This article is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.
This is the third article in a monthly blog series. You don’t need to read the earlier posts to enjoy this one, but if you want to begin at the beginning, start here: Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 1.
Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 3
Historical Reference: The first record of this saying was in a book entitled Dice-Play which harkens to 1532. The phrase peaked in popularity in the nineteenth century. Various authors included it in books they wrote. Dickens used it In David Copperfield: “I fell into a brown study as I walked on, and a voice at my side made me start.”
Example: She was lost in a brown study.
The link to the American bison seems obvious. These beasts, which I have seen up close, are quite muscular. They are also capable of stampeding. I was thankful for the barbed wire fence that separated me from the herd. Another idea presented is that ‘buffaloed’ refers to a buffalo herd’s milling about in confusion after its leader was shot.
True West magazine suggests a second meaning for buffaloed: bashing someone over the head without intent to kill. This was apparently a Wild West practice for allowing a drunk to sleep off an excess of liquor without recourse to jail.
Historical Reference: The 1904 version of the Oxford English Dictionary lists buffalo as an American verb and denotes it a slang term.
Example: Don’t try to buffalo me!
Bully for You
Historical Reference: The earliest reference I can find for this slang term is from the June, 1861 Atlantic Monthly, p. 745. Other sources peg this phrase to the Civil War era.
Example: Bully for you, turning in your term paper on time!
Note from JanalynThanks for enjoying the history of words with me. We’ll continue our jaunt down memory lane in future months.
About Janalyn Voigt
Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary Agency. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, she loves to garden and explore the great outdoors with her family.
Learn more about Janalyn Voigt and her books.