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Old West Slang

The English Language changes as quickly as we use it. Terms we use now would be questioned by the gunslingers and sheriffs of 100 plus years ago. So what terms did they use? What was their expression for great things or for criminals? Pick one of the links below to take you to the section of your choice.

Slang | Southern Terms | Transport Terms | Talkin' Texan

1. blackleg - term used from 1835-1870 for a gambler or a swindler.

2. kid - a child pickpocket.

3. knuck - a thief.

4. full chisel - at full speed.

5. wake snakes - to raise a ruckus.

6. limb - a polite way to say "leg".

7. sour on - to get sick of someone or something; to give up something out of disgust.

8. Sam Hill - euphemism for the devil (1839 - "What is Sam Hill...?")

9. reckon - to guess or think (documented as far back as 1819).

10. ride out on a rail - to be forced to leave town.

11. war-bag - a sack used by cowboys for carrying their belongings such as a deck of cards, cigarette makings, ammunition, etc. Used in the 1880's.

12. skinner - one who made a living skinning buffalo. Also meant a mule-driver.

13. string - a mount.

14. huffed, huffy - angy; irritated; offended.

15. hum - frequently used for home.

16. chirk - cheerful (also means chirp or chirpy).

17. blood money - money paid to innkeepers for finding men to fill vacancies on a ship's crew.

18. corduroy road - an early primitive road comprised of logs and saplings laid side by said, a source of numerous leg injuries to horses.

19. doctor's cutter - a sleigh with a large top to protect a doctor from the elements when making house calls in the winter.

20.The terms gut robber, dough-boxer, Sallie, greasy belly, bean-master, belly-cheater, biscuit shooter all refer to the same thing - the cook who rode along with the trail drive or the cook at the ranch-house.

21. Virginia fence - a staggering drunk was said to make this zig-zagging motion when he walked. Also it meant anyone or anything that meanders.

22. want to know - A New England expression equivalent to today's "Really? What else happened?"

23. smile - a drink; to take a drink.

24. soaplock - a rowdy. Named after a hairstyle worn by a rowdy - cut short behind and long in front and parted to fall below the ears on the side.

25. sockdologer - a powerful punch or blow.

26. not by a jugful - not at all.

27. notions - a wide range of miscellaneous articles for sale.

28. ask no odds - ask no favor.

29. plug-ugly - a baltimore rowdy; any rowdy or ruffian.

30. plum, plumb - entirely; completely.

31. plunder - personal belongings; baggage.

32. not born in the woods to be scared by an owl - refers to one who is experienced and therefore unafraid.

33. to have brick in one's hat - to be drunk.

34. bub and sis - brother and sister, especially given to children.

35. acknowledge the corn - to admit the truth; to confess; to acknowledge one's own obvious lie or shortcoming.

36. algerine - pirate.

37. all creation - all nature, all wrath: everything or everybody.

38. buckskin - a Virginian.

39. carryings-on - frolicking, partying, etc.

40. codfish aristocracy - a contemptuous term for people who have made money in business.

41. tarnal - a Yankee swear word used from the 1700's.

42. tarnation, nation - euphemisms for damnation, widely used throughout the century.

43. whip one's weight in wild cats - to defeat a powerful opponent.

44. whitewash - to gloss over or hide one's faults or shortcomings.

45. wrathy - angry.

46. Yankee notions - things made in New England, made widely known by traveling Yankee peddlers.

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The Southern regions of America had their own terms of slang. Below, we list a few of them.

1. a body - person, man or woman

2. acrost - across

3. afeared - afraid

4. afore - before

5. agin - against

6. aim - intend

7. argie - argue

8. backards - backwards

9. bile - boil

10. brung - brought

11. call - reason

12. chur - chair

13. didje - did you

14. drank - drink

15. druther - I'd rather

16. exter - extra

17. ezactly - exactly

18. fitten - appropriate

19. fixen - intending

20. guvment - government

21. heerd - heard

22. hern - hers

23. hesh up - hush up

24. hisn - his

25. holler - valley

26. idee - idea

27. jist - just

28. keer - care

29. lasses - molasses

30. Law, Laws - euphemism for the Lord

31. nary - never

32. nigh - near

33. ourn - ours

34. pizen - poison

35. poke - bag

36. pone, cornpone - cornbread

37. puny feelin' - sick

38. richeer - right here

39. shortsweetin' - sugar

40. sich - such

41. spell - for a time

42. study on it - think about it

43. stump liquor - corn liquor

44. tolable - tolerable/mediocre

45. tother - the other

46. uppity - snobbish

47. vittles - food

48. whup - whip

49. widder - widow

50. yaller - yellow

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Let's now delve into the world of transportation of the 1800's:

1. accommodation - the first horse-pulled bus introduced in New York in 1829.

2. barouche - an open, fair-weather, four-wheeled vehicle having only small folding hood to protect half of its four passengers in the event of rain.

3. carriage trade - the post Civil War rich, upper class.

4. dashboard - a board of leather screen located at the front of a carriage to prevent mud from splashing back from the horse's hooves onto the passengers.

5. fanning - the English coachman's euphemism for whipping the horses.

6. George IV phaeton - an elegant, slipper-shaped carriage with folding hood, pulled by two horses.

7. hackney - a cab; a vehicle for hire.

8. Jenny Lind - an early, four-wheeled buggy with a fixed roof and curtains for privacy, named after the famous singer.

9. Knight of the Ribbons - nickname for a stage driver.

10. lamps - for night driving, a candle or oil-burning set of lamps with reflectors.

11. macadam - a gravel-paved road.

12. near - term used to designate the left side of a carriage.

13. off - term used to designate the right side of a carriage.

14. phaeton - a name denoting a wide variety of four-wheeled carriages with folding tops.

15. reinsman - title given to a master coachman.

16. sharpshooter - farmer who used his team of horses to drive freight in the off-season or when hauling rates were high.

17. tally-ho - originally the nickname of a New York sport coach.

upholstery - leather, corduroy, broadcloth, satin and Moroco (a fine goat leather) were popular choices.

18. vis-a-vis - any four-wheeled vehicle having face to face seats.

19. waggonette - introduced by Prince Albert in the mid-1840's, a four-wheeled vehicle seating six people on two facing seats along the sides.

20. wheel team - in two, four, or six-horse teams, the pair of horses closest to the coach or wheel.

21. whip - stage driver's whip, often a five-foot hickory stick with a twelve foot buckskin lash.

22. celerity wagon - a lighter, cheaper, faster model of Concord coach.

23. deadhead - slang for a nonpaying customer.

24. express - mail or mail delivery service by stagecoach.

25. expressman - an express stage driver.

26. road agent - a criminal who robbed.

27. stage - the section of road between relays of animals, usually from ten to twelve miles.

28. star route - a mail route contracted to an individual or firm by the government.

29. station - home of a station master, stage driver or other employee.

30. swing station - home of a stock trader, where fresh horses were provided.

31. Wells-Fargo - the largest express and express banking company in the West from 1852.

32. shotgun rider - one who sat next to the stage driver and carried a shot gun to protect passengers and freight.

33. outriders - escorts or guards who sometimes rode alongside a stage, especially in Indian territory

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Living in Texas? Working in Texas? Raised in Texas? You soon learn Texans have a language all their own, their own way of communicating with each other. Below find a running list of words and phrases found in the way of 'Texas Speak'. If you have any more to add, please send it to us here at GTT.

Afahr - On fire. "He lef' his stove on, an' his house caught afahr."

Ah'll be dawged - The equivalent of 'How about that?' or 'What do you know about that?' "He got a new job? Well, Ah'll be dawged!"

Babdist - A religious denomination. "He's a Babdist preacher."

Backerds - Opposite direction from "forward". "Lookit that boy with his hat on bakerds!"

Carry - To provide transportation. "Can you carry me to the store?"

Cetch Cold - To get sick. "I don't feel good. Think I'm cetchin' cold."

Dikes - A pair of cutters used for cuttin' wahr. "This wahr is too long. Bring me some dikes." (note: also used as a term for any pair of pliers.)

Daints - To move rhythmically to music. "Honey, you want to daints?"

Eat up with - Excessively afflicted. "That guy is just eat up with jealousy."

Fair off - To be sunny. "It's spose to be cloudy this morning, then it'll fair off."

Gimmi - Give me. "Gimmi one of those hats."

Go over at - To Visit. "We're goin' over at mother's this evening."

Hep - An offer of assistance. "Look's like ya gotta flat tahr... need any hep?"

Hobunch - A large amount; a lot. "I dun had a hobunch o' cornbread."

Idee - An idea or supposition. "Me an' the fellers had this idee 'bout how to build a better fence."

Idinit - Contraction for isn't it? "Mighty hot today idinit?"

Jucee - Contraction of "Did you see". "Jucee that feller?"

Leave Out - To depart. "We're gonna leave out at 7:00am."

Mere - A piece of highly reflective glass. "Lemme look in th' mere and see if mah hair's mussed up."

Minners - Small fish used as live fishing bait. "I caught a big ol' faish on them minners!"

Nekkid - Having no clothes on (often "nekkid as a jaybird). "Officer, he come runnin' across mah yard plumb nekkid!"

Not about to - No intention of. "I'm not about to pay a dollar for a coke."

Ouchonder - Over there. "Where's mah hat?" "Ya left it ouchonder in the yard." (see also "yonder" and "o'vair")

O'vair - In that direction. "That new Chevy House is right o'vair."

Pertnear - Pretty near; almost. "Well, friend, I fell th'other day and pertnear broke my leg."

Play Like - To Pretend. "Let's play like we are rich."

Ritcheer - Equivalent of "right here". "I ain't went missing, I'z ritcheer!"

Rurnt - No good; broken; ruined. "Mah car won't go 'cause the transmission's rurnt."

Shoiz - A positive affirmation; sure is. "That shoiz a purty dress."

Sigh reen - A device used for making a loud wailing sound as a signal or warning. "The cops went by here a minute ago with their lights aflashin' and blowin' their sigh reen."

Take on - To cry. "That girl is so upset, she's really takin' on."

Tar - A rubber wheel. "Ah hope ah don't git a flat tar."

Be Ugly - Unpleasant or disagreeable. "Junior, you don't be ugly to your sister."

Unnerstan - To comprehend. "Pay attention to me, boy... you unnerstan?!?"

Wahf - Female spouse. "Mah wahf's been at th' hospital s'long, I'm eatin' on th' backsides of th' plates."

Wanna - Want to. "Do you wanna go eat, go to the picture show or just wanna do somethin'?"

Yonder - In a particular direction. "That's a pretty house over yonder."

Y'ontnee - Do you want any. "Y'ontnee cornbread?"

Ahmoan - An expression of intent. "Ahmoan go to the store."

Aigs - A popular breakfast food. "How'd you like your aigs, scrambled or fried?"

Aincha - Contraction of 'aren't you'. "Aincha gonna set another plate? You know Roy can eat enuff fer two."

Ain'noneed - Not necessary. "It looks fine ta me, ain'noneed ta fix it."

Bad off - Not doing well. "Jim's in the hospital. He's bad off."

Bald - Cooked in water, usually for several minutes. "You want bald okrey for supper?"

Chunk - To throw. "That boy can sure chunk that baseball."

Coke - Any soft drink. "Hey you want a coke?" , "Yeah!...I'll have a Dr. Pepper."

Dassent - A contraction of 'dare not'; shouldn't. "Yew dassent sass yo' mama!"

Dinner - The meal Texans eat while the rest of the world eats lunch. Not to be confused with Supper which is at night. "We're just havin' beans for dinner, but we'll have a big supper tonight."

Fair ta midlin - An expression of someone's personal condition. "He's doin' OK... just about fair ta midlin."

Far Wud - Material taken from a tree and used to help create a rapid selfsustaining chemical reaction that releases light and heat; fire wood. "Lemme go cut sum far wud so's we can cook dat possum."

Grocery Store - Place to buy food. (NEVER supermarket). "I've got to run to the grocery store and git some bread."

Guff - Where the ocean extends into land; a bay. "I gots a beach house right on the Guff o' Mexico."

Har Par - Higher Power, often used to describe "divine" occurences. "Ah almost broke mah neck, but my Har Par was lookin' after me."

Holler - To call, as on the telephone. "Holler at me when ya git home, will ya?"

Ice house - A small shop or convenience store, such as StopnGo. "I'm goin' to the ice house to get some bread and a coke (which is probably a Dr Pepper)."

Ignert - Ignorant. "That guy don't know better. He's ignert."

Jaeatyet - A question regarding an individual's hunger for a meal. "Hey, Fred, jaeatyet? We's goin' to the steakhouse fer dinner."

Let Alone - Much less. "He can't support himself, let alone a family."

Mallnower - A measurement of speed. "The speed limit is 70 mallnower."

Melpya - A question for assistance; 'may I help you'. "Welcome to Luby's... melpya?"

'Nuthern - Another. "That biscuit was sure good. Gimmi a 'nuthern."

I'ont - Unsure. "I'ont know if I'm goin' to the daints tonight."

Orta - Ought to. "Ya orta git them hogs slopped 'fore it gits dark."

Penny One - None at all. "I'm so broke I don't have a penny one."

Reckon - Supposition or intent. "I reckon I'll go to bed."

Sack - Container for carrying groceries. (NEVER a bag). "I came back from the store with a big sack of groceries."

Tard - Exhausted; tired. "I got'sta go ta bed... I'm awful tard."

Tenny Shoes - Any athletic shoe. (NEVER sneakers). "I'm almost ready... just let me get my tenny shoes on."

Usta - Used to. "We usta live in Waxahachie."

Warsh - To cleanse. "We're gonna go warsh dishes."

Aint - Your parents' sister (or any female cousin old enough to be your parents' sister). "Hey, Aint Judy... open thu winder, please?"

Aintnun - There is not any more. "Momma, thar aintnun in the cubbard."

Bard - past tense of 'borrow'. "Mah brother bard mah pickup truck."

Bedurnatt'n - A comparison and statement of superiority. "That's the best one you got? Mine is bedurnatt'n."

Crick - A small stream of running water. "We like's ta go swimmin' in the crick."

Cut Awf - To switch off. "Cut awf that light. It's too bright in here!"

Do Whut - An expression of misunderstanding or disbelief. "I just ate a '74 Dodge." "Do whut?!?"

Dreckly - Soon. "You go ahead. I'll be there dreckly."

Favor - To resemble. "That boy sure favors his daddy don't he?"

Fitty - The number between 49 and 51. "Warshin' will cost ya fitty cents, dryin' still cost ya a quarter."

Gwone - To vacate, leave. "I'z buggin mamma, an she tol' me ta gwone!"

Hooda - Who would have. "Hooda thought we'd see that?"

I'magine - Intent or belief. "I'magine we oughta go home."

Innerduce - To make someone acquainted with another. "Lemmi innerduce y'all."

Like to - Was likely to have. "Ah like to died laughin' at y'all!"

Mite Could - Might Possibly. "If you play your cards right, you mite could make a lot of money."

Of a mornin' - In the morning. "Of a mornin', I like to drink coffee."

Plumb - Completely. "I'm plumb tukkerdowt from all that thinkin'."

Switch - Branch of a tree used for behavior modification of children. "I'm gonna cut me a switch and wear his bottom out."

Thankee - An expression of gratitude. "Thankee much for the sack o' taters!"

Wouldn't Take - Would not sell. "That's a great old truck. I wouldn't take for it."

Wrench - A fluid used for hair coloring; a rinse. "Like mah red hair? I used a auburn wrench."

Annygoddlin - Indicates a diagonal direction. "Thar house sets annygoddlin' to our'n."

A piece - A measurement of distance, usually equal to approximately 1/2 mile. "The Chevy house is just up the road a piece."

Big o' - Very large; immense. "Look out fer that big o' rock inna road."

Bildukey - A sharpshooter shovel. "If you need to did a post hole, you can use a bildukey."

Coledrank - Yet another term for a carbonated beverage; a sody pop; a coke."Say, Billy... yew wan' anuther coledrank?"

Comin' up a cloud - An approaching storm. "Look at the sky...it's a comin' up a cloud!"

Fore - Abbreviation of Before. "Fore you go, gimmi a kiss."

Fizyu - Abbreviation for If I was you. "Fizyu I'd git outa here soon."

Hoodathunkit - The equivalent of 'Who would have thought of that?'. "He passed his test? Boy howdy, hoodathunkit?" see also "Hooda."

House - Used in place of "dealership" in the car bidness. "I've got to take my truck down to the Ford House to get fixed."

Inshurce - A policy that protects your home and car. "I sure pay a lot of money to my INshurce company."

Issun - An indication of a specific item; this one. "I druther have issun... it's bedurnatt'n. (see also 'bedurnatt'n')"

Momanem - Your mother and her current company. "Wanna go over an' see momanem after church?"

Ranch - Not where you live or work, but a tool. "Would you git me a 9/16 inch ranch?"

Surp - A popular breakfast condiment. "Is there any surp for mah pancakes?"

Swaller - A drink. "I shore could use a swaller o' water!"

Thode - Past tense of 'throw'; threw. "I wuz done with it, so I thode it away."

Toboggan - A knit hat. (not a sled). "Put that toboggan on your head or you'll cetch cold."

Weeze - We are. "Weeze invited ta dinner and I wanna go."

Whalago - Contraction of 'while ago'. "He wuz over there uh whalago."

Assit - That's it. "I don't wanna hear any more about it. Assit as far as I'm concerned."

All the faster, better, etc. - The limit. "55mph is all the faster my truck will go."

Bob Wahr - Fence used to keep cattle in the pasture. "Careful climbing that fence. That bob wahr will git ya."

Boy - Any man under age 50. "Harold is about to be 45 years old" "He's ole' James' boy idin he?"

Contrary - Obstinate. "That girl never listens to me. She's contrary as she can be."

Cut'awn - To turn on, such as a light. "Cut'awn th' lights, if ya could."

Fixin' - Preparing to. "Y'all fixin' to leave?"

Fronchard - Opposite of backyard. "Is the dawg in the fronchard."

Howzat - Used to tell someone to repeat what was just stated. "Howzat? I didn't hear whut you wuz a'sayin'."

Mone - Ya'll come on in. "Mone inside."

Seb'm - The number between six and eight. "Hank jest lives up th' road a piece... 'bout seb'm miles."

Sensuous - The equivalent of 'since you were'. "Sensuous up anyway, wouldja get me anuther drink?"

Tote - To carry. "You need me to tote them groceries out to th' car, ma'am?"

Tukkerdowt - Very tired. "Pardner, Ahm 'bout tukkerdowt."

Whup (p.t. whupped) - To conquer. "We shore whupped them cross county boys fraddy naght, didn't we? Er was it sairdie mornin'?"

Winder - An opening in a wall, normally sealed by a pane of glass. "Open a winder, it's hot in here!"

Ax'd - Having asked a question. "I ax'd him if he wanted anuther cup o' coffee."

Bound to - Certain. "That boy is bound to end up in jail."

Cut back - To turn a specified direction when driving. "Go down this road a piece, then cut back to the right." Note: A variation might be to "dog leg" to the right; this would be more of a veer rather than a 90 degree turn."

Howdy - Abbreviated from 'how do you do'. "Howdy, and how's y'all?"

Moanbak - A direction used to indicate that you have plenty of space behind your pickup. "Moanbak... I need to hitch up the trailer!"

Santy - Texan for Santa Claus. "Santy comes on Christmas Eve."

Sumubem - A few select items or objects. "That ain't all I got, it's only sumubem."

Tump - To turn over and spill. "Careful with that bucket, you're fixin' to tump it over."

Bub (plural, "bubs") - An electrical illuminatory object made primarily of a hollow spheroid of thin glass. "When you're in town, pick up some more bubs... the one on the front porch burned out last night."

Bull Bat - An insect eating bird seen in the late evening. Also known as a nighthawk. "In the summer we see a lot of bullbats around here."

Skeered - To be in fear of; afraid. "I ain't skeered o' that ol' snake in the grass."

Skoeet - Let's go eat. "Well, skoeet afore I starve!"

Summers - A vague direction or location. "I think he thode it o'vair summers."

Arthuritis - A painful illness of the joints. "Grampa aint feeling good today, his Arthuritis is actin' up."

Spose - Suppose to. "I'm spose to go to the meeting tonight."

Sody pop - A carbonated beverage. "Dr. Pepper is mah favorite kinda sody pop."

Awhl Bidness - A profession in which a viscous petroleum product is pumped from the ground and refined for commercial use. "My father an' his pardner are in the awhl bidness... have been fer years."

Spell - An indeterminate amount of time, usually short. "Ya oughtta come in an' set a spell."

Spect - To suppose. "I spect taxes will go up this year."

Breedo - A piece of Mexican cuisine. "I'd like two tacos anda breedo, ma'am."

Sop - To soak up juice or sauce with a piece of bread. "Hand me another slice o' bread, I wanna sop up this sauce."

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