You Don’t Say: Volume 59
I decided to dawdle in the old west for another week and ‘chew the fat’ (yuk) about some more words and phrases stuck on the spines of various cacti (the correct word for cactuses) out in the desert. And as that famous cowboy, Russell Peters would say, be a Man! Take the bull by the horns!
Take the bull by the horns: The phrase means to confidently take hold of a problem or situation, and wrestle it into a resolution. But back at the corral (a fenced in space to hold livestock) the term came from subduing a young bull in order to turn it into a steer (snip snip) or to hold the calf while being branded. You may have seen it at a Rodeo, called ‘steer wrestling’ where the cowboy jumps from his horse, grabs the horns and twists the head around until the animal rolls onto its side. So you can see, when you grab the bull by the horns, you’d better be committed to following through with your plan, lest you end up on the horns of a very unhappy dilemma. Moooving right along……
Get back in the saddle: If you’ve failed at doing something, crashed and burned while skiing that Double Black Diamond run, face-planted while snowboarding in the half-pipe, or endured a fender-bender on the Alex Fraser in rush hour, the best way to overcome the fear of skiing/boarding/driving, is to repeat the activity as soon as possible so you don’t lose your nerve. The term originates from learning to ride a horse, which is frightening enough without contemplating falling the six or eight feet to the ground – ouch! But getting right back up is the thing to do, even if lesser mortals think you mad.
Straight shooter: One who is true, on the mark, doesn’t cheat, trustworthy, dependable. The mark of a true western hero! Shoots the bad guys, saves the ranch and rescues the damsel from the railroad track (sigh). But an alternate explanation points to a soccer player who shoots at the goal straight on, no curves or angles. Phooey! I like the western gunfighter’s origin myself. Where’s Wild Bill Hickock when you really need someone tall in the saddle!
Deadman’s hand: refers to a poker hand, specifically one with two “aces” and two “eights” James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock, teamster, gambler, lawman, gunfighter, was holding when he was shot in the head from behind. Apparently the only time he played cards without sitting with his back to the wall. There’s value in being a wallflower.
According to Hoyle: Speaking of cards, Generally means ‘according to the rules’ referring to Edmond Hoyle, a lawyer and writer in England in the 18th century who was most famous for writing and publishing the rules for various card games. Poker wasn’t one of them. But the reference to Hoyle was in such common use that his name even appeared in the titles of many rulebooks that he had nothing to do with (even post mortem or foldem…know when to holdem, know when to walk away, know when to run….
Flogging a dead horse: Nothing to do with the old west but it is concerning a horse. It generally means arguing for, or promoting something that has already been decided or is not longer worth arguing for. It’s from the early days of horse racing where jockeys with their riding crops (whips) would urge the horse to go faster. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the horse was too tired to perform and wouldn’t.
So get back in the saddle, dead horse or not, and ride off into the sunset. And if you really feel for the horse, as the song says, save a horse, ride a cowboy!