in the Little House books.

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