August 12, 2010
Like most of you, we love language here at True West magazine. We are always arguing over words, celebrating words and relishing anachronisms that tickle our fancy. Case in point, the biggest hit at a recent talk I gave was the line Buckshot Roberts said at Blazer's Mill, when he was surrounded by Regulators who stuck pistols in his face and demanded his surrender:
"Not much, Mary Ann," was his terse reply, as he jerked his Winchester up to his hip and let loose like Chuck Connors at the beginning of "Rifleman." All true, not made up.
In the next issue, in our new feature "Graphic Cinema," I want Al Sieber to say, as he watches a pack mule slide off a cliff: "My skivvies are in that pack."
The date is May 15, 1883. My slang dictionary says skivvies is Navy slang for underwear, but there's no date given for its usage, and my suspicions are that it's of WWII vintage.
I realize it would be more accurate to say, "My unmentionables are in that pack," but that seems cumbersome and besides, skivvies is a funnier word. Of course, "unmentionables" is Victorian for underwear.
"Choosing the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug."
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