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In a Sow’s Ear

by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

Out West, rural communication is often a puzzle to those from other parts of the planet such as New York, California and Europe. Though English is the spoken language, the way it’s used can be discombobulating to newcomers, visitors and most Washington politicians.

In Ramon F. Adams’ cowboy lexicon, Western Words, “A Dictionary of the American West”, the definitions for talking include: arguin’ match, chew the cud, chin jaw, cow talk, coyotin’ round the rim, diarrhea of the jawbone, flannel mouth, giggle talk, good comeback, hoof-and-mouth disease, leaky mouth, medicine tongue, more lip than a muley cow, mouthy, river talk, roll the guff, sagebrush philosopher, slack in the jaw, squaw talk, talking horse, talking load (being just drunk enough to be loquacious), talking talents (the ability to talk freely), talking like a Texan (bragging), telling a windy (embroidering a story), tongue oil, and wagging his chin.

A way with words doesn’t always mean effusive babbling. Sometimes the pauses between sentences are longer than the actual phrases. Country men don’t necessarily talk at all but when they do, they may repeat sentences which helps keep conversational lags from developing too often.

Out West, rural communication is often a puzzle to those from other parts of the planet such as New York, California and Europe. Though English is the spoken language, the way it’s used can be discombobulating to newcomers, visitors and most Washington politicians.

In Ramon F. Adams’ cowboy lexicon, Western Words, “A Dictionary of the American West”, the definitions for talking include: arguin’ match, chew the cud, chin jaw, cow talk, coyotin’ round the rim, diarrhea of the jawbone, flannel mouth, giggle talk, good comeback, hoof-and-mouth disease, leaky mouth, medicine tongue, more lip than a muley cow, mouthy, river talk, roll the guff, sagebrush philosopher, slack in the jaw, squaw talk, talking horse, talking load (being just drunk enough to be loquacious), talking talents (the ability to talk freely), talking like a Texan (bragging), telling a windy (embroidering a story), tongue oil, and wagging his chin.

A way with words doesn’t always mean effusive babbling. Sometimes the pauses between sentences are longer than the actual phrases. Country men don’t necessarily talk at all but when they do, they may repeat sentences which helps keep conversational lags from developing too often.


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