Saturday, January 18, 2014

Glossary of frontier fiction: H
(hide hair and horns – hurroar)

Below is a list of mostly forgotten terms, people, and the occasional song, drawn from a reading of frontier fiction, 1880–1915. Each week a new list, progressing through the alphabet, “from A to Izzard.”

hide hair and horns = completely. “You rec’lect what he said in them Civic League talks o’ his: said these politicians had stole the road, hide, hair an’ horns.” Francis Lynde, The Grafters.

Emma D.E.N. Southworth, c1860
Hidden Hand, The = a wildly popular novel set in antebellum South by best-selling author Emma D.E.N. Southworth (1819-1899), originally serialized in the New York Ledger from 1859 to 1883, with numerous stage productions. “I’ve seen ‘Uncle Tom’ and ‘The Hidden Hand,’ but ‘Ten Nights in a Bar-room’s’ finer than them.” Elizabeth Higgins, Out of the West.

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.

High Tippy Bob Royal = a very important person; a show off. “He’s a regular High Tippy Bob Royal! That’s what I told Mart Young yesterday.” A. B. Ward, The Sage Brush Parson.

high wine = a distillate containing a high percentage of alcohol. “His poor stomach kept trying to crawl out of his body in its desperate strife to escape Wilmore’s decoction of high-wine.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

high-ball = a railway man’s hand signal to set a train in motion. “‘Nobody in sight,’ said the brakeman wearily. ‘Might as well high-ball, Charley.’” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.

High-Five = an American trick-taking card game derived from Pitch, also known as Double Pedro or Cinch. “Beside the stove Scully’s son Johnnie was playing High-Five with an old farmer who had whiskers both gray and sandy.” Stephen Crane, “The Blue Hotel.”

highbinder = a thug, corrupt politician. “On his way through Chinatown he had noticed Stratton entering the house of a certain merchant and highbinder.” Ada Woodruff Anderson, The Heart of the Red Firs.

highstrikes = hysterics. “If you don’t get us out of this quick I’ll have high-strikes.” Gertrude Atherton, Perch of the Devil.

Hildegarde Grahame = a character in a series of girls’ novels (1889-1897) by Laura E. Richards (1850-1943). “I have read some girl-books, a few years ago—‘Hildegarde Grahame,’ and ‘What Katy Did,’ and all.” Mary MacLane, The Story of Mary MacLane.

hipped = enthusiastic. “The way you’ve brought Jonesy back to life, made him a dog at your heels and a fire-brand against Lamar, has got John hipped.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

histe over the jiste = roughly, do some damage (histe, an old form of hoist). “You, Lin, if you try any of your foolin’ with me, I’ll histe yu’s over the jiste.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

hit the high places = to ride at stop speed. “As soon as ever I comes to an’ can scramble into that Texas saddle ag’in, me and Jim hits the high places in the scenery, in a fervid way, an’ here we-all be!” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville Nights.

hit the pipe = smoke opium. “I used to ‘hit the pipe,’ as you now express it, when I was on earth before.” G. Frank Lydston, Poker Jim, Gentleman.

hit the ties = to walk along the railway tracks. “It lies with thee—the choice is thine, is thine, To hit the ties or drive thy auto-car.” Robert W. Service, The Spell of the Yukon.

hitch = a knot (throwed, not tied), e.g., pack hitch, diamond hitch. “‘You, Jim Anworthy,’ she called sharply, ‘you’ll ruin that pump if you don’t quit jerkin’ it so. ’Tain’t no hitched choker.” Vingie Roe, The Heart of Night Wind.

hive up = store up (like honey in a hive). “He was able to hive up enough gold dust to fill his wants from the traders.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

hive (off) = to be absent from a group. “[He] had never known a heavier care in the world than the transient and ephemeral anxiety as to whether he would be called up for recitation on a subject he had not so much as looked at, or ‘hived’ absent from a roll-call he had lazily slept through.” Charles King, Dunraven Ranch.

hivey = crazy. “Brown, you’re hivey, you’re buzzy, you’re supposed to hear noises and look idiotic.” Will Levington Comfort, Trooper Tales.

hiyu = Chinook for a party, gathering. “Hartline thinks you’re the hiyu rustler of this outfit.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

hobble skirt = a close-fitting skirt so narrow at or near the hem as to impede walking. “The change which a marcelled pompadour, kimono sleeves, a peach-basket hat, and a hobble skirt wrought in the appearance of Mrs. Andy P. Symes, nee May Kunkel, was a source of amazement in Crowheart.” Caroline Lockhart, The Lady Doc.

hock card = the last card in the box in a game of faro (figuratively, an end or conclusion). “‘Whatever’s the hock yard to all this?’ he says to Jack Moore.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

hog ranch = a brothel. “Across the river some were holding horse-races upon the level beyond the hog-ranch.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

hold fast = a device used on a workbench to fix a work piece to the top or side of the bench while it is being worked. “One of his professional hold-fasts—it was the one that afterward became the bread-tackle in the famine time—was his position as local attorney for the railway company.” Francis Lynde, The Grafters.

hold-over = a workman unable to return to work because of a previous day or night’s dissipation. “Evil things were whispered of Moncrossen’s man-handling of ‘hold-overs’.” James Hendryx, The Promise.

hold-up = an outlaw. “When the stage gets along an hour later, this Slim Jim’s made himse’f a mask with a handkerchief, an’ is a full-fledged hold-up which any express company would be proud to down.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

Holland gin = the juniper-flavored and strongly alcoholic traditional liquor of the Netherlands, from which gin evolved; also call Geneva gin and Dutch gin. “Our outside passenger would, in the next three days, get more color in his face and nose from the angry elements than he could get from a whole barrel of Holland gin.” John C. Bell, The Pilgrim and the Pioneer.

Holmes, Mary J. = a popular writer of love stories and romances for Street & Smith, hailed by them as the “Queen of the Human Heart.” “The works of Mrs. Holmes and Laura Jean Libby intermingled on the book-shelves with the histories of all nations and bound volumes of Harper’s Weekly and the Scientific American.” Elizabeth Higgins, Out of the West.

home-maker = a person who is at ease anywhere. “That kid was a home-maker all right; nothin’ ever surprised him, an’ wherever he lit he made himself comfortable.” Robert Alexander Wason, Happy Hawkins.

homing = said of an animal’s instinct to return to its home territory. “I scuttled out o’ that cellar like a homin’ rabbit, an’ ran around to the side door.” Robert Alexander Wason, Happy Hawkins.

hone = to pine for, yearn after. “Mail-bags packs more grief than joy, an’ I ain’t honin’ for no hand in that game whatever.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

honey-cooler = an extraordinary person or thing. “It’s a honey-cooler. You will fall dead when you see it.” Frederic Remington, John Ermine of the Yellowstone.

Honiton lace
Honiton lace = lace made by descendants of Flemish immigrants in Honiton, Devonshire, England; the lace made for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress. “She stole to the front door and peered through its curtain of Honiton lace.” Gertrude Atherton, Perch of the Devil.

hoodlum wagon = on trail drives a second wagon used to carry gear and supplies of a large crew.  “Behind came Al with the hoodlum wagon, which, being much lighter, made easy work for a pair of stout horses.” George Pattullo, The Untamed.

hooked = bitten. “Ferguson got hooked by a rattler!” Charles Alden Seltzer, The Two-Gun Man.

hooker = a drink. “Thar’s nothin’ for it but to give him another hooker, which we does accordin’.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

hop = a dance. “The garrison gave a hop in her honor and Landor’s.” Gwendolen Overton, The Heritage of Unrest.

hop the twig = make a hasty exit. “If I catches Birdie off of Mired Mule again, I’ll make him hop the twig.” O. Henry, Heart of the West.

horn = a drink. “Then he, too, struggled to his feet, and, with unsteady hand, poured out two stiff ‘horns’ of whisky.” Ridgwell Cullum, The Story of the Foss River Ranch.

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.

horrors, the = delirium tremens. “I had to give him a dose or two of bromide, as he was getting shaky, from much whisky, and I feared the horrors might come.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Horse Shoe = brand of plug tobacco, produced by the Drummond Tobacco Company in St. Louis. “‘Women,’ observed Tips, planting his diminutive, high-heeled boots on the table, and chipping off a bit from his square of horseshoe.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.

horseblock = a small platform of stone or wood for mounting a horse. “Mr. Wyatt, Bible in hand, ascended the horseblock, set up for the accommodation of the women-folk.” Mollie Davis, The Wire-Cutters.

horsehair = a fabric made from fibers taken from the mane or tail of horses; used for upholstery. “My horse-hair trunk was along, too, and when there was time, and it was possible, I got out at stations and peeked in the baggage car to see it was all right.” Patience Stapleton, Babe Murphy.

hoss on/onto = a disadvantage. “This deficiency in sky-pilots is a hoss onto us, but we does our best.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

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.

hotchpot = hodgepodge, a clumsy mixture of ingredients. “He had fallen, along with other incongruities, into the roaring Western hotch-pot, and he passed his careful, precise days with barometers and weather-charts.” Owen Wister, Lin McLean.

house of call = a place, usually a public house, where unemployed workmen assemble, ready for the call of employers. “Calico being the nearest approach to bunting obtainable at Jake Schleisinger’s emporium, two doors up from Red-Light Sammy’s house of call.” Francis Lynde, The Taming of Red Butte Western.

houseroom = accommodation; lodging; space in a house. “The town office of the Blue Jay was just across the street, and he took her there and begged house-room and a chair for her.” Francis Lynde, The Grafters.

huckleberry = the right person for a job. “If you want to go wild-catting over the hills and far away, I’m your huckleberry.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.

hull = cartridge, shell. “Tom, give me some of your hulls! I used up all mine keepin’ your darned sheriff back.” Florence Finch Kelly, With Hoops of Steel.

hull = a saddle. “It looks like we’re cinchin’ the hull onto the wrong bronco.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

The Yellow Kid
hully gee = a mild oath (“Holy Jesus”) associated after 1895 with early cartoon character The Yellow Kid in R. F. Otcault’s Hogan’s Alley. “Women are hully-gees for stirrin’ up rows!” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.

humanyville = settlement, town. “He’s goin’ to ask Tom for his time, fork a cayuse, an’ hit a lope for a railroad that’ll take him to whatever little ol’ humanyville his gal lives at.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

hummer = a person or thing of exceptional excellence. “Miss Dicksie Dunning is a hummer, isn’t she?” Frank H. Spearman, Whispering Smith.

hummock = a knoll or hillock. “The sun was just coming up over the low red hummocks of hematite.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.

hump = to exert oneself, work hard, hurry. “That showed me I’d got to hump myself. If that real-estate feller blabbed any more.” Eleanor Gates, Alec Lloyd, Cowpuncher.

hunch = to push or lunge forward. “The whole country about hunched theirselves to get the sugar-factory here, thinking to see a pile of beets.” Elizabeth Higgins, Out of the West.

hunks = even (as in “to get even”). “Smith’ll never rest till he’s ‘hunks’.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.

hunky = excellent, satisfactory, in good condition. “An’ Billy ain’t none back’ard admittin’ he is, an’ allows onhesitatin’ it’s the hunkiest baby in Arizona.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

hurdy-gurdy = a dance hall. “Once, so they tells the story, Curly Bill rounds up this Slim Jim in a Red Dog hurry-gurdy an’ concloods to have some entertainment with him.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.

hurroar = cheer, hurrah, outcry. “It made me laugh to think what a big hurroar there would be presently when the news got wind of that train being held up by robbers.” Roger Pocock, Curly.

Next: I, J (ignus fatuus - jerk-line)


Sources: Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Dictionary of the American West, The Cowboy Dictionary, The Cowboy Encyclopedia, Cowboy Lingo, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and various online dictionaries

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Julia Robb, Del Norte


  1. Hornswoggle. A great word. I've used in myself.

    1. I'd thought it was a made-up word for the movies and was surprised to discover it has a history.

  2. 'Hotchpot' may also come from 'hochepot' an old French recipe for stew made of a variety of meats and vegetables.

    1. Makes sense in the context of the quote. Thanks.

  3. Ron, I can't think of any other genre that has such a rich and unusual variety of forgotten terms.