« Return to this article

Know the West

How to talk Western


Would you like to add some colorful Westernisms to your vocabulary? Look no further than Thomas L. Clark's new book, Western Lore and Language: A Dictionary for Enthusiasts of the American West:

Biscuit shooter - The camp cook for ranch operations (1890s).

Bizzing - Hanging on the rear of a moving vehicle on a snow-slick street (mainly central Utah, 1960s). Also called bumper-bumming.

Bog rider - A cowboy who must go out in the spring and pull cows out of the mud (1910s).

Brush monkey - In logging, the person who performs menial tasks (mainly California, 1950s).

Buckle bunny - A female rodeo groupie (1970s).

Cohab - A polygamist (1880s).

Dude - Related words: dudedom, dudeness, dudery, dudie, dudine, dudish, dudism (all 1880s).

Fernhopper - A logger in the Pacific Northwest (1950s).

Horse crippler - A species of cactus, Echinocactus texensis (1870s).

Slow elk - Cattle, especially those that have been stolen and slaughtered (1910).

Spillionaire - An Alaskan who got rich from the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster and clean-up (1989).

Reprinted courtesy of the University of Utah Press, from Thomas L. Clark: Western Lore and Language, A Dictionary for Enthusiasts of the American West (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1996). ISBN 0-87480-510-4. Cloth, $24.95. Copies may be ordered directly from the University of Utah Press, toll-free 800/773-6672, or fax orders to 801/581-3365.

*Jared Farmer