Cow slang & idioms
The Old English word cow came through Proto-Germanic tongues from Proto-Indo-European. Most etymologists believe cow is an onomatopoeic term mimicking the lowing of cattle. Cow-related slang & idioms abound:
Cow-feed is a British Armed services term meaning salad or raw vegetables.
Since 1955 the term cowie has referred to a western film.
British and American cyclists refer to handlebars as cow-horns.
Cow-pat, cow-pattie & cow pie arrived in the language in the 1950s, meaning a single dropping from a cow, calf, or bull.
Cowyard-confetti & cow-confetti are Australian terms born in 1920 & 1930 respectively, meaning nonsense. I think of these terms as the kinder, gentler form of the crasser, tangentially cow-related term bullshit.
In cricket, the terms cow-corner & cow-shot refer to an oft-ignored segment of the field, & a shot into or through that area. This was born of the thought that cows could graze there unmolested during a game.
Though cowboy is most likely derived from caballero, it includes the letters c-o-w so here's some cowboy information: cowboy has many meanings: a bow-legged man, a minor criminal given to violence, a know-it all, a young, inexperienced driver, & someone unqualified or irresponsible. Since 1920, members of the Royal British Navy have referred to baked beans as cowboys (synonyms include prairie rash & yippee beans).
In Canada, a farmer’s straw hat can be referred to as a cow’s breakfast.
Which of these cow-related terms are new to you? Any other thoughts regarding the use or abuse of the word cow?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang & Unconventional English, & Wordnik
3/5/2020 01:47:41 pm
how about cow-lick referring to a curl of hair that resists grooming, especially in children.
3/5/2020 02:22:49 pm
Great catch, Bruce!
3/6/2020 09:58:54 am
A whole lot of these are new to me! I've always suspected that "cowboy" came from "caballero". The image of the Western cowboy has always been one of the wandering knight on horseback, not a young man tending cows.
3/6/2020 05:22:07 pm
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I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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