Study English every day--absolutely free!
(more about these lessons and the teacher)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cowboy Talk 2


Do you know the name of the man in the picture above? Why do you think he might be famous? See the "Notes" for some ideas.


Awhile back, I gave you a few idioms used by cowboys in America's "Old West." I had so much fun with those that I'd like to share some more.

Match these definitions to the terms below:

1. back down
2. balled up
3. beef
4. bender
5. blowhard
6. burg
7. calaboose or hoosegow
8. chisel
9. come a cropper
10. directly

a. braggart, bully
b. complain (verb) or complaint (noun)
c. confused
d. drinking session
e. jail
f. soon or immediately
g. to cheat or swindle
h. to fail
i. town
j. yield, give up


The man in the picture is John Wayne, one of the most famous cowboy stars in American movies.

Remember, some of these expressions are rare, while others are part of our everyday speech. By the way, some of the ones I've given you may not have originated with cowboys, but are still associated with their vocabulary.


Use one of the above terms in each of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. Don't worry about Bob's threats; he's kind of a __________, but he's harmless.
2. The so-called conference we attended was little more than a four-day __________.
3. We expect the new product to improve our bottom line __________.
4. We've put in our bid and we have to follow through; we can't __________ now.
5. Our new campaign has __________; we're going to have to start over.
6. The project has gotten all __________; we need to straighten it out and start again.
7. Now get out there and sell our product in every city, __________, and village!
8. Jones called and he sounded angry; call him back and find out what his __________ is.
9. Be careful of those guys at ABC Company; they've __________ us before.
10. If you break the law, you could end up in the __________.


Talk about these with a friend, or write your answers.

1. Have you ever had to: deal with a blowhard? Fix something that is balled up? Or overcome something that has come a cropper?
2. What might cause you to back down? To beef?
3. Have you ever been chiseled by someone? Gone on a bender? Been in the hoosegow?


1. j yield, give up. When two cowboys faced each other to fight, one of them might decide to quit; he, then, "backed down."
2. c confused. Perhaps from when a rope was tangled up into a ball, instead of coiled properly.
3. b complain (verb) or complaint (noun). So, "What are you beefing about?" or "What's your beef?" How does the name of a meat equal the act of complaining? It's said that cattle being driven on the trail complained (lowed, or mooed) constantly, and as they were about to become "beef" the association was made.
4. d drinking session. Perhaps associated with "bending the elbow"=drinking.
5. a braggart, bully. Perhaps because one who brags a lot "blows" a lot of air.
6. i town. Usually we find this word in combining forms, like Harrisburg or Kingsburg. But in cowboy slang it stands alone.
7. e jail. OK, I honestly can't imagine you using these, but you might hear them from time to time. The first comes from a Spanish word calabozo, meaning "dungeon," and the second, also Spanish, comes from juzgar, "to judge."
8. g to cheat or swindle. One who cheats is a "chiseler." In the old days coins were made of precious medals; an unscrupulous person might shave (or chisel) bits of this metal off of coins.
9. h to fail. It originally meant to fall hard off of a horse (the reason, though, is obscure). Now it means to fail completely.
10. f soon or immediately.


1 blowhard; 2 bender; 3 directly; 4 back down; 5 come a cropper; 6 balled up; 7 burg; 8 beef; 9 chiseled; 10 calaboose or hoosegow

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

No comments:

Post a Comment