“I’m writing a story about cowboys, and I’d like to incorporate authentic cowboy slang. Could you help?”
While we have “Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang” and “A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles” available in the reference section here at the Newton Falls Public Library, both are more useful for looking up the origins of specific words and phrases. Putting “cowboy slang” into an online search engine brings up quite a few websites, but we had a tough time finding one that cited its sources, and so we weren’t sure how authentic they actually were.
Looking through CLEVNET, however, we found “Cowboy Lingo” and “Western Words: A Dictionary of the Range, Cow Camp, and Trail.” Both are written by Ramon Frederick Adams, a respected Western writer, historian, and bibliographer, and both can be put on hold and sent to any other CLEVNET library.
Here at Newton Falls, we have Candy Moulton’s “The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West From 1840-1900,” which has a short chapter on language along with a wealth of other information, including sections about the clothes people wore, the food that they ate, and what they did for fun. We also have “The Cowboys” by Time-Life Books and a selection of more general books about the American West, including Geoffrey C. Ward’s “The West: An Illustrated History” and James D. Horan’s “The Great American West.”