Thursday, August 20, 2020

Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 14

Wild West Sayings We Use Today

Conspirators, loiterers, farmers, and pomposity all enter into the latest installment in the Wild West Sayings We Use Today blog series. Thanks for stopping by again to celebrate words and their history.

This post is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

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People colluding or working intimately are said to be ‘hand in glove,’ meaning that they are as close as a hand to its glove. This term can refer to those engaged in honest or nefarious activity. This term existed by at least the late 17th century as ‘hand and glove.’ The present form emerged in the late 18th century.   

Historical Reference: Poet John Ray mentioned 'hand and glove’ as an existing proverb in his A Collection of English Proverbs (1678).

Example: The author worked hand-in-glove with her editor to produce an excellent book.


Folks speak of having a ‘hankering’ for something when they have a craving. This term, which comes to us from the 1600s in England, originally meant ‘to linger in expectation.’ It is of unknown origin, but could have derived from the Flemish word ‘hankeren,’ which is related to the Dutch ‘hunkeren’ (to long for), which may be a form of the Middle Dutch ‘hangen’ (to hang).  Did you get all that? 😊

Historical Reference: I found conflicting dates for the first known use of this term but no references to verify. Merriam Webster puts the date as 1627, and Oxford’s Lexico site states it appeared in early 17th century. I’m going to take their word for it.  

Example: According to some people, having a hankering for pickles and ice cream is an early warning sign of pregnancy.

Row to Hoe

Someone with a difficult matter to resolve or work to do speaks of having a hard row to hoe, unless of course they mention a tough row to hoe, which is not unlike having a long row to hoe. Whatever the form, the meaning is the same. In all cases, this American slang metaphor derived from the actual expression used in farming. ‘A hard row to hoe’ appears to be the earliest form, dating from at least 1818. ‘Tough row to hoe’ had appeared by 1890.

Historical Reference: “He loves to contend with difficulties; and if he had not a hard row to hoe, would place himself in some sphere demanding effort, in order to extricate himself.” The American Phrenological Journal and Miscellany, Volume 10 by A. Waldie (1848).

Example: Working back-to-back shifts is a hard row to hoe.


This term refers to a haughty person with pretensions of pomposity. It can also apply to someone given to excessive or bombastic speech.  An overly-hyped object or an attitude can also be called ‘highfalutin.’ This expression is of uncertain origin, but we do know that it first appeared in America in the middle of the 1800s. That same time period saw the birth of ‘stuffed shirt’ and ‘stuck-up’ as epithets that disparaged persons enamored of their own status, power, or wealth. ‘Highfalutin’ may be related to ‘high-flown’ (exaggerated or elevated).  

Historical Reference: Highfalutin appeared in the early 19th century as spoken slang.  Merriam Webster dates the word from 1839.

Example: A speaker who uses highfalutin words won’t appeal to the masses.

Thanks for joining me again! I hope you enjoyed this month’s selection of words. Tell me, how would you use ‘highfalutin’ in a sentence? Do you ever get a hankering for a certain food (hint: chocolate)? Have you ever worked hand-in-glove with someone? What is your definition of a hard row to hoe? See you next month! 

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read chapters from classics as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with tales "written" in her head. Today Janalyn is a storyteller who writes in several genres. Romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy appear in all her novels in proportions dictated by their genre. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary.

Learn more about Janalyn, read the first chapters of her books, subscribe to her e-letter, and join her reader clubs at

Montana Gold Series


  1. Thanks for continuing this series. I have heard of all of these and use them at least once in a while.I couldn't understand the last picture until I realized the person was kissing a mirror!!!

  2. Hi, Connie! You're welcome, as always. Thanks for commenting. Sorry to be a day or two late. I'm working on edits for Montana Gold, book 5 right now. o|O I laughed when I spotted that last picture. I'm glad you appreciate my sense of humor. :)