Translate This Page


Old West frontier Cooking Terms

Here are few terms you would run into while traveling Out West in the 1800’s.

Li’l bitty ........................................1/4 tsp
Passle ...........................................1/2 tsp
Pittance ........................................1/3 tsp
Dib ................................................1/3 tsp
Crumble ........................................1/8 tsp
A Wave At It ..............................1/16 tsp

If your bread wallet is bare bones empty and you need to line the flue, knight the ribbons and mosey to a beanery. Your cookie-pusher will know what you mean when you order any of these cowboy food and drink items.

And don’t forget to wet your whistle!

  1. Ace-high:  first class, respected.
  2. According to Hoyle:  Correct, by the book.
  3. A hog-killin' time:  a real good time. "We went to the New Year's Eve dance and had us a hog-killin' time."
  4. A lick and a promise:  to do haphazardly. "She just gave it a lick and a promise."
  5. All down but nine:  missed the point, not understood. (Reference to missing all nine pins at bowling.)
  6. Arbuckle's:  slang for coffee, taken from a popular brand of the time. "I need a cup of Arbuckle's."
  7. At sea:  at a loss, not comprehending. "When it comes to understanding women, boys, I am at sea."
  8. Back down:  yield, retract.
  9. Balled up:  confused.
  10. Bang-up:  first rate. "They did a bang-up job."
  11. Bazoo:  mouth. "Shut your big bazoo."
  12. Beat the devil around the stump:  to evade responsibility or a difficult task. "Quit beatin' the devil        around the stump and ask that girl to marry you."
  13. Beef:  to kill. (From killing a cow to make beef to eat.) "Curly Bill beefed two men in San Antonio."
  14. Bend an elbow:  have a drink. "He's been known to bend an elbow with the boys."
  15. Bender:  drunk. "He's off on another bender."
  16. Between hay and grass:  neither man nor boy, half-grown.
  17. Best bib and tucker:  your best clothes. "There's a dance Saturday, so put on your best bib and tucker."
  18. Big bug:  important person, official, boss. "He's one of the railroad big bugs."
  19. Bilk:  cheat.
  20. Blow:  boast, brag. "Don't listen to him, that's just a lot of blow."
  21. Blowhard:  braggart, bully.
  22. Blow-up:  fit of anger. "He and the missus had a blow-up, but it's over, now."
  23. Bone orchard:  cemetery.
  24. Bosh:  Nonsense.
  25. Boss:  the best, top. "The Alhambra Saloon sells the boss whiskey in town."
  26. Bulldoze:  to bully, threaten, coerce.
  27. Bully:  Exceptionally good, outstanding. (Used as an exclamation.) "Bully for you!"
  28. Bunko artist:  con man.
  29. Burg:  town.
  30. By hook or crook:  to do any way possible.
  31. Calaboose:  jail.
  32. California widow:  woman separated from her husband, but not divorced. (From when pioneer men went West, leaving their wives to follow later.)
  33. Chisel, chiseler:  to cheat or swindle, a cheater.
  34. Clean his/your plow:  to get or give a thorough whippin'.
  35. Coffee boiler:  shirker, lazy person. (Would rather sit around the coffee pot than help.)
  36. Consumption:  slang for pulminary tuberculosis.
  37. Copper a bet:  betting to lose, or prepare against loss. "I'm just coppering my bets."
  38. Come a cropper:  come to ruin, fail, or fall heavily. "He had big plans to get rich, but it all come a cropper, when the railroad didn't come through."
  39. Croaker:  pessimist, doomsayer. "Don't be such an old croaker."
  40. Crowbait:  derogatory term for a poor-quality horse.
  41. Curly wolf:  real tough guy, dangerous man. "Ol' Bill is a regular curly wolf, especially when he's drinkin' whiskey."
  42. Cut a swell:  present a fine figure. "He sure is cutting a swell with the ladies."
  43. Dicker:  barter, trade.
  44. Difficulty :  euphamism for trouble, often the shootin' or otherwise violent kind. "He had to leave Texas on account of a difficulty with a gambler in San Antonio."
  45. Directly:  soon. "She'll be down, directly."
  46. Deadbeat:  bum, layabout, useless person.
  47. Dinero:  from the Spanish, a word for money.
  48. Don't care a continental:  Don't give a damn.
  49. Down on :  opposed to. "His wife is really down on drinking and cigars."
  50. Doxology works:  a church.
  51. Dragged out:  fatigued, worn out.
  52. Dreadful:  very. "Oh, her dress is dreadfully pretty."
  53. Dry gulch:  to ambush. Reference from abandoning a body where it fell.
  54. Dude:  an Easterner, or anyone in up-scale town clothes, rather than plain range-riding or work clothes.
  55. Eucher, euchered:  to out-smart someone, to be outwitted or suckered into something.
  56. Fandango:  from the Spanish, a big party with lots of dancing and excitement.
  57. Fetch:  bring, give. "Fetch me that hammer." / "He fetched him a punch in the nose."
  58. Fight like Kilkenny cats:  fight like hell.
  59. Fine as cream gravy:  very good, top notch.
  60. Fish: a cowboy's rain slicker, from a rain gear manufacturer whose trademark was a fish logo. "We told him it looked like rain, but left his fish in the wagon anyhow."
  61. Flannel mouth:  an overly smooth or fancy talker, especially politicians or salesmen. "I swear that man is a flannel-mouthed liar."
  62. Flush:  prosperous, rich.
  63. Fork over:  pay out.
  64. Four-flusher:  a cheat, swindler, liar.
  65. Full as a tick:  very drunk.
  66. Fuss:  disturbance. "They had a little fuss at the saloon."
  67. Game:  to have courage, guts, gumption. "He's game as a banty rooster." Or, "That's a hard way to go, but he died game."
  68. Get a wiggle on:  hurry.
  69. Get it in the neck:  get cheated, misled, bamboozled.
  70. Get my/your back up:  to get angry. "Don't get your back up, he was only joking."
  71. Get the mitten:  to be rejected by a lover. "Looks like Blossom gave poor Buck the mitten."
  72. Give in:  yield.
  73. Gone:  lost, dead.
  74. Gone up the flume:  same as goner!
  75. Gospel mill:  a church.
  76. Gospel sharp :  a preacher. (Apparent opposite of a card sharp!)
  77. Got the bulge:  have the advantage. "We'll get the bulge on him, and take his gun away."
  78. Go through the mill:  gain experience. (Often the hard way.)
  79. Grand:  excellent, beautiful. "Oh, the Christmas decorations look just grand!"
  80. Granger:  a farmer.
  81. Grass widow:  divorcee.
  82. Hang around:  loiter.
  83. Hang fire:  delay.
  84. Half seas over:  drunk.
  85. Hard case:  worthless person, bad man.
  86. Heap:  a lot, many, a great deal. "He went through a heap of trouble to get her that piano."
  87. Heeled:  to be armed with a gun. "He wanted to fight me, but I told him I was not heeled."
  88. Here's how!:  a toast, such as Here's to your health.
  89. Hobble your lip:  shut up.
  90. Hold a candle to:  measure up, compare to.
  91. Hoosegow:  jail.
  92. Hot as a whorehouse on nickel night:  damned hot.
  93. In apple pie order:  in top shape.
  94. Is that a bluff, or do you mean it for real play?:  Are you serious?
  95. Jig is up:  scheme/game is over, exposed.
  96. Kick up a row:  create a disturbance.
  97. Knocked into a cocked hat:  fouled up, rendered useless.
  98. Knock galley west:  beat senseless.
  99. Let slide/ let drive/ let fly:  go ahead, let go. "If you think you want trouble, then let fly."
  100. Light (or lighting) a shuck:  to get the hell out of here in a hurry. "I'm lightin' a shuck for California."
  101. Like a thoroughbred:  like a gentleman.
  102. Lunger:  slang for someone with tuberculosis.
  103. Make a mash:  make a hit, impress someone. (Usually a female.) "Buck's tryin' to make a mash on that new girl."
  104. Mudsill:  low-life, thoroughly disreputable person.
  105. Nailed to the counter:  proven a lie.
  106. Namby-pamby:  sickly, sentimental, saccharin.
  107. Odd stick:  eccentric person. "Ol' Farmer Jones sure is an odd stick."
  108. Of the first water:  first class. "He's a gentleman of the first water."
  109. Offish:  distant, reserved, aloof.
  110. Oh-be-joyful:  Liquor, beer, intoxicating spirits. "Give me another snort of that oh-be-joyful."
  111. On the shoot:  looking for trouble. "Looks like he's on the shoot, tonight."
  112. Pass the buck:  evade responsibility.
  113. Pay through the nose:  to over-pay, or pay consequences.
  114. Peter out:  dwindle away.
  115. Play to the gallery:  to show off. "That's just how he is, always has to play to the gallery."
  116. Played out:  exhausted.
  117. Plunder:  personal belongings. "Pack your plunder, Joe, we're headin' for San Francisco."
  118. Pony up:  hurry up!
  119. Powerful:  very. "He's a powerful rich man."
  120. Promiscuous:  reckless, careless. "He was arrested for a promiscuous display of fire arms."
  121. Proud:  glad. "I'm proud to know you."
  122. Pull in your horns:  back off, quit looking for trouble.
  123. Put a spoke in the wheel:  to foul up or sabotage something.
  124. Quirley:  roll-your-own cigarette.
  125. Rich:  amusing, funny, improbable. "Oh, that's rich!"
  126. Ride shank's mare:  to walk or be set afoot.
  127. Right as a trivet:  right as rain, sound as a nut, stable.
  128. Rip:  reprobate. "He's a mean ol' rip."
  129. Roostered:  drunk. "Looks like those cowboys are in there gettin' all roostered up."
  130. See the elephant:  originally meant to see combat for the first time, later came to mean going to town, where all the action was.
  131. Scoop in:  trick, entice, inveigle. "He got scooped into a poker game and lost his shirt."
  132. Scuttlebutt:  rumors.
  133. Shave tail:  a green, inexperienced person.
  134. Shin out:  run away.
  135. Shindy:  uproar, confusion.
  136. Shoddy:  poor quality.
  137. Shoot, Luke, or give up the gun:   poop or get off the pot, do it or quit talking about it.
  138. Shoot one's mouth off:  talk nonsense, untruth. "He was shootin' his mouth off and Bill gave him a black eye."
  139. Shove the queer:  to pass counterfeit money.
  140. Simon pure:  the real thing, a genuine fact. "This is the Simon pure."
  141. Skedaddle:  run like hell.
  142. Soaked:  drunk.
  143. Soft solder:  flattery. "All that soft solder won't get you anywhere." 
  144. Someone to ride the river with:  a person to be counted on; reliable; got it where it counts.
  145. Sound on the goose:  true, staunch, reliable.
  146. Stand the gaff:  take punishment in good spirit. "He can really stand the gaff."
  147. Stop:  stay. "We stopped at the hotel last night."
  148. Stumped:  confused.
  149. Superintend:  oversee, supervise. "He just likes to superintend everything."
  150. Take on:  grieve. "Don't take on so."
  151. Take French leave:  to desert, sneak off without permission.
  152. Take the rag off:  surpass, beat all. "Well, if that don't take the rag off the bush."
  153. The Old States:  back East.
  154. The whole kit and caboodle:  the entire thing.
  155. Throw up the sponge:  quit, give up, surrender.
  156. Tie to:  rely on. "He's a man you can tie to."
  157. To beat the Dutch:  to beat the band. "It was rainin' to beat the Dutch."
  158. To the manner born:  a natural. "He's a horseman to the manner born."
  159. Twig:  understand.
  160. Up the spout:  gone to waste/ruin.
  161. Wake up/Woke up the wrong passenger:  to trouble or anger the wrong person.
  162. Who-hit-John:  Liquor, beer, intoxicating spirits. "He had a little too much who-hit-John."
  163. Wind up:  settle. "Let's wind up this business and go home."