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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cowboy Talk 4


Have you ever listened to Country and Western music, or watched cowboy movies? Have you heard any unusual vocabulary there?


Here's the final roundup of cowboy talk for now. Remember: Use these with caution to liven up your speech. Otherwise just learn to recognize their meaning when you hear them.

Match these definitions to the terms below:

1. get one's back up
2. hold a candle to
3. peter out
4. pull in your horns
5. go (or ride) shank's mare
6. roundup
7. shoot one's mouth off
8. skedaddle
9. stumped
10. tenderfoot

a. a beginner, a "newbie"
b. back down, back off
c. compare to, measure up to
d. confused, baffled
e. gathering, collection
f. get angry
g. run out gradually
h. run, leave in a hurry
i. talk out of turn, often rudely
j. walk, or travel on foot


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

1. I hope you can make sense of these figures; I'm __________.
2. Give us a __________ of the quarter's results before we close the meeting.
3. Don't __________ about losing the project, Jim; you'll get another one.
4. Let's not give too much responsibility to Yates; he's still a __________.
5. All right, Mike, __________ and we'll discuss the matter rationally.
6. Our new boss is OK, but he can't __________ our old one.
7. I have to __________; see ya later.
8. The sales campaign was going well, but then the prospects just __________.
9. Taxis will be hard to get at this time of night; you may have to __________.
10. If you keep __________ in meetings, Bill, you're going to get fired.


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

1. What gets your back up? When that happens, what causes you to pull in your horns? Have you ever been in trouble for shooting your mouth off?
2. What do you do when your stumped? How do you excuse yourself when you have to skedaddle? What do you do when your money peters out?
3. What's the farthest you've ever gone shank's mare? Do you know someone at work or school who's an English tenderfoot? Is there anyone whose English you can't hold a candle to?


1. f get angry. You can see this behavior in cats; when they get angry, their back literally rises, as well as the hair on it.
2. c compare to, measure up to. Some say this refers to a low-level worker "holding the candle" for a more experienced one as he works, but this is in doubt.
3. g run out gradually. Though the origin is unknown, it was first used in the context of mining. The miners would follow a vein of gold or other ore until it "petered out."
4. b back down, back off. You can easily imagine how dangerous a cow's horns are. If the horns are extended, or sticking out, they would be even worse. So "pulling them in" would make things more comfortable for everyone.
5. j walk, or travel on foot. "Shank" refers to the lower part of the leg; a mare is a female horse. So this is a sort of joke; to go "by shank's mare" means to walk.
6. e a gathering, collection. Also, a summary. To "round up" cows was to gather them together. This was a time of celebration, called a roundup. Nowadays we also use it in expressions like a "news roundup" between commercials on TV.
7. i talk out of turn, often rudely. Perhaps a reference to the use of a gun.
8. h run, leave in a hurry. It originated on battlefields in the American Civil War, but the origin is uncertain.
9. d confused, baffled. It may refer to the difficulty in removing a tree stump when clearing a field.
10. a beginner, a "newbie." One whose feet have not become accustomed to cowboy boots yet, so are still "tender."


1 stumped; 2 roundup; 3 get your back up; 4 tenderfoot; 5 pull in your horns; 6 hold a candle to; 7 skedaddle; 8 petered out; 9 go (or ride) shank's mare; 10 shooting your mouth off
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."

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