Cowboy talk

Posted by ESC on February 01, 2002 at

In Reply to: Meanings and origins - greenhorn posted by R. Berg on January 31, 2002

: : : : : : : can anyone give me the meanig and orgin of the following prases, "bank teller" "sleep like a top" and"greenhorn"

: : : : : : A bank teller is a person who works behind the counter in a bank, serving customers. An old meaning of "tell" was "count," and tellers count money.
: : : : : : To sleep like a top is to sleep very deeply and soundly. I don't know why that's called sleeping like a top. Possibly the reason is that when a spinning top (the child's toy) stops spinning, it comes to a complete stop and lies utterly still.
: : : : : : A greenhorn is a recent immigrant who hasn't yet learned the ways of his or her new country, or, more generally, anyone who is inexperienced, immature, or gullible. The word originally referred to young animals with immature horns, like deer and elk.

: : : : : Also, the use of green to denote immaturity comes from the woods. Green timber being that which isn't yet seasoned. Hence the rhyme relating to ash, which burns especially well:

: : : : : Seer or green,
: : : : : fit for a queen

: : : : : (seer = seasoned)

: : : : : or alternatively:

: : : : : wet or dry,
: : : : : fit for a queen to warm her slippers by.

: : : : I thought that seer (or as I know it, sere) meant dry or desiccated - with added connotations of decayed. There's a quotation from Macbeth that supports this, if the word is the same one:-

: : : : "I have lived long enough: my way of life
: : : : Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf,
: : : : And that which should accompany old age,
: : : : As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
: : : : I must not look to have.'

: : : My copy uses the spelling 'sear,' and this word is defined in the glossarial notes as 'dry, withered.' William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, copyright 1969 by Penguin Books Inc., general editor Alfred Harbage.

: : A suggestion on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow a couple of years ago is as follows - I can't say that I find it completely convincing, but it's worth an airing!

: : Another suggested origin goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries and the jewellery manufacturing industry. Some items of decoration were a bit like cameo brooches, only made from horn and inset in to silver frames. The horn was usually decorated with a figure, often a head, and this was impressed in the brown horn by heating the horn to a specific temperature and shaping over a mould. Too high a temperature would result in the horn ending up, not its original and desired brown, but green. Such an outcome was regularly produced by the apprentices - hence they came to be called greenhorns

: The American Heritage Dictionary says "greenhorn" alludes to young animals, without giving any alternative explanations.

Oddly enough, I didn't find "greenhorn" in this dictionary. "Greener" and "shorthorn" but not greenhorn:
"'Tenderfoots' was a name originally applied to imported cattle, but later was attached to human beings new to the country; both cattle and humans were also called 'pilgrims.' The term 'greener,' 'juniper,' and 'shorthorn' were also applied to humans. An 'Arbuckle' was a green hand, so called on the assumption that the boss had sent off Arbuckle premium stamps from the popular package coffee to pay for his extraordinary services; a green hand was also often called a 'lent,' while a cotton-picker was a 'lent-back.' A 'chuck-eater' was a man from the East who came to learn ranch work, and perhaps everything he did 'gave him away like a shirt full o' fleas.' If he could not 'ketch on' to the work required of him, he was a 'knothead.' A tenderfoot in 'custom-made' cowboy regalia and devoid of range experience was a 'mail-order cowboy.' A gaudy tenderfoot was said to be a 'swivel dude.'

The term 'laning' or 'laning a cow to hell' is expressive of the action of an untrained helper. Through inexperience and all-around dumbness he got on the opposite side to assist you, forming a lane that kept the animal from tur