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American English: Cowboy Slang

Yee hah, partners! There are a lot of common slang usages in American English that come from the Wild West cowboy days. I am pretty familiar with them as I grew up in Idaho, one of the most rural states in the USA.


Howdy, Yabla friends. Much of America's history is pioneer history.

Captions 1-2, Traveling with Annette - Deadwood

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"Howdy" comes from shortening "How do you do," and though it originally came from England, it's still commonly used in the American West instead of "hello."


Giddyup! If the supply doesn't meet the demand

Then go out and get more than you will need

Giddyup! If you are tired of playing a losing hand

Captions 21-23, Damn Glad - Giddyup!

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"Giddyup," also written as "giddyap" and "giddy up", is an expression that comes from a command given to a horse to go faster. It's still used today to mean "let's go" or "hurry up." 


This is called a saloon.

Caption 26, Tumbili - Boat Tour--Inside

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A saloon is, as used in British English in the video above, a "salon" or "dining room." It's important to distinguish between British and American English, because in cowboy slang, a saloon is a bar! You'll see "saloon" written on the sign of nearly every bar shown in Old West films.


Who's that old dude? -Oh, that's JJ, our grandpa.

Caption 12, Karate Kids, USA - The Little Dragons

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"Dude" is still commonly used used to mean "man," as in the above video. But to call someone a "dude" in cowboy slang is a sort of insulting term for somebody from the city who is not familiar with country life. Luxury hotels that have ranches and include horseback riding among available activities are called "dude ranches."


Further Learning
Watch the video on Yabla English about Annette's visit to the Wild West town of Deadwood. Then see if you can find out the meanings of some other cowboy expressions such as "city slicker," "tenderfoot," "pony up," "in cahoots," and "yonder."

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